Hierarchy of the Successfully Self-Employed

Hierarchy of the Self-EmployedMaslow had his hierarchy of needs.

The self-employed have our hierarchy of success.

In this series, I’m going to cover each of the levels, look at how you move up the hierarchy, and explain why you’d want to.

This is based on my own direct experience and on the experience of the dozens (if not hundreds) of successfully self-employed people I’ve had the pleasure to know.

An Overview

First, this is just a high level look at Maslow’s hierarchy. It’s well worth learning more about if you have any interest in the theory of what drives us. As a business person, you should.

You’ll notice, where Maslow’s pyramid has 5 levels, mine has 4. But they match up pretty well (click each image to enlarge).

maslows pyramid thumbnail  self-employed pyramid thumbnail

The levels are:

  • Freelancer (physiological needs)
  • Contractor (safety and social needs)
  • Expert (esteem needs)
  • Guru (self-actualization)

Now, let me try to alleviate some concerns.

This series and its levels are based on the typical experience.

If you are a freelancer, are making butt-loads of money, and only work 25 hours a week, you’re a rock star. You’re not typical.

If you call yourself a contractor, but basically set your own hours, and name your price for a project, you’re not a contractor. You’ve moved to the Expert level and didn’t even know it.

If you love where you’re at, and have no aspirations to move anywhere else, awesome. I doubt anything I ever write here will be of any use to you, but please keep coming back for the cartoons.

So I have to point out that there are exceptions.

Nothing in business or life falls nicely into little boxes. If it did, we’d have a lot fewer therapists in the world.

The important thing is to consciously know where you are, and have a clear picture of what you want.

My goal with this series is to give you some fundamentals to start from.

Hierarchy of the Successfully Self-Employed Series


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  2. Having been working from home for some time now forced to be self employed I am eager to see what more you have to share on this. Thank YOU for creating this it is very interesting.

    Expect Miracles…

  3. Interesting that I stopped over today. This looks like it’ll be a good series and I’d ordinarily wait until the end to comment, but that my mildly inappropriate trackback hit me in the eye. Beats heck outta me how it got there, since it’s already where it should be. On the other hand, I suppose AOC won’t hurt any from the extra publicity 🙂

    By the way, I’m in the crowd who, while I enjoy the cartoons, must come for the knowledge, as well.

  4. Tony, another great post. I’m definitely a freelancer, but sites like yours keep me moving in the right direction. If all goes well, in a few years I’ll be able to step up to that self-actualized “happy where you’re at” place. Can’t wait to see the rest of your series.

  5. Greg – Cool stuff. Thanks for sharing it.

    Shane – Thanks.

    Carolyn – Hey no worries. I don’t mind the extra exposure for AOC.

    Zen – It’s a natural progression, and I’m going to help chart it out.

  6. Great premise Tony, anxious to read more. Like you, and as a coach, I have found great wisdom and practical application in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When we manage others, it can help us understand and serve them well – particularly when they themselves may not “see the forest for the trees.”

  7. I’m actually happy where I’m at, but I still visit you because I like your cartoons and your approach. I especially resonate with this set of posts. Thanks.

  8. I would add another level to your pyramid below freelancer — that would be dreamer — those people who think about freelancing but just never get there.

    Thankfully, I’m not one of those — and I’m generally happy with my business growth. But, it took (honestly) a move across country to the desert to get me out of my rut 🙂

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