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what do people use TF for?

Thread title: what do people use TF for?
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03-24-2012, 07:39 PM
#1
derek lapp is offline derek lapp
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  Old  what do people use TF for?

i'm curious. i'm sure the staff have stats and a good idea of their target audience, but i'm curious as to what that is, simply to know what kind of crowd i'm engaging with.

since this place opened (what, 2005? sometime when i was in school) i've always felt a disconnect between my definition of the term freelance, and the rest of the user base.

to me, freelance is defined by the way the business is run, and not the service provided. IE you operate by yourself and come and go as you please. whether you're a locksmith, installing gas piping, design, development, house keeping, etc. regardless of your product/service, the defining factor is that you are small, have minimal overhead, and most notably do not have a legal separation between personal and business assets. knowing this, the way one operates could (should?) be conducted the exact same way as if one was employed, or running a company: you have a product or service, and a market who's problems will be solved by this, you engage them and do business accordingly.

where this disconnect i feel comes from the marketplace. maybe it changed, but in the last 7 years, because i've never dealt with it, but it's never made any sense to me. here, people create something WITHOUT a defined purpose or objective, and what's more confusing is that people com here looking for that. it just makes no sense from a business perspective. as the buyer, you either have to then pay for customization - at which point why didn't the seller just offer customization services and show examples of a framework, not a purchasable, out of the box template - or you have to customize it yourself, again, at which point why didn't you just do it yourself, or get a framework to start with and do it yourself?

maybe it's because i define myself as more than just a designer or a developer. i'm a marketer. i don't just know how to use photoshop, i know how to use it do achieve a specific result, a result i chose because that result is what's going to make my client's brands/products noticeable on the market.

so, having said all that, i'm curious, what does anyone here use tf for? i obviously am here to engage not only potential clients, but my fellow professionals and service providers - not to compete with them or simply to "do business", but to engage them, communicate with them, discuss with them and most importantly understand them.

all i can really say is, that's been my outlook for the last 7 years since i joined, and as far as i can tell, i'm the only one who's really come back and participated on a consistent basis.

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03-25-2012, 02:15 PM
#2
Lowengard is offline Lowengard
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  Old

Hi Derek

Good question. Seems to me you're wondering:
Who subscribes to TF why does he or she consider her/himself a freelancer?

But you also highlight some subsidiary points, based around the question of "what is a freelancer?"

I am not a programmer or developer: I am a writer, editor and consultant to very small businesses. I've been working for a long time and can suggest my interpretation of what you're seeing here.

First, though, what you call yourself, and whether you call yourself a "freelancer" or something else is fairly arbitrary. As I understand it, initially a freelancer was someone who worked for a business but was not a regular employee. "Freelance" as a term refers to mercenary soldiering. And the idea of hiring freelancers started, as far as I can tell, in departments that had recognizable peaks and troughs in work. Freelancers tended to be retirees looking for a little extra income, or people who had other obligations and did not want a full time job.

(Note: a freelancer may be a moonlighter, someone who takes an job in their discipline to work on outside of their regular job, but doesn't have to be. A moonlighter is always a freelancer, however.)

A few things have happened--socially and economically--in the past 20 or 30 years and particularly in the past 8 or 10, and these changes have had an effect on the freelance community such as it exists.

Starting probably with the 1970s recession, a number of businesses experimented with staff reductions in their secondary departments, and the use of freelancers on an "as needed" basis. But "permanent freelancers" began to appear in these firms--people who might be paid nominally more on a per-hour basis than they would earn if they were employees, but without any social benefits -- no holiday or vacation pay, no health insurance (if it were there) no pension contributions, no taxes taken out etc. The freelancer had essentially no workplace rights either. This was an enormous benefit to businesses--upwards of 20% per hiree in overhead and social benefits, no need to worry about unemployment insurance, workers comp, etc.

One response was the US government designation of Independent Contractor for these kinds of positions. IC is an umbrella term for businesses or people working for another business but who/which are not a bona fide employee of that firm. There are tests to determine if someone is an IC (one is you must bring your own tools) and to ensure that the business isn't just trying to avoid providing standard workplace protections.

