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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Meet Tomorrow’s Worker: Freelance, Flexible, Remote

Meet Tomislav. Tom is my perfect model of a future worker.

Based in Zagreb Tom works at the cutting edge of web development, maintaining expertise in the technology platforms underpinning the next generation of online applications. Few of his customers are in Zagreb, or even Croatia. They are in San Francisco, Basel and yes, Newcastle.

I met Tom when he contracted for us at CANDDi. It’s the gig that started him down the path of being an ‘elancer’, but it’s a life he has adapted to rapidly. Now he’s one of the most extreme examples I know of this new breed of knowledge worker.

Tom doesn’t stay in Zagreb: the fact that he works remotely means he can work from anywhere, not just home. When he and I met last week it was in Berlin, where he had decided to spend a month after attending a Javascript developers conference. Now he is installed at accommodation he found via AirBnB and testing out life in Berlin to see if he likes it. He had a few friends there and is making more, heading out the day we met for a local developer meet-up organised via Twitter.

Tom finds work through forums like Hacker News and dedicated matching services. Having tried the automated job boards like Elance he now prefers a human-curated matching service based in Silicon Valley called TopTal. Here he is matched with projects that suit his high-end talents, ones that are well managed and intellectually stretching. He also earns money by introducing and qualifying other developers of similar calibre and helping to match them with projects of their own. It has become a significant secondary income stream — not his only one.

Like most people operating in this fashion Tom maintains multiple sources of income, contracting, sourcing other contractors, and running his own projects.

Eventually he would like to run his own start-up but he’s pragmatic about the timing. There’s little capital in Zagreb and he’ll need some of his own funds. And he’d like to move to a city with better peer-support. Brighton’s on his short list, another city he has been able to spend time checking out.

But at the moment the rent in Zagreb is cheap, leaving him with disposable cash and the flexibility to work on the projects he enjoys. And for tomorrow’s elite elancing knowledge worker, that’s an important part of life.

Tom Cheesewright