How many of Twitter’s former employees had a ‘Plan B’? And do you?

14th November 2022

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

As Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner slashes thousands of intelligent, hard-working, committed and highly-rewarded employees from its payroll in order to save losses reported to be $4 million per day, now might be a sensible time to ask yourself what you would do if something similar happened at your organisation? In reality, most employees don’t have a Plan B.

From his book Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception” Daniel Goleman writes: “..people seem to anaesthetise themselves as though the danger was too vast to arouse concern.”

With a global recession looming, what is currently happening at Twitter, is perhaps an early warning sign that we can (or even ‘should’) expect far more mass redundancies in 2023 and beyond.

UPDATE: Just a few days after this article was first published on LinkedIn, BBC BREAKING NEWS: “Facebook-owner Meta to cut 13% of its workforce… In total 11,000 employees are to be laid off from its worldwide headcount of 87,000 people.

Yes. Dust off your CV. Give it a polish. But in a global downturn, what if decent jobs simply don’t exist for a while? And as we’ve all discovered from the pandemic, if you can work from home – so can every other highly-educated and equally experienced applicant. In whatever country they live in.

Setting up your own business, or running a ‘side-hustle’ alongside your existing job is an option worth considering. And so is ‘freelancing’. That’s the area in which I have most experience.

I’ve been a full-time freelancer since 1978 – my entire working life (except for a 4 year period when I was under contract to the BBC as an announcer – but even then, I had my own ‘side-hustle’ as a voice-over and corporate video presenter). I’ve been self-employed through two recessions. To describe those times as ‘challenging’ would be a gross under-statement.

In the mid-90s a freelance journalist wrote an article in the Sunday Times about a seminar I delivered to help freelancers generate more business.

As a direct result of that article, I received more than 3,000 letters (it was before email) from struggling freelancers asking for help. Since then, the ‘gig’ economy has exploded. And it’s highly likely to expand even further. After delivering countless freelancer seminars, way back in 1998, I commissioned some detailed research about freelancing – this was part of the introduction to the report:

“The majority continue to dismiss or under-estimate the impact the changing employment market is having and will have. Self-employment, and freelance self-employment is likely to play an increasing role in the new employment landscape. For a society dominated by the employee mind-set, this raises profound questions, and a deal of apprehension. When the freelance experience is viewed through corporate eyes and with an employee mind-set, a different picture emerges from the one which unfolded during the survey.”

You can download the original report here.

At 90+ pages, you might not want to read every page – but even from light skimming, you’ll see that some aspects of freelancing could have been written last week, not 24 years ago.

Because it was the first research of its type, it was referenced in the House of Commons at that time. No government action was taken. However, I was invited to submit a proposal to provide up-to-date, practical training for freelancers to be offered by a government agency. I presented what I thought was a strong business case; freelancers can be well paid, so if you help them generate more business, they earn more and ultimately contribute more tax. This would therefore self-fund the government supported training. Sadly nothing came of it. I was later informed by someone within government procurement, that you have to be a company, not ‘just’ a freelancer to be accepted as a supplier to UK government. Oh, the irony!

As someone who has since trained thousands of freelancers face-to-face and online, they learn how to structure their businesses in such a way that they can have MORE job security than a mere employee – who, if you think about it in this way, have only one ‘client’. The most savvy, forward-thinking b2b freelancers consciously decide to work with a variety of clients in different industry sectors which operate at different stages in the economic cycle. Developing this type of ‘work-portfolio’ is not fool proof. But it beats crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

I’m holding a free evening seminar for Bristol freelancers at the Square Club on 15th November – for pre-registered attendees only. Register here.

Successful freelancers know that you dig a well BEFORE you’re thirsty.

Now is the time for employees and the self-employed alike to pick up a shovel and start digging for new clients and opportunities.

Design a work future that gives you more options. Only you can do that. Don’t expect your employer or your government to bail you out. They will have bigger problems to deal with.

And if one morning you discover, as happened to those thousands of unfortunate workers at Twitter that you’ve been locked out of your laptop or your pass key doesn’t work anymore, please don’t say “This came out of nowhere. We had no idea.”

Every worker (employed or self-employed) really does need a Plan B.

I’m a semi-retired veteran freelancer who produces and presents professional online TV shows and facilitates/emcees large-scale international congresses. I’m also the founder of the FreelancerSupport.Online community.


About Roy Sheppard

International conference facilitator and founder of Former BBC TV presenter in Bristol, Cardiff, Manchester and London. Presenter/producer at LBC radio, London. Presenter: BBC Radio 2, Radio 4, Radio 5 Author of numerous business...

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