Another expanded designation is that of "casual labor" --at least in business. Casual labor used to be the migrant workers, summer or Christmas help, etc., people who might come back year after year to the same job. This combined with the rise of internships--paid and unpaid--and the ways that these worker groups can be exploited have also led to revised descriptions. (You can find those definitions at the Bureau of Labor Statistics or Department of Labor websites.)

Second, perception that the number of business lawsuits are increasing has changed the employment landscape in many ways. People who might once have used the term "freelancer" to describe their work and who might have relied on the sole proprietorship model (no difference between yourself and your business, as you describe) turn to a more formal corporate structure to protect themselves from the possibility of lawsuits, or to give the impression that their firm is larger or fiercer than "sole prop" implies. In the '80s the US government developed new structures specifically for small and very small business owners (the LLC, the S-Corp, some expansion of what constitutes a Professional Corporation). I'm also finding that, when I work at someone else's site, I have to prove my general liability insurance covers me while I'm there.

A third point I'd make is the rise of the "plug and play" or "fake it til you make it" education models. Skill has become less important than dogged persistence. You can learn everything by yourself. This is in contrast to older traditions where, for example, an architecture school graduate might expect to spend the first 10-18 months of their first job erasing lines on plans--and listening and observing--people often believe they are experts when they are probably advanced beginners at best.

The 4th point is the changes brought by social media. If you've been hanging out here since '05 (I haven't), then you'll remember TF from days when the internet provided very different kinds of experiences and expectations than it does now. I have been teaching business management courses online since about '04. What my students expected from an online course in '05, and what even the marginally internet savvy expect now, in terms of interactivity, connections within and outside of my platform, is vastly different. We are victims of our own successes: at least monthly I'm invited to join some new site that will connect me to the people I want or need connections to.

And finally, the economy went south. Unemployment, though it's getting better, is still abysmal. Costs of things are still rising. The groups hardest-hit include adolescent and young adult males--a demographic that seems to be drawn, for a number of reasons, to web design, web programming, etc. as well. Casual work in these fields may seem to be less of a dead end than mowing lawns.

I've written this in relative haste, and, no doubt there are gaps in it. I suspect I didn't really answer your basic question either--just gave you reasons why things might be as they now are. So ask if you have questions (or want to argue a point, certainly). . .

Sarah

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03-25-2012, 10:29 PM
#3
derek lapp is offline derek lapp
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  Old

i agree the terminology of what you call yourself is arbitrary.

the question was sparked by some of the complaining in the tf changes thread. people are complaining about the changes, so i was curious what they actually expected to get out of being a user here - my expectations are to get to know my fellow professionals, different audiences and just a better understanding of the industry, so what does and doesn't happen to the market place has little aaffect on me. i've never been one to make a design with no objective and hope someone will buy it and turn it into something, but that's always been my impression of the target user, so i figured why not ask? perhaps their missing the great insight from discussions like this by only going in the market place - and perhaps i'm missing something by never bothering with it.

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03-26-2012, 03:12 AM
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  Old

I suspect that some people just like to complain.

We're all taught to ask for opinions and this is very much part of the internet ethos. It's a good way to get buy-in from participants and it's also democratic. I don't exactly think autocracy rocks, but the minute you ask for an opinion about how to do anything you open yourself to choosing the wrong one, according to those who give you advice. Learning to ask for and act on opinions in a way that makes everyone happy. . .well, that takes years of practice and concentration.

As for why people hang out on the marketplace and aren't interested in engaging in conversation: I'm as clueless as you, for much the same reason. But of course, if the marketplace users never venture elsewhere...they'll never see your question and so won't respond to it.

;^)

(Plus, there's some fabulous statistic like 65% of all small businesses fail in the first year and 90% fail within the first 5. If people hang out in the marketplace because they think sell sell sell will keep their business going. . .well, that sort-of explains why they're not doing so well to begin with.)

