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Freedom through Freelancing and You, The Startup

Tom is an award-winning entrepreneur and the founder of 3Desk (www.3desk.com) a marketplace for face-to-face freelancers, contractors and consultants. He also blogs at www.simpletom.co.uk

I used to work in the city, in the belly of the beast – an investment bank. There were a mere 1000 unlucky souls on the floor of our corporate prison office.

I lasted just 3 months. The banking world was too disconnected from ‘life’ and what it means to be a passionate and creative human being. For me, it was a like a battery farm of bright people, all slowly dying at their desks.

So, I escaped the city and have never looked back and ‘became’ an entrepreneur.

At first, it seemed lonely. Yet as I explore I find that there are many more of us than first meets the eye. Freelancers, consultants and contractors all run their own small businesses. Each have taken the leap to escape to a working world that befits them.

The Startup of You

Reid Hoffman wrote a book recently entitled ‘The Startup of You’. As the founder of LinkedIn, and an investor in Facebook, Zynga, Path and many others, he should know a thing or two about the world of work.

What is clear is that work is changing. Employers cannot guarantee job security and so people are less willing to sacrifice themselves. Most interestingly, more and more people are recognizing that they need to be in control of their work, rather than leaving it to the ‘cultures’ of businesses and at the mercy of their managers. Some are sounding the death knell of the traditional job – like this article outlines.

Certain commentators believe that by 2020 over 50% of the US workforce will be temporarily employed – meaning amazingly that over half of those working will have part-time jobs. Suddenly, more people will be running their own businesses (read careers), even if they don’t always see themselves as entrepreneurs, or having ‘escaped’ full time work.

These don’t have to mean working in Starbucks, but it could also be as a ‘super-temp’ (as this Harvard Business Review article explains).

My story

My peripatetic escape from the city led me to start a marine conservation charity (www.blueventures.org), to build a sustainability-focused recruitment business and to build a house in Kenya (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/173098) and to run a business in San Francisco.

Each also enabled other people to escape from the city for a little while, for example Blue Ventures ran expeditions for volunteers), or to change the city from within. My recruitment business, which had offices in London and San Francisco, helped people switch to environmental careers until the recession dragged us slowly under (escaping isn’t always a blessing). Yet my current business 3Desk (www.3desk.com) feels like the strongest contributor to changing the workforce and helping them escape.

Yet for all the will to escape, there is a problem – with more and more people wanting to be self-employed, there need to be new and better solutions to enable these people to find work that suits them and their skills. A graphic designer might be absolutely amazing, but the nature of their work means they’re often not natural marketers, or business developers. Escaping is often easy, finding a rewarding place on the far side can be more challenging.

Our aim

We want to build a liquid marketplace for freelancers who work face-to-face. Although marketplaces for freelancers exist, the focus is on remote work, from one cubicle to another, without human interaction.

We want to help people with skills find the work they need, when they need it, and enabling employers to tap into talent locally without forcing people to become permanent workers. Although a great, cohesive permanent team is truly wonderful, there are too many people who hate their jobs but have valuable skills. We want to enable those who want to escape, escape. Not just from one job to another, but from unemployment into employment, and from motherhood to a work routine that is symbiotic with childcare. We want to prevent the United Nations and Governments wasting billions on besuited city-based consulting firms because they can’t find the people they need individually.

I escaped the city, yet work harder than I did there for a fraction of the pay. But I am free, and making a difference to other peoples’ lives. Every day I thank my lucky stars that I had the means to escape. Now I feel like a liberator from the jail of conformity, helping others escape too to the wild and wonderful pastures of working the way you want to, when you want to and still earning what you need to, to be happy.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/patlarsen1/ Pat

    Thanks so much for the article. I signed up for 3desk.
    Let’s see if this starts another independent revenue stream

  • http://www.swbi.co.uk Fernando Hidalgo

    Hello Tom,

    I remember I post on Linked when you commented that you were starting the 3Desk project. I wished it worked and now I can see that it is working very well.

    I signed up and luckly I can find a contract trough your website. I quite feed up of recruiters that does not know anything about the business, does not add any value and keep 20-30% of your income.

    Oh… and welcome to Bristol!

    Cheers,
    Fernando