June 28, 2017

What is the endgame of freelancing?

One of the great things about karate is that it has rigid ranking system. These ranks are expressed in the physical world as a progression of colored belts.

To graduate from one belt to the next you have to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency with a very specific set of skills. This provides a crystal clear path for students to advance up the ranks.

You want earn your yellow belt? There’s no mystery how to do it - I could hand you a detailed list of the strikes, blocks, defenses, and forms you need to learn.

The school I study at has nine belts: white, yellow, orange, green, purple, blue, brown, red, and black. The first three are considered beginner ranks, the middle three are intermediate, and the last three are advanced. Progressing from one belt to the next takes most students six months. As far as I know, skipping a belt is either not possible or extremely rare.

This got me thinking...

Why isn’t there something like his for independent professionals like us?

Having a clear list of what is needed to get to the next level would be super helpful to students because it would break an overwhelming amount of material down into manageable chunks.


Using the taekwondo belt system as a basis, I created a nine level belt system for independent professionals. Each belt has a short list of things that need to be achieved to graduate to the next level.

Something interesting became apparent to me as result of creating this “professional belt test” framework. In the past, I have always considered “freelancer” and “consultant” to be the two extremes of the expertise spectrum. I assumed that freelancer would map to the beginner group of belts and consultant would map to the advanced.

As I compiled the requirements for each professional belt, freelancer was mapping to the beginner group, as expected. But to my surprise, consultant wasn’t mapping to the advanced group. It was clearly mapping to intermediate.

So I was faced with a question:

What is the business term for an advanced independent professional?

I puzzled over this for a few days before it hit me:


Here’s why this is interesting:

If you consider yourself a freelancer, your endgame is NOT to become a consultant. Consultant is only the next step.

To maximize your impact on the world (and achieve truly stellar profits along the way), you want to work toward becoming an authority.

Stay tuned...