by Kristin Cardinale, Ph.D.
This article is an excerpt from Kristin Cardinale’s new book, The 9-to-5 Cure: Work on Your Own Terms and Reinvent Your Life. For more information about the book, read our full review of The 9-to-5 Cure.
The Patchwork Principle is a freelance career strategy based on the simple idea that working for a number of employers simultaneously presents unique business opportunities and insulates you from sudden and total job loss… The Patchworker carries all of the standard responsibilities of the freelancer but has an agenda beyond earning money: life… A Patchworker is a freelancer who selectively accepts work based on lifestyle factors that they determine to be personally important.
Before you dive in and try out this new career lifestyle, let’s take a moment to determine if the Patchwork model is really the right choice for you. After all, being a Patchworker means owning your own business and running the show, which is new territory you are wading into if you are currently part of the 9-to-5 world. There are many important considerations to weigh; let’s take a look at some of them.
The Mindset of a Patchworker
A mindset is “a fixed state of mind.” In other words, it is a way of thinking to which you are fully committed. The Patchworker mindset is that of a mindful entrepreneur, committed to operating a successful business within the parameters of Lifestyle Design.Your mindset will determine the limits of your success as a Patchworker; therefore, carefully consider the following characteristics (keeping in mind that you should possess most but not necessarily all of them):Do you have the energy? Do you have the energy required to complete all of the initial startup tasks? Are you too burnt out from your current or past job to do the work? Starting a business is work. In fact, you may work more than anticipated in the beginning in order to get the wheels of your business turning. Are you willing to put in the time and effort?Do you have the focus? Do you have the mental focus necessary to open, operate, and maintain a new business? When you are selfemployed, you don’t have a boss keeping you on task and sending you reminders about approaching deadlines. You have to coach yourself, to motivate and propel yourself forward by staying on task. Can you do that?Do you have the dedication? To be a successful Patchworker, you need to be committed to following through on all promises you make to yourself and your clients. Consistency is vital in order to be successful as a business; it takes discipline. You will sometimes have to do things that are mundane, time-consuming, or uninteresting in the course of maintaining your business. Do you have the dedication necessary to stay on task?Do you have the organizational skills? Running a business requires basic organizational skills, period. You need not be a perfectionist — in fact, that may hinder your success. However, your clients will expect you to be on top of things related to the work you do for them, Uncle Sam will expect you to maintain records and pay taxes as required by law, and if you ever expect to get paid, you will need a good way to keep track of who to invoice, when, and for how much. The nutty professor style of filing with numerous stacks of dog-eared papers leaning over in a dangerous balancing act on your desk doesn’t cut it when you manage your own business. Can you start and stay organized?Can you multitask like a pro? If there is one thing that being a Patchworker requires, it is the ability to multitask. And to be a Patchworker, at times you may have to be an uber-tasker as you manage multiple projects for an array of organizations simultaneously in a single week. Then there is invoicing, recordkeeping, collecting, advertising, and more. Do you have the will to keep a handle on it all? Can you play the part of CEO, secretary, accountant, and driver all in a single day? More importantly, are you willing to?Can you work independently? Even if you work on-site at your employer’s workplace location, there is still some amount of paperwork, such as invoicing, that you must do independently in your home office setting. Do you have the space, even if it is only a corner of the room, from which to run your business? Most Patchworkers spend most of their time working out of their home office, but there are exceptions — like me, for example! Could you stay on task, feel energized, and remain motivated if you worked independently at home? The location aside, could you simply work independently on the projects or tasks for which you are responsible? Could you stay focused?Can you drum up your own leads? To be a successful Patchworker, you absolutely need to scout out new opportunities and then determine if they fit into your lifestyle framework. Drumming up new business must be a regular part of your routine as the business owner. Can you get out there and sell? Before you say, “No way!” let me mention that selling doesn’t have to involve the traditional approaches such as in-person cold calls or telemarketing-like approaches. I have never made a single cold call or done any telemarketing to drum up a lead, just to reassure you.In today’s modern world, selling often means marketing yourself online via e-mail and social media sites such as Twitter. Because my business approach seeks work mostly from local businesses in my geographic location, I could walk in and talk with decision makers, but I find e-mail to be a practical, effective medium for making my pitches. Each business is different, so test out the waters and see what works best for you.Can you make your own decisions? The great thing about being a 9-to-5 employee is that you can always blame any misguided initiatives on the boss. Whatever goes wrong, you name it and the boss is a prime target at which to hurl criticism. However, when you are the boss of your own Patchwork business, the buck stops with you. Any and all decisions are yours to own. You must take full responsibility for the ideas, the execution, and the outcomes. When things go really well, it’s nice to bask in the glow and take full credit. However, when things go awry, you have to be able to deal with the consequences. Can you handle it?Can you keep learning? Lifelong learning is a prerequisite for most everything in life that is worthwhile; work is no exception. Although you will settle into a routine related to recordkeeping and other mundane tasks, you will likely never fully enjoy the “cruise control” mentality that you may now know in your 9-to-5 world. In contrast, as an entrepreneur you will be growing and learning in many directions at once. You alone will need to determine when you need to seek out a book, class, or mentor to guide you when you encounter new topics related to running your business, either to keep up with the industry in which you work or as you strive to honor your lifestyle framework. Are you able to ask for help when the need arises? Can your ego handle it? Are you willing to climb the learning curves that you will inevitably encounter?Although the preceding points are only the main points of consideration, it is important to take some time to seriously consider the realities of being the boss. Being in charge is a much different experience from being a subordinate. Some people love it; others do not.
Learn more in our Resources for Portfolio Careers, Patchworking, Moonlighting, Side-Gigs, Second Jobs, Freelancing.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Kristin Cardinale, Ph.D. is the author of The 9-to-5 Cure: Work on Your Own Terms and Reinvent Your Life. She is an optimist, columnist, career coach, consultant, technology instructor, adjunct college professor, seminar speaker, owner of a small technical-support business and serial entrepreneur; she is a bona fide Patchworker. Follow her on Twitter @WorkOnPurpose or visit her Website.