There's a New 'Preneur' on the Block

By Eve

Meet the "tempreneur."

Lynn Taylor has coined the term "tempreneur" for what she describes as an entrepreneur who also does temporary stints or project stints.

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"I believe that the year 2010 is a paradigm shift to this entrepreneur/temporary worker, where the person is an entrepreneur in that she seeks her own business, but she also seeks temp project work in conjunction with that," says Taylor, workplace expert, CEO of Lynn Taylor Consulting and author of the book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT).

"There's this confluence of workers wanting independence, so they're willing to ratchet down their lifestyles to have less angst in their lives and be in control of their future."

Being a tempreneur is a way for someone with an entrepreneurial personality to keep her options open. But it's also ideal if you're the employer. Says Taylor, "Employers have seen that all hell can break loose. There's been a decimation of business during this recession, so they really have realized the value of strategic staffing and maintaining an agile work force and also the cost benefits of doing that."

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It makes "perfect sense" not to staff too heavily, she says, particularly considering the additional costs of long-term employees. After all, she says, even when the economy's good, an industry can experience a bad cycle.

The Best of Both Worlds 

So why do we need a new word? What makes a tempreneur different from a consultant or a freelancer?

Taylor categorizes a tempreneur as midway between a freelancer and a consultant. "A consultant comes into your company and tells you what to fix--and doesn't fix it. A tempreneur will diagnose the problem and roll up her sleeves and do the fixing.

"Overall, it's better to have your roll-up-the-sleeves talent in conjunction with the consulting talent," Taylor says. "The more skills you have, the more valuable you are in the marketplace."As for freelancers, they're "a little lower on the food chain," Taylor says. "Freelancers are a little more junior in terms of their skill set." And freelancers likely need more supervision than tempreneurs, Taylor says.

"The tempreneur is a new breed of worker; she's where the opportunities stick, depending on the day, the month, the quarter. As a tempreneur, you have to figure out what is going to serve you best." One month, she might shift more toward being a tempreneur, doing a series of projects because the opportunities are plentiful. The next month, she might shift more toward the entrepreneurial style, serving a long-term client in a more traditional manner.

"It's all about flexibility. They're not by definition a freelancer or a consultant. They shift depending on what opportunities present themselves, and it's that agility that makes them unique," Taylor says.

Taylor says baby boomers in particular are prime tempreneur candidates. After all, they've got 30 to 40 years of experience and maturity. And in some cases, they are more adept at some of the latest software than more junior counterparts.

For their part, baby boomer tempreneurs don't have to worry about age discrimination, and they gain a more flexible schedule. Some might need flexibility because they're dealing with elder care.

Others need to work--and want to work--but not to the exclusion of taking time off. They want to be able to travel without the pressure of a 9-to-5 daily grind.

Why Employers Like Tempreneurs  From the employer's point of view, there are cost advantages to hiring a tempreneur. You don't have to pay medical costs, and by using technology to stay in touch, you may be able to avoid leasing or buying office space.

The recession has been a big catalyst for the tempreneur because of the extent and speed with which it happened, Taylor says. Couple that with technology, and the ability to telecommute, and it simply makes sense. "The internet has changed everything," Taylor says. "With the click of a button, you can reach 500 people vs. driving to a networking event hoping you'll connect with someone who's mutually beneficial, having bad food and hoping you don't lose their business card." Certainly, there's a place for the face-to-face meeting. But Taylor says that comes later in the relationship. "It's moved down the ladder and become a much more valued, targeted point in time in the relationship. It's a much better use of your time now than it ever was," Taylor says.

For the tempreneur, the internet provides the opportunity to find jobs, connect with people and stay in touch with clients through videoconferencing. "Everything is so much more efficient," Taylor says.

Finding Clients  So how do you find clients as a tempreneur? Taylor suggests connecting with your industry association, in addition to the broad-brush approach of sites such as LinkedIn and Craigslist. Another way is to hook up with a specialized temporary firm that can offer you jobs. Plus, if you have a good relationship with the employer you're leaving, that company could become your first client.

Finally, she suggests responding to companies advertising traditional job openings, but marketing yourself as an alternative.

"You can create a job by being proactive," Taylor says. For example, you could respond to a posting in this way: "I know you're looking for a mid-manager in IT or a senior programmer. I'm available to do contract work in X-Y-Z area."

Says Taylor, "If a company's hiring, chances are it's looking at different ways to approach that position." If you can set up a sensible return on investment for a firm--your personal unique selling proposition explaining how you can add value to a particular department--you could design your own job. "An agile company is going to think outside the box about whom it's hiring. It might say 'Maybe we can alter this job because this person is unique.' "

Challenges of a Virtual Work Force  Taylor believes that tempreneurs will help humanize the workplace. As she puts it, "Employers will have to treat temps with TLC" if they want to keep them.

She has advice on how to accomplish that when dealing with a virtual work force. "You have to really overcompensate for not being face-to-face," Taylor says. She advocates giving a bit more thought to your texts and e-mails. "You might have to use a smiley face. You might have to start every e-mail with 'Dear' instead of just a name.

"Make sure you say 'please' and 'thank you.' Make sure it's not all about you," and show some interest in the other person. Taylor also advises investing in videoconferencing equipment and even paying a physical visit if you can.

The result, she says, will be "the best entrepreneur you can have. It doesn't take a lot of effort, and it's definitely worth it."

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