Thinking and acting like a freelancer, even if you are not, will automatically boost your job performance. Here's how.

Share story

In work life, as in all of life, the only thing that’s certain is uncertainty.

In fact, you may even feel that the forces of uncertainty are growing stronger every day. Job security and employer “loyalty” seem like quaint concepts from bygone times. So-called “sure thing” career paths like banking, law and even medicine don’t feel so sure anymore.

You don’t have to succumb to despair and panic, however. You can build a sturdier and more stable work life right now by applying this one golden rule: No matter where you work, or for whom, work as if you’re working for yourself.

That’s right, work like a freelancer.

Freelancers are great role models because they know their livelihoods depend on constantly proving their value to employers. Freelancers never sit back and point to past performance as evidence of their worth. They can’t afford to.

Thinking and acting like a freelancer, even if you are not, automatically boosts your performance (and, hence, your job security), but there are some specific steps you can take, too.

Karen Burns, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs
Karen Burns, columnist for The Seattle Times Jobs

First, maintain a high profile. The more visible you are to your boss, and your boss’s boss, the more valuable your contributions are perceived to be. Even card-carrying introverts can find ways to keep the upper-ups aware of their fine work. Increased visibility also builds your network, which will come in handy should you ever find yourself looking for a new position. (Chances are you will, sooner or later.)

Another thing freelancers know that all of us should know is the importance of money in the bank. There was a time when people could get away with living from paycheck to paycheck. That time is not now. If you are not making enough at your regular job to put away savings, look for ways to reduce your expenses and/or consider taking on a second job. It’s hard, but having a “just in case” cushion is really that important.

Finally, freelancers are always devising ways to make themselves more indispensable. This may mean proactively keeping skills and certifications up to date, exploring ways to cross-train with colleagues or getting involved in your professional or trade association.

Freelancers know that the world is constantly changing, and know how to change with it. That’s their secret. It can be yours, too.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at