|by Flemming Funch|
I usually am not very good in marketing myself. Well, I'm not quite sure what exactly I'm marketing either. Once in a while I get into a bit of a crisis where I remember that I haven't quite decided what I'm going to be when I grow up. And, well, I'm probably a bit overdue at deciding that.
I'm talking about what I'm doing as a job. I find it surprisingly easy to forget, but on this planet one seems to be expected to have a job or a business, and pay one's rent and plan for one's retirement. I find it mysteriously unimportant, but there seems to be no good way around it. Sure, one can maybe do one grand brilliant business venture, and live from that the rest of one's life, and just pretend that one philosophically has transcended the need to work. But that too requires the execution of some plan. I.e. one knows exactly what one is doing, and one goes and does it.
At times when somebody gives me some job to do I might forget about it for years, and just pretend that I know exactly what I'm doing. But at other times circumstances force me to realize that I never made a plan B and I don't even know what to say that I'm doing.
In some periods of time I get by on providing some mysterious and intriguing job title, and I enjoy when people are puzzled by how I can make a living doing that. "Connecting the people who change the world" it said on my business cards for a few years. Of course I didn't make a living doing that, but theoretically I could, and it is a nice idea.
Now I'm in France. I usually say that I work at home and I have clients in the U.S. and I develop software. That's not untrue. But what I have of clients is completely random, as I do nothing to promote myself, and I don't really know what my product is, and I'm not even properly organized as a business. And why the hell am I am in France then? Oh, it is nice to live here. But I'm feeling a bit of pressure to establish myself properly here.
The French system pushes for that as well. In France one has to fit cleanly in some category. I can't just get some clients and sort it out with my accountant and the tax department later. One needs to choose. I can be unemployed, or I can have a job, or I can be freelance, or I can have a company, and there are different rules for each, and one can't just mix that up at will very well. And one has to choose the exact category of activity, and do the proper paperwork.
Now, I hate the idea of having a job and going to work every day. Plus jobs in this area pay badly compared with what I'd consider my minimum. You know, 3000 euro a month would be a typical manager job for somebody with solid qualifications and degrees and experience.
So, ok, I can just be independent. But one pays a lot of social contributions in France. Roughly the same amount per person one pays as salary. Meaning, I'd need to make twice as much money as I'd like to be paid, if I were just myself. Before we're even talking taxes. Hm, that's a puzzle.
Wouldn't really be a problem if I actually knew what I wanted to do, and I worked methodically towards that.
That I don't know what to do is a secret of course, so please don't tell anybody.
Really, I'm very qualified at what I'm doing. I have a lot of experience in a variety of settings. I've accomplished some things that have scored a lot of points along the way. I'm creative, a good communicator, I tend to transform activities I get in contact with. Sometimes it helps to hear other people tell me what a great guy I am. Mostly it doesn't, because the world has moved on, and I haven't done anything great recently.
Enough self-pity. I need to know what to tell people that I'm doing, so help me out a bit. I don't just want to be some guy who does websites. So, if we say I'm a consultant, and I have something to offer companies, what is it?
I'd like to believe I know something about online communities and social networking. I'd like to think I'm somewhat plugged into something that is emerging in the world, and which organizations of various kinds probably need to pay attention to. Self-organizing, open source, cluetrain kind of stuff. How networking is better than hierarchy, how cooperation is better than coercion, how good informations freely shared can be better than advertising, how invited voluntary participation can be better than mindless 9-5 work. Cool contageous ideas can be more effective than mediocre ideas that are just pushed hard. Open is more fun than closed.
Who gets paid for talking about cool new ways of doing things?
OK, I can make up half of the answers myself. Somebody who's very known for talking about these things. Duh. So, somebody who has written books, who writes articles, who speaks at conferences, and who seem to know what they're talking about. That wouldn't be the only way of course, but that would be one.
Or maybe I should become a forest ranger, or a lighthouse attendant. Or a contortionist. I'm getting too old to be a computer programmer.
Actually I dislike categories, and I dislike having to settle down on what exactly I am doing. I just want to be a secret agent who sometimes will take on interesting and impossible missions. I'd rather BE something than promise what I'm doing. I want to be inventor of the positronic ray, the author of "world peace for dummies", or the holder of the world record in holding my breath.
I've noticed a long time ago that on the internet things often happen simply by putting a stake in the ground or putting up a sign. The magical soup stone principle. You establish a certain vibe, plant a seed, and everything else that is needed sort of starts assembling in the space created. The more clear the seed is, the more likely it is that the result will be useful. OK, I'm mixing the metaphors terribly, but you get the point.
If the purpose is clear, the means can manifest much more easily.
I know I have to come up with it myself. But give me a few hints.