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All power to the independent worker

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By Martin Conboy. Entrepreneurs use Virtual Assistants (VAs) for everything from making vendor or customer service calls to research, keeping schedules, online marketing and a wide variety of other tasks. This boom in VAs (often referred to as independent workers) is changing the way we think about our working life.

In far off lands there are growing clusters of stay at home mothers who are getting together in small collectives and pooling their resources to pitch for work in first world countries.

It’s been called the ‘Gig Economy’, ‘Freelance Nation’, the ‘Rise of the Creative Class’, and the e-economy.

In far off lands there are growing clusters of stay at home mothers who are getting together in small collectives and pooling their resources to pitch for work in first world countries.

These women are usually university educated, highly motivated, have got a number of years experience working in a BPO facility, have excellent English skills and are tech savvy.

They juggle multiple clients. They take on a range of tasks, becoming marketing, customer service and book keeping experts. They create offices in kitchens, coffee shops, bedrooms or anywhere they can place a computer and a headset.

A new way to live and work

We call them freelancers, virtual assistants, contractors, consultant, temps and they are all self-employed.

The internet allows them to look for opportunities wherever they maybe.

It’s amazing to see the enthusiasm that these people have. Not content to sit at home and expect someone to look after them, they are grabbing the opportunities by the scruff of the neck and launching them selves into the cyber work place.  And, not surprisingly, many of them love it and are flourishing.

Now, employees are leaving the traditional workplace and opting to piece together a professional life on their own terms.

Moreover they are connecting with entrepreneurial work from home moms in the west and creating micro teams, not bound by geography. The internet allows them to look for opportunities wherever they maybe.

It’s only early days, but these green shoots are appearing everywhere.

This transition is nothing less than a transformation. We haven’t seen a shift in the workforce potentially this significant in almost 100 years when we moved from an agricultural society and cottage base manufacturing to an industrial economy.

Now, employees are leaving the traditional workplace and opting to piece together a professional life on their own terms.

Millions of people all over the world are participating in this “freelance economy”. Online freelance job postings are going through the ceiling and everybody has got the BBQ story about using an outsourcer.

The rise of the independent worker

While the western economies have unwillingly pushed some people into independent work, many have chosen it because of greater flexibility that lets them skip the unexciting office environment and focus on more personally fulfilling projects.

No matter the company or the location jobs no longer provide the protections and guarantee of employment that workers used to expect. The basics ­ such as health insurance, protection from unpaid wages, a retirement plan, and unemployment insurance ­ are out of reach for many workers.

In Australia even large corporations that one would never have imagined folding are closing their doors and throwing their workers out on the street.

Well if necessity is the mother of invention, then these freelancers are taking matters into their own hands. Independent workers are forced to seek opportunities elsewhere, and if they can’t find or afford them, then they go without.

New Mutualism

It’s that simple idea — we are stronger together than we are alone — that’s at the heart of our vision of the new knowledge economy.

Our current support systems are based on a traditional employment model, where one worker must be bound to one employer to receive those benefits. Given that fewer and fewer of us are working this way, its clear that people will form networks which will have economic benefits at a local level as the multiplier effect will generate local opportunities and these clusters will be become less dependent on central governments. They will create their own local support systems, as they make choices about setting up their own home office or join a co-working community, do they go it alone or build something together. It’s that simple idea — we are stronger together than we are alone — that’s at the heart of our vision of the new knowledge economy. And millions of freelancers are already living this connected life, which is now being referred to as “New Mutualism.” You’ve heard of DIY (“Do It Yourself”). Well, this is DIO (“Do It Ourselves”). New Mutualism changes the frame from “I” to “we.” https://www.freelancersunion.org/blog/dispatches/2013/11/05/what-new-mutualism/
June 11, 2014
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