It sounds exciting, exhilarating - and so with-it: I'm taking myself public! But you need to handle the decision with care. And, if you go ahead with a personal IPO, you need to manage it wisely and consistently. Otherwise, you could lose your asset. Here are nine points to keep in mind.
1. Don't forget the advantages of being privately held.
Going public isn't for everyone. The major drawback: A talent IPO gives someone else a piece of your action. Exchanges like MacTemps, M2, and IMCOR typically pay you about 25% less than you'd get by peddling your services directly to clients.
2. Consider the benefits of going public.
By linking up with a talent exchange, you open yourself to a much wider universe of buyers. And though the exchange will take a cut of your fee, your bottom line may not suffer much.
3. If you go public, beware of the company you keep.
Here's why J.P. Collins, a Web designer in San Francisco, listed himself on the MacTemps exchange: "They have a very good pool of talent here. I'm up with the crème de la crème." Remember: Buyers measure you by the quality of your exchange.
4. Go for long-term performance, even if that means having a bad quarter.
In the long run, the best companies always outperform today's hot stock. The same goes for your personal stock. Your taking on a cool project that pays less than your usual rate is akin to a company's taking a charge against earnings for a major investment.
5. Remember that learning produces the greatest return on personal equity.
On the new talent market, your earnings depend on your learnings. If you know more when you complete a project than when you began it, your stock price will reflect that added value.
6. Move fast.
Heed the advice of Nikki Granner, vice president and general manager of MacTemps's WebStaff unit: "The faster your moves, the faster your rise."
7. Every once in a while, have fun.
Many talent exchanges offer an ancillary benefit: community. Places like MacTemps host regular mixers, meetings, baseball games, and bowling nights for free agents.
8. Watch market signals.
The most successful stocks tune themselves to the market's frequency. In the talent market, client feedback determines which stocks are hot. You can't afford to ignore what the market is saying about you.
9. Be paranoid.
Don't rest on yesterday's success. The market moves fast. If you're slow, you may go from being a stock to being a commodity. Do you have any idea what it's like to be a pork belly?
A version of this article appeared in the August 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.