The Freelancers Pyramid of Self-Actualization

Jan 15, 2014

Freelancers are changing the definition of success.

It’s no longer about the corner office in a soulless glass tower. It’s about building and sharing real value together -- investing in time, community, and well-being.

For years, our members have told me about how they're leading this new, more mindful approach to work -- and it always reminded of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In Maslow’s Hierarchy, people must take care of their most basic needs (food, shelter, etc.) before being able to move closer to “self-actualization” -- the state where we each reach our own full potential.

Successful freelancers know that journey all too well.

You start out scrambling, searching for those first few gigs to get you started. Over time, you find a couple steady clients and a small but mighty network. Then, you’re able to start choosing what gigs you take and which you pass up (or pass on to friends). But just being financially stable isn’t the ultimate goal. When people are coming to you for advice on how to live that balanced, self-actualized freelance life, that’s when you know you’re living a “360 freelance” life.

But that path isn’t always so clear from the start. That’s why we created this:


The pyramid is a roadmap to a truly fulfilled freelance life. At each new level, you can achieve a greater sense of the connection and passion that makes freelancing so rewarding. This isn’t a path driven solely by money (though you do need enough money to get by). Instead, it’s a journey toward community and sharing.

Here are the five levels of the Freelancers Pyramid of Self-Actualization:

**The Unfree Freelancer **-- You’re constantly stressed out about money -- getting enough gigs to pay your rent and put food on the table is your only priority. See full description here.

**The Hustling Freelancer **-- You’ve finally got some gigs, but they’re sporadic. Of course, things like insurance or savings or a real plan for the future are still out of reach. See full description here.

The Empowered Freelancer -- You’ve got some steady clients and maybe can even find some time for a vacation (but still check your email from the beach). Your network is small but growing. See full description here.

The Influential Freelancer -- Clients are finding you. Your peers are asking your advice. You’re financially stable and healthy -- you might even have life insurance! But you’re still missing that thriving community you need to be a truly successful freelancer. See full description here.

The 360 Freelancer -- Congratulations, you have achieved self-actualization! You are living a New Mutualist life! You’re looking to the future and seeing that you’re more successful when you work with your network. You’re happy and healthy and giving back -- living a 360-degree freelance life. You might even start a cooperative business! See full description here.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll have more about each level -- and tips on how you can move up from one level to the next.

Don't miss the next dispatch! Join Freelancers Union today.

Sara Horowitz

As the founder of Freelancers Union, Sara has been a voice for freelancers for over two decades.