The Free-Agent Mindset: Contracting

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

Elaine Biech, then a trainer of teachers of disabled children, reached the proverbial fork in her career path some 20 years ago and abandoned the security of payroll employment for the potentially rewarding yet equally risky life of an independent contractor. When Biech made the move, she guessed she could earn enough income by charging clients $300 a day and working half-days.

She now readily admits that she, like many beginning entrepreneurs, guessed wrong. Biech failed to book even half of her days. And once business did increase, she realized that if she had booked all the time she had planned toward her actual consulting, she could not have done the work because of the time-consuming marketing duties of being self-employed.

Two months into the job, Biech doubled her prices. Now she does not hesitate to charge her executive-level clients $1,000 a day or thousands of dollars per project if the circumstances warrant. Years of experience, in other words, have taught Biech how to think like an independent contractor.

Life of the entrepreneur
The creative and ambitious souls who forsake the comforts of secure, full-time employment to fly solo in the wilds of the entrepreneurial jungle often do not realize how much their mindset will have to change to succeed. But change it must.

“They are definitely going to have to be more self-disciplined,” says Tom McGrath, president of the National Association of Independent Contractors (NICA). “You eat what you kill, if you will, and if you’re not out there killing, you’re going to starve. … You can’t be in your pajamas watching cartoons at 10 o’clock in the morning.”

“Free agents” more often than not are just that–on their own in every aspect of their business. “You’re your own bookkeeper; you’re your own marketing expert; you’re your own janitor; you’re your own typist and secretary,” says Biech, a speaker at Linkage Inc.’s “Consulting Skills Institute” in December 1999 and author of “The Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond.” “You do everything.”

Many independent contractors leave what they see as the constraints of the corporate world because they want to make a difference. They want to solve problems, help numerous organizations, do a variety of work and pursue exciting projects rather than necessarily make money. They are, in a word, altruistic.

“All that is true [about the consulting life],” Biech says. “That will happen. But you can’t dedicate 90 percent of your time to that part and 10 percent to running your business.”


Faith, Government And Charity

Originally published at
By K. Daniel Glover

To hear Texas Gov. George W. Bush tell it in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention last night, he and Vice President Al Gore, his Democratic competitor, share no common ground. Every Bush proposal is a “risky scheme” to Gore, Bush said, and “the only thing [Gore] has to offer is fear itself.”

But Bush and Gore do agree on one point: When it comes to addressing societal problems like poverty and homelessness, government and religious charities should join forces. Federal aid for “faith-based charities” is at the core of Bush’s “compassionate conservative” message. Gore, too, embraced that type of alliance more than a year ago in a speech to the Salvation Army in Atlanta.

Bush, who as governor of Texas appointed a task force to draft a policy agenda on faith-based community service groups, summarized the argument for “charitable choice,” which allows churches to receive federal funding for administering social services and health benefits, in his convention speech. “Government cannot do this work,” he said. “… Yet government can take the side of these groups, helping the helper, encouraging the inspired.”

Not everyone is as enamored with the idea of charitable choice as Bush and Gore. Civil libertarians, who lamented Gore’s endorsement of the charities, have fought the concept since Congress codified it in the 1996 welfare law on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state.

Anne Nicol Gaylor, founder and president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says providing social welfare through religious charities is clearly unconstitutional. “If you are writing a check to a religious society,” she says, “this benefits them. The church is going to get the credit, and the taxpayer is going to get the bill.”