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By W. Eric Martin


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IPs seem less enamored of the Internet than even their cubicle-bound ancestors of yesteryear.

1099 Index Reveals Shocking Truth About IPs and the Internet

The New Economy, as the cliché goes, has changed the way people work -- forever! By New Economy, I mean, of course, the Internet and all the golden fleece that has been shorn from it: cheap, convenient communication 28 hours a day with clients around the world, more online job boards than you can shake a resume at, instant messaging with a medley of faces both smiley and frowny, and, last but not least, unrelenting banner ads that invite you to smack a monkey and win $20.

But apparently not everyone shares the joy of a good monkey smacking. In fact, according to the second annual 1099 Index, a survey of independent professionals that we've just released to the public, IPs appear to be less enamored of the Internet than even their cubicle-bound ancestors of yesteryear.

In an astounding refutation of every business article published since 1997, more than half the IPs surveyed said that the statement, "The Internet has had a major impact on the way I work," didn't apply to them at all. Preposterous, you say? Don't use big SAT words with me, I respond, as I assault you with more instances of IP Internet indifference:

  • Only 8 percent of IPs named the Internet as their primary source for information about the trends and issues that affect them as IPs.
  • Just 13 percent said that they rely on online research to educate themselves and improve their professional skills.
  • A mere 4 percent said that they've found work thanks to their personal Web sites, and a measly 2 percent credited job boards with landing them work.

"I'm not terribly surprised," says Phaedra Hise, author of Growing Your Business Online: Small-Business Strategies for Working the World Wide Web and co-author of the forthcoming book Entrepreneur America. "When you're a small business, you tend to find work locally. Most of your work tends to come through word-of-mouth and referrals, or people you've worked with previously." Hise nails the survey numbers almost perfectly; word-of-mouth ranked highest among IPs for means of getting work at 48 percent, followed by referrals in second place at 23 percent, and established relationships in fourth with 14 percent. (Advertising ranked third with 20 percent, and IPs were free to name more than one source of work on this question.)

So what's going on here? Is the Internet just a bunch of smoke in a virtual hall of mirrors? It certainly seems that way when you spot yet another dot-com pushing up daisies on the business pages. If Pets.com, Furniture.com, Hardware.com, and MotherNature.com -- businesses capitalizing on built-in name recognition and oodles of VC cash -- can't make some scratch off this online gig, then what hope do IPs have of turning the Internet into their sugar daddy?

Well, the answer to that question depends upon your circumstances. "I don't think you can say anything so sweeping as 'Few IPs find work online,'" says Monique Cuvelier, author of Best Internet Sites for Jobs. "Some professions have support networks where you can easily find work online." Cuvelier obviously knows whereof she speaks; in addition to her book, she runs NewsJobs.net, the über-job-search site for writers, and was recently invited by the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) to appear on a panel discussing how writers can find work online.

Writers may indeed have it sweet, but Hise says that most IP professions lack a digital job network -- and, quite frankly, they don't need it. "From the start [of the Internet], people have tried to create industry-specific Web rings and organizations that might be more efficient," she says. "But at this point, there's enough business going on without [such support] that people say, 'Why bother?'"

Hise's point is clear from the myriad professions named by the IPs who were surveyed: attorneys, barbers, cabinet makers, doctors, farmers, florists, music teachers, upholsterers -- even priests, for God's sake. Until the day Americans view the Web 24/7 on black virtual reality goggles -- a day some people like to call "never" -- consumers will turn to the Yellow Pages for their beauticians and insurance agents and tax preparers.

Even those IP professions that seem more Web-ified than most -- writers, artists, graphic designers -- will continue to score work primarily from word-of-mouth. "You're creating a product, one with your name on it, that's exposed to a lot of people, and that's the way someone gets in touch with you," says Hise. "I get very little work from my Web site, but I can refer people to it who contacted me through other means."

Could it really be that the Internet, beyond question the most fantastic of mankind's creations since Fart in a Can, will remain little more than an also-ran when it comes to helping IPs do their jobs?

Of course not. A look at some of the other survey answers reveals that, though IPs may not recognize it now, the Internet has already assimilated numerous job functions. In terms of self-education, for example, IPs say they read textbooks, take classes, and join associations. Which of these activities can't be done online? When they talk about how they find out about issues that affect them as IPs, they name trade publications, magazines, newspapers, books, and word-of-mouth -- all of which can be distributed digitally in a more timely and widespread manner than they can in print.

And while it's true that clients searching for "freelance bootlicker" on AltaVista probably won't run across your Web site (unless, of course, that's a service you offer), the Internet already offers a big potential for landing you gigs. Clients who hear of you through word-of-mouth or by referral can check out your prices and portfolio online -- and then contact you by phone as to your availability. If you have a decent Web site backing you up, your advertising serves as the first page of a virtual "brochure" rather than as a stand-alone item. Anyone who sees your work in the material world can snoop you out digitally and link to you, possibly funneling work from others to your door.

Used properly, the Internet becomes your silent partner, promoting your name and backing up your other marketing efforts with a rah-rah push that's as strong as you make it. To those IPs who say the Internet hasn't had a major impact on their work, I say, take another look.


November 14, 2000
Primary Editor: Ken Gordon
Production: Fletcher Moore

We'd love to hear your comments about this article!

W. Eric Martin is a freelance writer who lives in Blackstone, Mass. If you like, we'd be happy to put you in touch with him, or with any of the other IPs named in this article.


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