“Solopreneur” Article Supports My Ideas About Freelance Economy

Old article shows that the Freelance Economy is not a flash in the pan; agrees with me and is therefore correct (in parts).

Several weeks ago, I saw Shane Snow give a short talk at a recent 1 Million Cups – Dallas event, where he provided some insight into how he built Contently.  I looked for some more of his writing and came across this WaPo article from 2012 about “Solopreneurs,” or what I have called the “Freelance Economy.”

Snow provided one anecdote about a former (not voluntarily) news editor who succeeded as a freelancer.  He provided some stats, which were helpful.  If you are a freelancer, you’re not alone even if the government is not tracking you.  However, this seems more like a blessing than a curse unless you believe a career unexamined by the government is not worth working.

There were a few points in the article that supports some of my views of the Freelance Economy.  For example, this is not a temporary phenomena.

“The increase in freelancers isn’t a temporary phase. It’s a systemic change,” says Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union, an insurance company and advocacy group. “The recession likely sped up a shift that was happening already.”

In addition, Freelance Economy professionals value their independence.

This happens to line up with what much of the labor pool wants, too: flexibility. BLS reports that 90 percent of freelancers prefer independence to being locked in a cubicle.

There will be more in a separate post about where I disagree with the article.

 

Going Solo – BLS Reports More Americans Quitting Their Jobs For The Freelance Economy

More Americans going solo in the Freelance Economy as culture shifts from “get comfy job” to “I’ll make my own job.”

Noting recent Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, Bplans reports that the number of Americans quitting their jobs is at a 5-year high.  This is related to a reported rise in entrepreneurial activity.

I am not surprised, as the Freelance Economy offers great opportunity and flexibility to the ambitious and talented.

While the economy was hurting, people were staying in their jobs as fear kept them in place.  People now feel more confident about landing well if they quit, whether it is for another job or to create their own job.

“We’re currently in the midst of a major cultural shift—48 percent of Americans want to be entrepreneurs today. While past generations believed that the best and safest path was through a long career at a big, stable company, those in the workforce now don’t see it that way at all. The financial crisis called into question the entire notion of job security, as “stable jobs” were lost and “stable companies” turned out to be anything but.

Nowadays, many people are of the mindset that entrepreneurship is actually the more secure path. Instead of putting yourself at the mercy of layoffs and watching the heads of the company you work for make bad decisions, entrepreneurship means taking your fate into your own hands.”

According to Bplans, this is a trend that spans generations.

“A whopping 63 percent of 20-somethings want to start their own businesses, according to a recent survey…

According to the Kauffman Foundation, the 55+ age group is the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs. “Encore careers” are becoming more and more common, as retirees want to stay active and supplement their retirement income at the same time.”

“Encore careers.”  I like it.

Spanning the divide of the millenials and the AARP set are the  baby boomers under retirement age, and the 25% of them who want to go entreprenurial.

Is it just economic conditions that are pushing folks into the Freelance Economy?  Nope.

Technology is making entrepreneurship accessible, from reducing cost to promoting ease of use.

“It costs almost nothing to build a basic web page, and you can set up a whole business infrastructure for under $100 a month. Virtual help desks, for example, allow small companies to offer world-class customer service without adding a whole customer service team to the payroll.”

In this regard, Bplans believes that “we are entering into a new golden age of entrepreneurship in America.”

From this solo practitioner, it is hard to argue.

Local Taxes – This Is What It Has Come To

Selfies are now tax records as generations collide.

Local tax compliance is tricky, particularly for small firm and solo professionals.

When I was at Big Firm, I lived and worked in Dallas.  I paid income tax in Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Virginia (and probably a couple of other states) as well as a few foreign countries that I have never visited.  Over the course of the last several years, I spent one day in New York City and never so much as set foot in the other jurisdictions.  It doesn’t matter because I was a partner at a firm that did business in those states, and therefore, I did business in those states.

This brings us to Andrew Jarvis, an architect who works out of Philadelphia and New York.  Taxes are even higher for New York residents than for out of state people so he adjusted his schedule to make sure he was on in New York City less than 182 days per year.

Do you think New York is lenient with these rules?  How do you prove it?

Jarvis would take time-stamped pictures of himself in Philly by the train station or with a newspaper in hand.  This is in addition to the time honored practice of collected receipts.

In the grand tradition of older and younger generations teaching each other, Jarvis taught his daughter the value of recordkeeping and (probably) the reality of living under an oppressive tax regime, while Jarvis’ daughter taught him to post his pictures on Instagram.

Law Grad Working In Retail Seems to Miss Some Opportunities

Law Grad Working Retail offers cautionary tale of bad decision and bad attitude.

