Laura Vanderkam’s Grindhopping: Building A Rewarding Vareer Without Paying Your Dues is an interesting read if you’re considering moving into a freelance career to create the role that no one seems prepared to offer you.
Laura defines a grindhopper as someone who uses self-employment as way to bypass the years of slogwork that is often required to climb even a step up the ladder of many careers. She uses real life case studies, anecdotes, and labour statistics to turns the traditional school of thought upside down – the one that says you should put your time in when you’re young and wait until you’re established before striking out on your own. Most of these examples relate to more entrepreneurial style start-ups, but they contain many valuable lessons for anyone considering whether they should start out on their own as a freelance translator regardless of how many years of work experience you have behind you.
I guess what makes this different from any other book on entrepreneurs or self-employment is that it starts with the assumption that you have relatively few years of work experience under your belt. It also assumes that you are prepared to work hard for not very much money, and that like most Millenials, you’re looking for a bit more than a cubicle career and so are not setting out to conquer the world.
But the key distinguishing feature is that grindhoppers do not chose a route of self-employment simply for the sake of it. In fact, many of them re-enter the corporate world once they’ve spent a few years working in postions of their own creation. And as a result of working in a role with plenty of autonomy and real chances to stretch themselves, they usually re-enter at a higher level than if they’d stuck to the grind.
I was pretty relieved to read this as I’ve often wondered whether going freelance too young would spoil me forever, and I’d love to have read a bit more about how these grindhoppers cope with re-entering a workplace of someone else’s creation.
The book also offers some refreshing and genuinely useful advice on things like:
- creating alternative revenue streams (i.e. moonlighting with panache)
- networking (i.e what to do when you don’t have a mass of established business contacts)
- minimising risk (i.e. how not to miss your rent/morgage payments)
- keeping up your motivation levels (i.e. how to stay sane)
Most of all, I like the assertion that you need to be prepared to be judged 100% on results and how you deliver them. I subscribe to the idea that by allowing yourself to be distinguished in this way, you’ll never need to worry about being outsourced as you know you can deliver something no-one else can.
Of course, there are bits I don’t agree with too. For example, Vanderkam’s assertion that you should think about what you love so much that you’d do it for free, and then turn that into a career. Hmm. Maybe I’m revealing too much about myself when I say this, but there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that I love so much I’d do it for free, every day of the week, 365 days of the year. So I’m not sure where that piece of advice leaves people like me.
There are also areas where I think she borders on the naïve. For example, her claims that the internet has abolished “all barriers” to self-employment just seem silly, and there is no discussion of the challenges created by this new, free-for-all style work culture, e.g. more competition, less face to face contact, etc.
But all in all, this is a great book. It makes an exciting and informative read for grindhoppers of all ages, or anyone interested in the motivations behind this new wave of freelancers.