Every free agent will do things his or her own way. But every free agent still needs a starter kit to prosper in unfamiliar territory. After talking with hundreds of free agents, Fast Company assembled this set of recommended resources.
Friends to Make
Friends with brains. No resources are more valuable than wisdom and experience — and the best way to tap those resources is to use someone else's. Build an unofficial board of directors for You Inc.: mentors, patrons, and colleagues you can call on for advice both strategic and personal. Pack your "board" with people who will surprise and challenge you.
Friends with skills. You can really sell — but can you really spell? A friend who will spruce up your self-made marketing brochure for the cost of a pizza can be worth her weight in gold. Barter your talents: if you're a computer whiz and you know a marketing whiz, the two of you can swap skills, and you both benefit.
Friends with connections. These people are waiting to become your new best friends: someone trustworthy at the copy shop; someone at the office supply store who really knows the place; your favorite package delivery people — because when they're on your side, the world's your oyster. And for each client, you're going to want a friend in the purchasing and accounts-payable departments.
Sites to See
Here are some sites every free agent needs to know.
Working Solo http://www.workingsolo.com . More than 1,000 listings for publications, audio and video products, professional groups, tech help, money help, and even government help. It's searchable by keyword and has an index for browsers.
The Idea Cafe http://www.ideacafe.com . Practical columns and articles, random fun stuff, and a virtual watercooler where you can seek investors, complain about working alone, or boast about being the boss.
SBA Online http://www.sbaonline.sba.gov . Graphically, just good enough for government work — but a comprehensive, one-stop shopping guide to agencies and programs.
Business@Home http://www.gohome.com . An online magazine with news and features for work-at-homers.
BuyersZone http://www.buysmart.com . Expert advice on everything from office equipment to rental cars. Click on "Inside Scoop" for up-to-the-minute tips on deals and freebies.
Books to Read
A few volumes to start your free-agent library.
Secrets of Self-Employment by Sarah and Paul Edwards (Putnam, 1996). An invaluable guide to measuring and developing the skills and attitudes you need as a free agent.
Working Solo by Terri Lonier (Portico Press, 1994). The free agent's bible — more than 1,000 ideas for working on your own.
Working Solo Sourcebook by Terri Lonier (Portico Press, 1995). Now that you've read the bible, here's the how-to version. More than 1,200 resource listings — everything from support networks to computer supplies.
A version of this article appeared in the December 1997/January 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.