Color Me Eclectic

As much as some people tout that we’re becoming a free agent economy, if you’re the one living that life, it often seems like everyone else is still doing the 9 to 5 corporate (or nonprofit) thing. Maybe it’s just in Maine that most people found their dream employer right out of high school (or college) and has been with them ever since.

When I look back over my own career, it’s the equivalent of a cat’s nine lives. By that I mean that there’s the “Indiana era,” “the CMP years,” time served at “Moscow Mutual,” etc. Work relationships from each one of these periods in my life have fallen away and seem to be forgotten by everyone but me. Oh, a few people from my past are on Facebook, but I don’t consider social media the reality-equivalent that everyone else does. There are a handful of people that I remain connected to and actually spend some time with periodically. I treasure these relationships and the qualities represented by true friends.

Probably the most meaningful period during my pre-freelance career journey were four of the six years that I spent working for the Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB). Our nonprofit organization was housed at the Lewiston CareerCenter, a place that elicited mixed feelings. I’m not a huge fan of government bureaucracy, and the Maine Department of Labor certainly operates like one. Then there were the other nonprofit partners also housed there. I won’t bother to name them. Continue reading

Learning to Sprint

In January, it will be 12 years ago (in 2004) that I walked away from my Moscow Mutual cubicle and never looked back. Well, I’ve glanced over my shoulder periodically to take stock from where I’ve come from, and also to appreciate the occasionally bumpy terrain I’ve traversed to get to my current address in free agent nation.

Just the other day, someone I worked with at the aforementioned insurance giant emailed out of the blue. The exchange was an odd one, something akin to, “are you the Jim Baumer that used to work with me at Moscow Mutual? Seems like you are doing well. Kind of an odd question, I know.” Odd indeed. But yes, my former co-worker had tracked me down after 11 years.

My naiveté at the time knew no limits; it still amazes me. Long before I’d ever read a sentence of Seth Godin’s encouragement to ship, and poke boxes, I found some book by a guy named Bowerman, about making six figures as a freelancer. The story’s not a new one with me, but shucks—I practically starved that first year out of the gate. Better, my wife put up with my ignorance and lack of steady paychecks and supported me until I figured out that I’d better find something steadier and more secure.

Life on the cube farm.

I used to work in a place like this.

Continue reading

Scripting Your Life

Is it possible to script your own life? Can you put things into play that lead to the outcomes you desire?

When I used to do workforce development, which involved training and preparing individuals for employment, I was amazed by how many of our trainees’ lives were out of control. Poor choices in men, past employment decisions that marred resumes, the permanent altering of aspects of their bodies, and criminal histories, all severely limited many in the choice of work we could train them for. There are reasons why some jobs pay $9/hour, while others pay $20.

Setting off in a certain direction 10 years ago, I had a global sense of where I wanted to go. My primary goal at the time was leaving the place where I was working—at Moscow Mutual—embarking on a life of writing. Looking back on 2004 from my current vantage point, I am amazed by how few of the specifics I had figured out at that moment in time in respect to reaching this point on the timeline of my life—for instance, I had no clue about what a gap analysis was. Continue reading

Priming the Pump

[Note: Various reports and articles indicate that by 2020, as much as 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of freelance workers. I’m already there.–jb]

I’ve been at this free agent game long enough that I should know the routine this time of year. It’s prospecting time. Almost all of my activities are devoted to getting new things into the JBE pipeline. Continue reading

The Work of Writing

I led my third Publishing 101 Boot Camp on Saturday, the second time it’s been offered during Lewiston Adult Education’s Super Saturday format. This six-hour time slot (which also included lunch for attendees) is the right amount of time to walk prospective publishers through the nuts and bolts of independent publishing. This followed closely on the heels of my fall writing class, Let’s Write That Book: 8 Weeks to Writing and Publishing Your First Book. Five of my writing students sat though Saturday’s workshop. Continue reading