Ronin – A lordless samurai, especially one whose feudal lord had been deprived of his territory.

There are many of us today, many more than 25 years ago, even 10 years ago. The economy combined with the empowering freedom of social tools has created an abundance of free agent communicators. Like the ronin in Japan’s feudal times, we know no master, some by choice, many by circumstance.

It’s not an easy life. You live by the sword, and eat what you kill. Many do their time until they find a new employer, God willing. others struggle along, barely scratching by.

Then there are those of us who make a go of it. We thrive on the independent work style. The freedom and the consistent change in work enthralls us. It becomes hard to think of returning to the world of one mission, one objective.

The best free agents develop a reputation for excellence, cultivating ongoing interest from potential employers who pay contract fees for a portion of time. They may be well known publicly, especially in the age of blogging. Some are not. They work by word of mouth, letting client tell client about their services.

In some cases, loyal relationships are created, lasting years on end. The free agent becomes like French General Lafayette, sitting by General Washington’s side always there to help and assist, but never fully taking on a country’s colors.

Others simply go on to lead schools of thought, marketing themselves to other free agents as “thought” leaders. These marketing “dojos” can become quite large, but many times they are not battle tested. Thought is cheap online, experience is not.

In an attention economy, experience does not matter as much, unfortunately. It’s harmful because people listen, and can be led down paths that will not help them with their own clientele. But in the real world of client engagement, it can be life and death for a business.

The best schools take their words as a responsibility to the market place, sharing research, experiences and real market examples. Learning experience-based best practices — those based on campaigns, not personal glories — can teach a free agent to become more successful. Success spawns opportunities, which in turn can empower the free agent to pick and choose their work.

Isn’t that what most modern “ronin” want?