The Future of Work … It Isn’t What It Once Was, Or Maybe It is


Knowledge and Artisan skills – what do you offer the world, and does the world want it?!

If you had to work as an independent consultant — i.e., work for various employers where you are paid directly for services provided — could you confidently answer this statement: ‘I am a junior/mid-level/senior level ______. An appropriate hourly rate for my services is $___.’

Most people have trouble answering the first part, and are totally clueless about the second — although many are tempted to take their current paycheck and divide by 40, the hours in a normal workweek.

The rules of successful career progression and employment are changing. Reality is that significant change in the nature of employment began long before the Great Recession of 2007.

By the late 1990s the percentage of Americans employed in the job market had slowed and rapidly began to tumble by 2000. Even when the economy supposedly recovered in the mid-2000s the number of Americans in the workplace continued to thin.

Instead of thinking big and large scale, the future for the average person awaits them in their community by filling local or virtual needs for your services — go to Guru.com for an example of how people are offering their services around the world; even Administrative Assistants (people formerly known as secretaries and step-and-fetch-its are making money virtually).

  • Success will come to those possessing more than just an average knowledge of some skills or craft.
  • Success will come from holding certifications that make you ‘skilled’ vice having a skill.
  • Success will come from being active in your community and reaching out to others in the business community, either through direct involvement or virtually, and making it known that you are available with a menu of services and skills.
  • Success will come from you knowing your market value and being realistic about fish-of-the-day pricing for your services. It doesn’t matter if you are a rocket scientist when the room is full of them and demand is low. Supply and demand rule the day.

BTW — many businesses like to hire consultants AKA 1099 workers. They pay for what they get and are willing to pay even more for what they like. Paying a bit extra is often worth it to employers that outsource work to you, knowing that they are getting their money’s worth.

Unemployment numbers measure how many Americans are participating in the work place.

Reality is that far fewer Americans are working as a percentage of the entire population.

Reality is that employers can do more with less. More work and productivity can be achieved by fewer professionals. Current technology makes possible fulfillment of the promise that we can do more with less.

Are you less or more?

Some of that doing more with less involves using more outsourced professionals. Protect your job by adjusting to new employment market realities and being able to confidently answer this statement: ‘I am a junior/mid-level/senior level ______. An appropriate hourly rate for my services is $___.’


By William ‘Bill’ Golden, CEO of IntelligenceCareers, Inc., aka IntelligenceCareers.com, USAJobZoo.com, and USADefenseIndustryJobs.com plus 148 niche jobs blogs.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The Future of Work … It Isn’t What It Once Was, Or Maybe It is

  1. The thing I hate about being a contractor is I don’t make that much (probably can be remedied) and the paperwork. I still don’t know if I have to pay SS because I work some traditional jobs as well and barely make anything on my non-traditional jobs. Furthermore, I have no retirement benefits and the amount I can put into savings is very limited. Finally, I tend to work in fields that don’t pay much. Any advice? Or is that outside of your skills set? πŸ™‚

    • Katherine,

      Thanks for your note. Different people and different thoughts make the world go around.

      As a contractor you are required to file a tax statement with the IRS every 90 days. All the goodies that come with being a one person company will get figured in the calculation.

      The challenge for 1099ers is figuring their market value. A rule of thumb that I recommend is that whatever the average hourly rate for an ’employed’ member of your profession is then you charge a minimal 20-25% extra per hour. This covers your costs for taxes, retirement and some basic bennies. Most good employers cheerfully pay the extra because having employees also costs them extra. An hourly wage is never the whole cost to an employer.

      Example: Let’s say that I were upper mid-to-junior senior news reporter in Alexandria, VA. The median pay per year is $51,114, with $40,316 being the median for the average experienced reporter. The hourly rate works out to $19.36-24.57 as an employee. A 1099 contractor should be charging $23.25-29.50/hour if you are including a 20% additional bennies fee for your time and services. Reality is that an employer would actually be paying even more per hour to cover all the costs of a regular W-2 employee.

      • I love this topic because I have been at both ends (successfully). The most important thing to remember is that it’s what people “think you are worth” that counts. They will do everything within their power to make you think you are worth less (that’s just good business). You must negotiate to confirm that you are worth more (that also is good business).

        Bill is absolutely correct regarding the cost of an employee vs the cost of a 1099R. While at SAIC, I would “mark up” regular employees perhaps 3.5 times plus fee to cover expenses (those nice buildings, admin support, me, etc., etc., etc) and then add fee. A $50 an hour employee would end up costing a customer around $200 an hour. A 1099R may present himself to a customer for $150 an hour and “keep the money”. If he went through me, I would mark him 2-3% to cover overhead and add fee selling him to the customer for around $160 an hour. In either 1099R Scenario, the independent contractor is a better value.

        I always “ruthlessly” chipped away at Independent’s self-confidence to reduce their rate (thus making me more competitive). The “smart” Independents focused on differentiating their skills from others to avoid becoming a “commodity” (or just another Oracle DBA vice an Oracle DBA who has mastered performance tuning).

        Work on your “value proposition” (or what differentiates you from all others and why you are worth more) and don’t let customers “chip away” at your value and self-confidence (as I would do if you were selling your services to me).

        My personal experience is that I preferred a few customers who would pay a much higher rate than many who paid a lower rate. In the end, I made more money that way and “improved” my rate in general because people tend to judge you by the last rate you charged. There are many “tricks” to improve one’s rate… but that’s a different conversation.

  2. Katherine,
    Bill s “spot on” regarding his prediction for the future. The “good news” about being a 1099R is that you can set up tour own IRA and put up to 25% of your income into retirement. the most important thing an Independant Consultant or Sole Proprietor does is establish their rate. Experience tells me that most undervalue themselves. Ironically, people perceive they are getting more if they pay more. It’s not about what you do, its about how you market yourself. I “strongly recommend” Gerald Weinberg’s ” The Secrets of Consulting” to get the most for your skills. It’s a few years old; however, it is still the best advice out there,

  3. Bill, re “success comes from…”, I have found that Success comes from success. Pull of a few things really well and the world will beat a path to your door.

    I really like this post.

  4. This is all excellent advice from people who know better than I do. : )

    I constantly under-sell myself. It drives my friends crazy. I don’t have enough confidence to barter. As far as website design, I will get more the longer I work at it. At the moment, though…I need to do some affirmations. πŸ™‚

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