Educated self-starters with digital skills and tools can freelance, earn income, and network to learn to stay ahead of the crowd.
My husband had an outpatient surgical procedure recently. He received excellent care, everything went the way it was supposed to, and he was discharged within the estimated time. What interested me (beyond his quick recovery) is that two of the three RNs who cared for him are contract workers. These professional freelancers projected the same caring attitudes and skill set as the employee nurses. The freelancers were open and friendly making them very approachable; I asked them about their work arrangements.
The fifty-ish surgical room nurse works in 3-6 month long assignments at in-state hospitals interspersed with 1-2 months off at a time. He lives in a recreational vehicle when working on contract. His income covers his expenses at home and on the road, as well as permits him to save for a retirement home in Costa Rica.
The other contract nurse helping patients with post-surgery recovery is back in Florida after having worked in Idaho and California for two years. She, her husband who telecommutes for his employment, and their three home-schooled children (who rely heavily on online learning), love exploring new environs and cultures. They wish to do a foreign posting next.
Digital technology figures heavily in her work as she masters patient care reporting protocols in each hospital. And just as this nurse prepared to practice in CA and ID, she will look ahead to what she needs to work successfully in another country using the internet to gather information and apply for openings and work permits, etc. Her story made me realize that self-directed, skilled professionals, even those with working spouses, and children in elementary and middle schools, can find temporary, meaningful assignments that pay well and offer learning adventures for everyone.
The nurses’ stories illustrate the benefits and credentials needed to freelance. While most of us might not be as sought after as nurses, we could still succeed with contract employment.
The lede in Tyler Cowen’s article in the New York Times on June 28, 2015, “Educated self-starters stand to benefit disproportionately from the shift to a sharing economy” suggests that we can do well. Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University predicts that the “new sharing economy … will expand” because “many consumers like them” [services such as Uber and Airbnb]. While there is much debate on the so-called income-earning merits of Uber and similar transactional “job” exchanges (see our recent posts here and here), I am attracted to Cowen’s supposition that workers who will benefit most from the contract economy will be those who are well educated and can put “each hour, or each 15-minute gap up for sale.” They must also be “willing and able to turn their spare time to productive uses. These workers tend to be self-starters and people who are good at shifting roles quickly.” He calls them “disciplined and ambitious task switchers.”
They also have to be like the four-year old girl profiled in Clay Shirky’s book Cognitive Surplus who watched a DVD with her father.
In the middle of the movie, apropos of nothing, she jumped off the couch and ran around behind the screen. My friend thought she wanted to see if the people in the movie were really back there. But that wasn’t what she was up to. She started rooting around in the cables behind the screen. Her dad asked, “What you doing?” And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for a mouse.”
Although many four year old kids use their fingers instead of mouses today—the lesson would be the same now, 5 years after Cognitive Surplus’s publication. Shirky concluded that four year olds, unhindered by thousands of annual hours of passively watching Gilligan’s Island and other inane TV shows (like many of us boomers did), know that “a screen without a mouse is missing something,” that is, the opportunity for them to participate online and make their own entertainment. As 21st century denizens, learners, and workers, we need to be like the curious four year old to want to use digital media that permit us to consume, and produce and share our work.
Which brings me to my last concern. One must have digital tools and ability to do the simplest things. Freelancers need up-to-date, robust digital technology because it enables them to see, hear, speak, record their reflections, project their perspective, share resources, research and organize resources on the hard drive and in the cloud, network for jobs and learning, and craft written communications, audio, and video productions. Lisa says: “In other words, you can’t freelance effectively in this connected world unless you have the latest equipment and know how. Old technology won’t cut it. Hanging onto your old tablet or laptop might save you a few dollars, but it will also limit your freelance capabilities (unless “technology wizard” is on your resume).”
Lisa included the WLS Digital Literacy graphic in her blog post last week to help distinguish between technology and digital literacy. This week, I ran across a discussion in Education Week on Choosing the Right Digital Learning Device. The article focuses on PreK-12 learners for whom school districts might supply learning devices. They considered various factors to select digital devices for use in the classroom. They believe that purpose should influence technology choice. Look at what first graders now do with technology. Remember, too, that learning is another word for working.
As self-directed adult learners, and as freelancers, we face BYOD—Bring Your Own Device—and application choices, too. Writing a report with graphics, sharing resources, and collaborating in web conferencing environments, as well as convening online sessions and discussions, will require a more powerful device than a tablet. It doesn’t have to cost much more than a good tablet though. Matching the right technology to the right purpose is important to do well. WikiHow offers a few tips for choosing computer technology as does Digital Trends for selecting a tablet. They both start with the question: What do you need to do with it?
What are you using to access the internet and the possibilities that it opens up for you? How is it meeting your needs? What do you consider when switching to newer internet-connected devices? How might freelancing put more technical demands on the equipment you use?
Featured image of internet-connected devices from FirmBee at Pixabay