Business Insider recently highlighted the “Law Grad Working Retail” blog about a hard luck law school graduate without a job forced to sell cologne in some kind of department store.  He clearly feels the job is beneath him.

“I am too good for this job. You know who else is too good for this job? EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON THAT WORKS HERE. Retail jobs fucking suck. What’s up with all these idiots white knighting minimum wage retail jobs? If you don’t think this work is dehumanizing then you are insane.”

He says that he’s “liveblogging the loss of my last shred of dignity” and discussing his job and coworkers.

He claims that he went to a top 50 law school, was on law review and had a second year summer associate position, but he did not get a job offer.

It is both difficult and easy to feel sorry for anyone who went to law school in or after 2009.  It is easy because they are entering the worst long-term job market for attorneys that many of us have known or will know.  It is difficult because after the disastrous 2007 and 2008 economies, it should have been clear to anyone being honest with themselves that the market for new law school grads would be extremely difficult.  Even now, there is still a huge glut of legal talent that will take years to balance.

If we assume that even part of his writing is honest, there is a personality issue at play.  A combination of a bad job market and a personality case make for bad job prospects.

Here is something all law students should understand when interviewing.  If your school is good enough, and especially if you got the summer associate position in the first place, it is assumed you have the intellectual ability to do the job.  However, the interviews and summer associate position test your personality.  If working with you is miserable because you are annoying, lazy, ethically questionable or otherwise unpleasant to be with, people will NOT want to spend hours upon hours with you in a conference room reviewing documents.  People will NOT want to take the chance that they will get excuses instead of work product.

He said in his blog that he hasn’t taken the bar exam.  However, he has co-workers asking legal questions.  It seems he is missing an opportunity to rise above a job he feels is beneath him.  Get a license and a laptop and you can be in business.  You do not need the other trappings of an office in a high rise.

“This blog is not about complaining that I can’t get a legal job. Where in the fuck did I ever say that? I haven’t taken the bar so I’m not even trying to get a legal job. But up until the bar exam I applied for thousands of legal jobs and couldn’t get shit. Since the bar exam I’ve applied for hundreds of non-legal jobs and have come up empty. It’s not like I’m gonna pass the bar and suddenly everything is going to be fine. I have plenty of friends who did pass the July bar and don’t have jobs. Stop saying “he hasn’t even taken the bar!” like you found some kind of gotcha against me.”

Here is where is he so misguided.  No, getting the license is not going to make everything “fine.”  However, it is a prerequistite to the practice of law.  Since he did not get hired out of law school, he needs to pass the bar to even be considered for any type of legal job.  He had a probationary period with a law firm that may have carried him through the exam, but for some reason it did not work out.  I seriously doubt anyone else will take the same chance.  No one is going to hire him as an attorney without it.

My guess is, even if his stories are true, he is really an aspiring writer.  Fine.  However, there are a number of red flags here for anyone who would consider hiring him, and it makes his lack of job offer from the firm where he spent his second summer understandable.

That said, his writing is somewhat entertaining.  His co-workers sound like interesting people, and their stories will make you continue reading through the various posts.

In any respect, I wish him the best of luck.  For aspiring lawyers, use it as a cautionary tale. Credentials are just the beginning. Personality and attitude also matter.

Going Solo Unexpected Rules – Attorney Requirements for Maintaining a “Bona Fide” Office

Going solo in the Freelance Economy requires that you follow requirements for where, not just how, you do business.

Going Solo Risk – Delaware attorney suspended for, among other things, not maintaining a “bona fide” office

The ABA Journal recently reported on a disciplinary case where the attorney received a two-year suspension for not maintaining an exclusive office space, among other things.  Delaware requires attorneys to maintain a “bona fide” office for the practice of law in Delaware.  The respondent did not, and being available by phone is simply not enough to comply with the rule.

 

“Barakat’s lease does not include any designated office space that is exclusively his. Rather, the employees of the landlord collect Barakat’s mail and greet any visitors Barakat may have. The building security guards direct visitors to the fourth floor, where a receptionist is stationed during normal business hours. Under this arrangement, Barakat is entitled, for additional fees, to rent a conference  room or office space, and utilize secretarial, reproduction, facsimile, word processing, and shipping services. The landlord’s billing records (the “Occupant Ledger”), and the testimony of two employees who work on the fourth floor, evidence that Barakat’s presence at 901 North Market Street is “sporadic and unscheduled.””

For attorneys going solo, or anyone entering the Freelance Economy and working from their home, this case should be an eye opener.  Licensing requirements for office space are just as important as practical realities in choosing where to set up shop.

