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5 Questions to ask before accepting a gig.

5 Questions to ask before accepting a gig.

Teacher: Dan Pink

In these prosperity-soaked, fat and happy days, many free agents can be pickier about which gig they'll accept and which they'll decline. But how do you decide? Don't ask me. Ask yourself. Herewith, five questions to ask yourself before taking on a new project.

What will I learn?

Free agents must be like sharks — always moving forward, always devouring new information, always sharpening old fins and developing new ones. (Okay, I know. Sharks don't grow new fins. But you get the idea.) For free agents, what you learn is just as important as what you earn. If a potential gig teaches you something new, it's a winner. If it doesn't and you're swamped with work, take a pass.

How will this gig thicken my Rolodex?

Personal networks are one realm of life where quantity often trumps quality. Your network should be strong. But it should also be large — even if you're not best friends with most people in your Rolodex. Ample academic evidence has shown that these "weak ties" — and not your lifelong pal — lead to new opportunities. Gigs that help you meet new people and establish new connections are generally better than those where you work with the same old folks.

What will this do for my portfolio?

Here I use "portfolio" in two senses — your body of work and your collection of clients.Does the gig allow you to create some great product or achieve some awesome accomplishment that you could show off to future clients? Yes? Then take it. Does the gig spread your financial risk — that is, help you create several income streams instead of relying on that one big client? Take it. Build one portfolio. Diversify the other portfolio. (And then update your e.portfolio.)

How much money will I make?

This one's easy. But for those who've missed a lot of classes, I'll repeat the key concept: more is better.

How much fun will I have?

Let others be miserable. Free agency isn't always a laff riot, but it ought to be interesting, fulfilling, as much like play as possible. Take the gigs that make you want to bound out of bed at 6am — not the ones that make you want to roll over and hide. Which leads to the ultimate question: What's the point of being a free agent if you're not having fun?

About the teacher:
Dan is FreeAgent.com's editor-at-large. A contributing editor at Fast Company, he spent the past year interviewing hundreds of free agents for his upcoming book about the free-agent economy. Just before becoming a free agent himself, Dan was Vice President Al Gore's chief speechwriter. His articles about the new economy have appeared in Fast Company, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, George, The Worldly Investor, and Salon. He also produces the website FreeAgentNation.com.


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