September 10, 2015

The ferry driver, the founder, and the freelancer

Back then, most people couldn’t swim, so they would hire a small boat and a driver to take them across the rivers. The winter snows were melting and the river was violent, but the passenger had no idea how bad it would be until they were out on the water. He was clutching the edges of the boat in terror as the ferry driver calmly wove between the currents and the rocks.

Once on solid ground, the passenger marveled at the driver’s calm and asked how he could possibly remain so at ease when death was on the line. “Well, I can swim,” he replied.

I think of freelancing (or any flexible money-making skill) the same way. Your startup might not work out, the boat might tip over. But knowing you can happily survive a capsize (as opposed to ending up in debt or in a job) helps you recover faster from mistakes and make smarter decisions (without the influence of undue stress) while the company is still afloat.

The sources of worry change over time (e.g. from your own financial security to that of your employees), but in the early days, personal risk is at the top of the list. Although it may not seem very scalable or flashy, learning how to make a bit of money on your own terms is a hugely useful startup skill.

by robfitz • February 8, 2015 • Career Entrepreneurship, Founders