In reading the case, we don’t want to get too hung up on the office requirement since the attorney at issue was deficient in this administration in other matters, such as safeguarding client funds (a very big ethical issue, as you non-attorneys may guess) and lying about these issues in response to prior inquiries.

However, for the purpose of setting up your business, make sure where you practice complies with licensing requirements and ethical obligations just as much as how you practice.

Domain Misdirected – Now Fixed

I learned yesterday that the domain for this blog was misdirected and attempts to reach it ended up on some random landing page with popup ads.

I contacted HostGator, which hosts this blog as well as the Underdisclosed.com blog and my law firm site, DougBermanLaw.com.  The domain was directed to the wrong HostGator server.  There is no indication of why, how or when this happened since the site was working fine through last week.

In addition, the DougBermanLaw.com site was down due to a glitch on the HostGator side involving the site builder tools.

Anyway, its fixed now.  HostGator customer service did a great job in getting them back up and running.

In the Freelance Economy, you never know what kind of problems you’ll face day-to-day, including IT issues.  Get a good service provider.

Online Research Services. Worth It?

This can be a huge expense for a solo practitioner.  However, since I am not a litigator, time and search-fee intensive services like Lexis or Westlaw are not necessary.  Basic Google Scholar searches and the Delaware court websites can usually get specific cases I need (if any).

There are often questions related to corporate/securities law that come up where I need guidance, my arrogance notwithstanding.  For that reason, The Corporate Counsel website is great even if it is separate from the print newsletter and its archives, which is helpful but not necessary.  I also have a subscription to their sister site, Deal Lawyer, which seems to be money wasted.  There just is not enough substance there to be worth the fee.  I have used it for a couple of issues that would fall squarely into its area of expertise, but each time the site has come up short.  It either has nothing that addresses the question or the information it does have is not helpful or could have been accessed faster from the SEC’s EDGAR site.

That brings me to Other Research Provider (not named at this time).  They have great services for business lawyers looking for SEC documents that are not available on EDGAR or could easily be missed using EDGAR’s clumsy search engine.  However, like dealing with Lexis and Westlaw, there is no easy pricing guide.  You deal with salespeople as if you were buying a car.  Do you feel like you are being ripped off?  You probably are, at least in terms of paying more for the same service than the solo down the block.

Try getting a list of services for your subscription.  You get a one page .pdf sales sheet without the list of services.  They may be running specials next week or not.  At least with the Deal Lawyer site, I knew exactly how much I was paying and what I was getting without having to talk to a sales person.

At some point substitutes won’t cut it anymore, and I will need the service.  I will keep putting it off until it is unavoidable or they make the process less unenjoyable.

My Favorite Apps For Work – url2pdf

Have you ever found yourself reading a webpage on a mobile device and thought, “I wish I had a .pdf of this so I could mark this up and save it”?

Since I read a lot of cases and article on my tablet that I share with you good folks (you’re welcome), I was tormented by this thought.  Or concerned.  Or mildly annoyed.

url2pdf does just what its name suggests.  It takes a URL and converts the page into a .pdf file suitable for framing.  I use it for highlighting or marking up documents as I would a paper file.

The interface is sparse, to be charitable.  However, it is easy to use and doesn’t require much in the way of instruction.

It is amazing how such a small, free, simple app can make portable devices so convenient.  It is another tool that turns that turns my tablet from a glorified reader to a mobile workstation.

 

My Favorite Apps For Work – LectureNotes

I never used a tablet at The Big Firm.  I had the firm-issued Blackberry and my own iPhone, but I was not a fan of integrating my personal electronics with the firm’s system.

I was also not an early adopter for tablets.  However, since I went solo, I started using a tablet frequently.  I tend to use it for reading articles and as a replacement for printouts.  This leads me to LectureNotes.

LectureNotes is an Android app for taking notes on the screen.  Simple enough, as there are many apps that do this, including the native apps that were pre-installed on the tablet.

LectureNotes is great for the note-taking function, but what really sets it apart is when it is paired with PDFView.  PDFView renders .pdf documents for viewing and marking on LectureNotes.  You can import .pdf’s to have them available to mark them up as if they were paper documents.  You can customize the size and color of the “pen” you use and note deletions, insertions and notes.  It also allows you to organize your documents in a customizable way.

You may say that Adobe Reader does the same thing, and it does.  However, I found that there is far less latency in LectureNotes when I am marking up a document than when I use Adobe Reader.  The fraction of a second latency in Adobe Reader is enough to catch my attention and break my concentration as I stop to make sure the program recognized that I was writing.

LectureNotes is priced at less than $5.00 at this writing and worth it.  PDFView is free.  Paired together, they are responsible for a great deal of changing how I interact with documents.