Author and consultant William Bridges firstname.lastname@example.org identifies individual work strategies. His book, Creating You & Co. (Addison-Wesley, 1997), offers tools for free agents. Bridges spoke with Fast Company from his home in Mill Valley, California.
Why should I become a free agent?
Two reasons: because free agency provides you with an interesting and energizing way of life; and because the economy is de-integrating. Work is being outsourced, and business is taking place at the level of the individual.
How can I be sure that free agency is right for me?
Mentally run through a checklist of the four factors that I call your DATA — Desires, Abilities, Temperament, and Assets.
Take desires first. Jobs used to be about what you have to do, not what you want to do. But as a free agent, you won't be able to do high-quality work unless you really want to do the work.
Abilities are not just technical skills. They have more to do with the way you solve problems and achieve results.
Temperament is critical. There are people who are happiest working on their own. And there are people who would miss working with others in an office. You must have the temperament to thrive in whatever work style you pursue.
And last, you must have the assets — the experiences, expertise, or possessions — that will convince companies to hire you instead of a rival.
How do I know which jobs to take and which to turn down?
Ask yourself, "Why would I take this job?" The answer may well be "It means another $1,000." But the best answer is "It will lead to more business" or "It meets a personal goal."
Then ask, "What is this job going to require of me? And can I do it well?" Before you take an assignment, make sure you have the resources to succeed at it.
How do I know how much to charge?
Pricing is a very intuitive, very personal thing. Many people, in trying to get pricing right, overcomplicate it. Get started. Get rolling. Make your first buck. People may laugh at you because you charge so little. Well, you're in the game now, and that's how you get in the game.
A version of this article appeared in the December 1997/January 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.