The Gig Economy: Our chat with Nation1099

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The Gig Economy: Our chat with Nation1099

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A recent survey of Another Number’s early adopter told us that many of you are freelancers working in TV, film, design and IT, and use Another Number to manage communications with clients, whilst improving your work-life balance.

We’re always looking for tools that support our customers, so we had a chat with Nation1099, the gig economy forum for Freelancers and Solopreneurs.

What is Nation1099?

Nation1099 is a site that shares news, advice and inspiration for gig economy professionals who want to get better at building their businesses. The nation in our name refers to the sense of a growing community we get from my fellow solopreneurs. We believe a solo business doesn’t have to be lonely.

The 1099 refers to the tax reporting form that independent contractors in the United States get. That may have been a mistake branding wise, because a big part of our audience is from outside the U.S. We may all use different tax forms, but we have many other things in common. In fact, if you look at the profile series we publish called Meet the Indi, about half of the people on there are from countries other than the U.S.

Which makes sense when you look at how we work. My own team of subcontractors and colleagues includes people from about seven different countries right now.

Why did you start it?

The first impulse came from my own experience. My day job is running my own content marketing consulting business, which evolved from basic freelance writing services. Like other freelance writers, I had these downward price pressures, and I didn’t just want to earn whatever the going rate was. I wanted to figure out how to build the business.

But I couldn’t find a lot of advice about that. Consultants are notoriously protective about their tradecraft.

At the same time, I have many friends who are independent contractors in other fields like engineering, design or video production. I just found it inspiring to talk with them about how they managed their work. We were swapping simple advice like where to find an accountant and more strategic advice about when it made sense to hire subcontractors.

And since much of my own business is working with tech startups, I was really aware of how much the gig economy is growing and how many companies depend on independent contractors. About 11 percent of the total U.S. workforce is full-time freelance. It’s about the same in the European Union. That’s projected to grow about 3.5 percent per year.

It finally dawned on me that if I was having trouble getting the information I needed to build a better business and that if there were a lot of people like me, there ought to be a website that provided this kind of information. So some colleagues and I started building Nation1099 a little over a year ago.

We just started researching and writing articles that answered the questions we had ourselves. For example, what goes in a scope of work document? When I don’t know something like that and the Google results don’t provide exactly the information I’m looking for, then I know it should go on the editorial calendar.

Who is the audience for Nation1099?

Our audience is people who are selling professional or creative services on a contract basis. But we’re “domain agnostic,” so that whether you are software engineer, a photographer, an executive coach, a pricing consultant, an illustrator or a writer, you are part of this community.

In fact, we have a running list titled “You Can Freelance That?” Right now it has over 130 different kinds freelance careers on it. Our feeling is that if a job can be done as a project with defined deliverables it can be the foundation of a freelance career.

What topics do you cover? How do you help this audience?

Anybody in any one of those 130+ roles can get good ideas about running their freelance business. For example, billing and contracts are different in my field than what my friend who is an industrial engineer is used to, and I’ve borrowed some methods from talking to him. Our articles are meant to spread that kind of business expertise among freelancers and consultants.

So we have lots of articles on setting freelance rates, negotiating freelance contracts and so on.

Essentially, most of it fits into two buckets — operations and strategy. If you are serious about treating your freelance work as a business, you need to pay attention to both of these.

Operations includes all the backroom stuff your employer took care of for you when you had a traditional job — HR, legal, bookkeeping, payroll, IT. When you decide to use a service like Another Number or HulloMail, you’re getting the IT part of your business operations in order. Services like yours are helping more people choose to go solo.

I think strategy is most interesting part of building a freelance business and the most overlooked. The freelancers who succeed are the ones who identify a niche market and plan out their unique value proposition and how they differentiate from the other choices their clients might have.

Tell us about your five main focus areas?

Our first three focus areas — start, manage and grow — have practical advice about operations and strategy for people at different stages in their development. It’s advice on financial issues, budgeting, legal issues, finding clients, narrowing your market focus and so on.

The fourth area — thrive — is about the emotional aspects of running a freelance business. It’s how to have fun and make sure you have a good work-life balance.

And the last area — connect — is where you can see profiles of your freelance peers and get inspired by what they’re doing. We have a lot in there about mastermind groups and coworking spaces

Where can those looking to start working as a freelancer go for advice?

Well, the Start section on Nation1099 has lots of great practical advice. If I had to recommend one particular article, it would be our list of the best freelance websites and marketplaces for finding your first freelance jobs. There’s something on there for everybody. We try to update that list every month.

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