So what do you do?
It’s a question you often get when meeting people for the first time. When I had a traditional job it was easy. I’d say I was a CEO. Actually I felt uncomfortable about that (for reasons I’m not quite sure about) so I’d say I worked for The Mammal Society. Then I went off to work for myself and it didn’t feel right saying I was a freelancer either. Freelance literally means a lance for hire and that wasn’t what I was aiming for. It did describe what I was doing at the time, as I was working freelance for two organisations, but it wasn’t quite right.
At the same time as I was grappling with this question I was coaching a career changer who had just left a lifetime of being a salesman. He knew he wanted to make the world a better place but wondered what he told friends and family he was doing. He didn’t want people to think he was doing nothing. We came up with telling people he was transitioning into a new project. My experience and those of the people around me got me thinking about the importance of a description that you can use to explain what you do. It has to be short and snappy, the elevator pitch that encapsulates your working life. Being a researcher at heart I started looking around.
The traditional career
This is fairly simple. The world is accustomed to a vast range of job descriptions from doctors to accountants, secretaries, plumbers, designers and engineers. If you tell somebody at a party that you’re a bank manager they’ll have a reasonable idea about what you do and probably won’t need to delve further into it. If you do something slightly more exotic like being an actor there might be a greater level of interest and a few more questions asked. On the whole though the people asking will be satisfied, will mentally pigeonhole you and move the conversation onto something more interesting.
When you go solo
The alternative when you go off on your own is a wild west of definitions. Here are just a few I’ve come across although the list isn’t comprehensive; freelancer, contractor, consultant, free range human, location independent worker, solopreneur, self-bosser, entrepreneur, escaper, independent professional, self-employed, interim, portfolio worker, business owner, gig economy worker and sole trader. When explainina what you do at parties you usually have to go into more detail about what you do so that people can understand. Just saying you’re a freelancer or an entrepreneur isn’t enough you usually need to explain what you are doing, which field you are in and who you work with.
When I was still trying to work it out I went with blending all the stuff I was doing into a single job description. I first called myself a freelancer with an internet start-up. Then I was a portfolio juggling indie-writer, conservationist, and coach. And still, that didn’t quite fit.
Why does this matter?
Our identities are so wrapped up in what we do for a living that for many people being title-less can be disorienting and it can feel awkward when you are asked that question. For someone like me who likes neatness, clear signposting and categories it’s also just a conundrum, what is it that I am doing exactly? How do I package myself now? This was also important to me because all the descriptions I had come up with, interesting and varied as they were, weren’t particulalry good at explaining exactly what it was that I did.
How I got to indie-green
Aside from being an environmentalis/ nature conservationist I also love to write fiction. At the same time as I was setting up as a freelancer, solopreneur etc. I was discovering the wonderful new world of self publishing and I came across two new job titles I’d not seen before. The first was authorpreneur, representing writers who treated the whole process as a business, who wrote, self promoted and generally treat the whole business of writing as, well, just that a business where they intend to make money. The other title was indie-author.I liked the sound of it immediately. It was similar to an indie film maker which represented people doing things their own way and creating great, innovative new films.
The name resonated for me, it represented an independent who was doing green work in their own way with a singleminded aim of making the world a cleaner or greener place. It was a description I could own and could proudly proclaim as my job. It also represented a concept I hope other people will pick up and want to do themselves. As I’ve said before, the world needs more people working to protect and enhance it and there is a role and an opportunity in that for indie-greens.People who want to innovate, people who want to try out new techniques, or simply get on with doing something that they know works.
This independent world gives you flexibility and a way to do what you care about, so why not grab the title and make it your own and together we can go on a journey to show the world what a difference an indie-green can make.
Does this sound familiar? Have you gone it alone and wondered what to call yourself? Does indie-green resonate with you?