In a sea of opportunity autonomy is the thing

To say there’s a lot of growth and opportunity around WordPress is an understatement. Every time a WordCamp puts up a (physical) job board it’s soon covered with names of companies that are looking to grow their ranks of designers, developers, writers and project people. Often the board is overwhelmed by the number of listings and represents a crowded stock exchange floor with a sea of people clamoring for attention.

Then there’s the WordPress company twitter feeds that seem to be constantly reporting of new hires and growth. Hey, do you know if 10up hiring? 🙂

An independent streak

I hang out online with a group of independent web developers. All of us are freelancers, own our own agencies, or create and sell our own products. Some have worked for companies in the past, while others have been independent their entire career.

When the idea of hiring on with a company comes up it’s turned into a kind of inside joke.

“Hey, did you know [company name] is hiring? You should go apply! :)”

The response is usually along the lines of,

“Ha, they wouldn’t want to pay me what it would take to get me to work for them.”

The response isn’t a dig on companies or larger teams. On the contrary, most of us have close friends who work for and own companies so we’ve got a high respect for them. The sentiment is more an expression of an independent streak that runs through each of us. The idea of having someone else dictate the scope of the work we do outweighs any possibility of financial gain.

We love autonomy

Recently someone expressed their love of autonomy. It makes sense that a group of independent professionals would hold on to freedom from external control or influence. The main need was the ability to call your own shots. Some cultures see independence as a weakness, but American culture was built on independence as a strength.

Autonomy fits my core work values

Before I decided to go independent again I reviewed my core work values and checked to make sure the move aligned with them (it did). Having autonomy keeps me interested in what I’m doing. Being able to change direction quickly makes the work day fun. And being able to say no to things I don’t want to do is a key to happiness.

An added bonus of autonomy is that it doesn’t limit my income. I don’t have a salary number putting a cap on what I make. The flip side of that is that it doesn’t bring any guarantees either.

Together independently

I love the African proverb my friend Cory Miller uses in several of his presentations:

If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

I even have the quote on a sticker on my laptop. I’m an extrovert so community and being around other people gives me energy. When I’m alone too long I tend to get distracted. I’ve got to admit that I like the spirit behind the quote even though it challenges my independent streak.

What I’ve discovered on my latest sojourn into freelancing is that ‘together’ doesn’t need to be defined as employees of a company. Together can be a defined as a like minded group – even a group of independent people. A group of web developers, people sharing a coworking space, a community of artists, or a world wide group of contributors to an open source project can define together.

The ‘go far’ part doesn’t need to be defined as a singular goal. One goal doesn’t exist between independent freelancers, but if the goal is support, accountability, encouragement and friendship then it’s still possible to be independent and go far together.