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03-26-2012, 09:42 AM
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creativejen is offline creativejen
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  Old

I use talkfreelance similarly to you, to engage others, help / advise where and when I can. The marketplace is like a bonus tool. Years ago I used to use it to sell pre-designed psd's etc, but now that I've grown up a little bit and got a better understanding of the industry etc, I will only ever post to offer my services.

A recent post to the market place offering my services and saying that i've got availability, has proven to work this week as I received 4 new clients. Although sometimes I may post and not get any response. But even though that happens, it is still worth doing.

Talkfreelance, word of mouth leads, are the only type of new clients I get. I don't advertise anywhere else, I don't know anywhere else better. I do get clients coming back for more which is a great thing to have.

Other than that, I agree that the 'community' is about engaging with each other, helping each other out in a non-dribbble commentary fashion. It is also good to build long term relationships with fellow designers and developers.

90% of the people that I met from here, have dissapeared - literally.

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03-31-2012, 02:37 PM
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derek lapp is offline derek lapp
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i guess my point has been made... 7 days, 2 people chimed in. no one really uses this for anything.

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04-01-2012, 01:50 PM
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  Old

Yes but there were about 250 views.

;^)

I think this is normal in any system calling for information/opinion exchange: I certainly recognize the pattern from online and f2f classroom teaching and lecturing, as well as years in newsgroups. Most people lurk.

Composing a cogent, well-written question or reply takes more time and effort than many people care to spend, especially if there's no obvious reward for doing so.

Reading a forum post that's longer than 120 words: well, that tends to be too much work, too. (I regularly discuss this with my writing pals on LI.)

Ultimately, though, you can't say decisively what the other 252 openings of this post led to. Except that only 2 people have taken the time to discuss your question with you.

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04-02-2012, 12:15 AM
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derek lapp is offline derek lapp
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i understand, i was just trying to get under some skin in the hopes it would push more people to engage the topic. i was also in a bad mood, haha.

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04-04-2012, 09:24 AM
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Artashes is offline Artashes
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While I don't want to offer my opinions due to having bias and also simply not wanting to take the discussion off its course, I am following this thread with a lot of interest.

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04-04-2012, 01:01 PM
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Excuses, excuses, Artashes

Actually, I suspect this thread is dead. Nevertheless. . .

Some of the problems that I see--here, and elsewhere--could be lumped together under "ownership" or "curation" issues.

I've noticed that online forum posts frequently fall into one of two styles. They are:
1. I need information.
You (this is a non-specific "you") post a question. Someone answers. Someone else may add to that answer. A third or 4th or 5th person may add more, or may say "Man, you're f*****d, here's the real answer." Frequently, because people read the question but not the existing responses posters# [2-n] may repeat a previous answer as if it is brand-new.

You're not having a conversation, you're playing 5-card draw or maybe Go Fish with miniscule packets of information.

2. Here's something I read or saw that I just gotta share.
Again, no conversation required. Sometimes it's a link to the poster's website, sometimes it's just the forum equivalent of those irritating group emails of cats making coffee, or donkeys with heads where their tails should be. I'd place rants in this category too.

TF seems to be good about discouraging such posts, or else I don't read the groups where they appear. But in many forums--on LinkedIn, for example--they're endemic. And irritating. And conversation stoppers--especially when the number overwhelms both questions and attempts at conversation.

Actually I'm not clueless about why there's so little conversation here. At least among the US participants, there is little school training in debate or argument as a viable conversation form. You're not taught how to nurture your ideas into a sustained exchange, something that takes both thought and time. You're not taught, as a rule, to present ideas in a way that encourages discussion and debate rather than cuts it off. And without a sense that you need to "own" the discussions you start--that if you continue to participate in conversations, add more ideas or comments, summarize the posts others submit or otherwise follow up--you sometimes can engage the lurkers.

Instead, you back off, as Derek did here in his 1 April post, when he said "I was really just trying to be annoying." Or someone announces "everybody's entitled to an opinion" or another anodyne statement that really means "I'm bored with this discussion, already [and you're a jerk if you continue it]." Or you start shouting, or calling your conversant names, as a way to have the last word because the last poster, as everyone knows, wins.

;^)

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