Career Guide

When Is Your Independence Day?

We’d all love to be financially independent and not have to work at all. I don’t have anything for you on that today.

But we’d also like to be independent in where and when we work, and that’s closer than you think. This might sound idealistic, but I firmly believe it’s entirely pragmatic and achievable. You can build a great track record and communicate it to your bosses so clearly that you get to set your hours and work space. If they don’t accept that, then you can take that track record to the job market and land somewhere that does.

Some examples:

  • I consulted for a university where the PR director never arrived before 10 a.m. (and he still left when everyone else did at 5 p.m.). He had been working at a big Los Angeles agency, and when the university recruited him, he told them, “Only if I can surf every morning and not come in ’til 10.” They said yes, because he was that good.
  • At a Fortune 500 company I worked with, I noticed one of the key directors never worked Fridays. I asked about it. Someone said, “Yeah, when she had her first baby she said she was quitting. The executives wanted her back so bad they asked what they could do to keep her. She said ‘Fridays off, same salary.’ They said yes.”

My favorite of these “independence” stories goes as follows: I was on a call with one of my one-on-one coaching clients, Ken Li, who worked at a Chicago agency. I asked, “What do you really want? What is your personal best outcome?” He paused, admitting, “My wife has always dreamed of living on a little farm out in Indiana where the kids can help raise animals. That’s how she grew up. She’s sacrificed so much for me and my career, I’d really like to give that to her.”

So we started charting a path that would get him there. First, he started working from home one day a week. He struggled to ask for that, even though he billed more hours than anybody else there. Time passed and he started working from home for two days a week.

Of course, his billables and results stayed sky-high. About a year ago he and his wife started looking at properties in Indiana. His “Independence Day” was June 25, 2015. That’s when he sent this email to his co-workers (after previous consultations with his superiors): I’ve ‘bought the farm.’ From now on, I’ll only be in the office on Tuesdays.

My Independence Day was April 9, 2012. I took a different route — I left my full-time job and started working for myself. Two years later my family and I lived in England for the month of July.

Twelve years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me that would happen. Why 12 years? Because 2006 was the year I resolved to get on a path to independence — first in where and when I work, and ultimately if I work. It took me awhile for the first two, and I’m still working on the last one.

Those outcomes may seem really far away for you. And if you’ve been reading my posts for any length of time, you know I’m not about get-rich-quick schemes or magic panaceas.

But, if you’re not fully ready to fully declare independence just yet, you can still take the next step on your path to get there:

  • Resolve to get better results and earn more leverage.
  • If you already get great results, then work on communicating them better to your bosses/clients better.
  • If you’ve already communicated exceptionally and your bosses aren’t giving you the autonomy you think you deserve, then that’s not their problem. It’s up to you to prove your worth on the marketplace and be willing to transition to a situation that realizes your full value.

If you’ve read this far, then you’re the type of person who can achieve it. Start on the path today.

When will be your Independence Day be?


Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.

Want to dive deeper into Smart’s tips for landing more media coverage? Check out his workshop “Secrets of Media Relations Masters” or his online course “Crafting the Perfect Pitch”. 

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