Working Freelance: the Benefits
Whilst I’m sure this blog will host many a vitriolic, anxious complaint, there are definitely some virtues to the uncertain world of freelance work.
For the past few months, I’ve primarily been working on transcription. It’s the money maker, although you wouldn’t know were you to look at my bank account. It’s been peppered with some writing work, editing, and paraphrasing, but most of my time has been spent listening to other people’s conversations.
I don’t mind that too much. Being incredibly nosy, that itch is truly scratched. I’ve learned to type a lot quicker than I could. Although I’m not writing my own content, I’m constantly writing something. Conversations remind me of words or phrases I might have forgotten. That may sound like a stretch, but it’s genuinely helped me.
I’ve listened to quite a lot of interviews and focus groups. Sometimes, people will be talking about what it’s like to work at or with a certain company. Often, although not always, I’ll hear something and remember exactly why freelancing is such an attractive prospect to me and many others.
Of course, I don’t need to listen to their conversations to remember that. I’m sure many people feel the same, so I’ll take you on a whistle stop tour of the things that make me happy to work for myself.
This could be the social anxiety talking, but sometimes I’m not great around other people. ‘How surprising!’ I hear you cry. I’m a reasonably friendly and personable soul, but I don’t necessarily miss being around people every day. In some ways, I do. At other times, I could happily never share an office with anyone ever again.
Not everyone gets me, and I don’t get everyone. Sometimes, I get people too well and I end up feeling paranoid. It’s complicated, particularly when navigating a slew of mental health issues.
It’s not always people I work with. People on the bus or train… being a sensitive person, I could have my day ruined before I’d even got to work. When my commute is from the bedroom to the kitchen table (no, I do not have a desk) there’s less chance of that.
I don’t have to sit through random meetings or, you know, office-based enforced fun. Shudder. I might feel it a little around the festive season, admittedly, but having a break from constantly being surrounded by others hasn’t been too much of a chore so far.
Conversations and small talk
This is particularly painful if you work in an office full of squares or people you don’t have anything in common with. I’ve been very lucky in some jobs and less so in others. In one job I was settled in, making weird jokes, and getting on with my colleagues in a matter of days. At another, it took equally little time for me to realise my jokes were not going to be appreciated.
I remember my first day in one recent job. The conversation very quickly turned to Slimming World, and I immediately knew this was not the conversation for me. You’d think fair enough, I’m sure there are other things to talk about. Indeed, there are. You wouldn’t know it, though. Not only did I have no interest in this, but it was actively quite difficult for me.
Suffering with anxiety and depression, my self esteem and body image are laughably insecure. Listening to people talking food and their weight wasn’t high on my list of priorities, and it got worse when I was prescribed medication notorious for causing weight gain.
Having little in common with people tends to make me withdraw, and I worry about sharing things for fear of judgement, questioning, or lack of understanding. I find it difficult to make relationships, and my experience at work suffers.
If I can make stupid jokes, do impressions of people, and talk about getting drunk with my colleagues I’m likely to feel more comfortable. I can do plenty of that in my own company, with my partner, or on Twitter if needs be. Being free from the shackles of talking about other peoples’ lives is liberating. Handily, it also means I have far fewer people to compare myself to and subsequently internally chastise myself for being inadequate.
HR and poor management
I’ve been a manager a couple of times and know how challenging it can be. I also know, however, how hard it can be for the new person sometimes. As a manager I’d rather go above and beyond to make sure they’re comfortable, confident, and have work to be getting on with.
Surprisingly, not everyone operates like I do. I know, I know. The world would be a better place if they did. It’s horrifically frustrating to see people, and be managed by people, operating in a haphazard manner. I understand people are busy, but sometimes it seems as though the word ‘manager’ is just slapped on to job titles without the requisite skills. You could be great at managing a project. Doesn’t mean you’re a great manager.
Comically inept HR departments are also a great reason to never set foot in an office again. I’ve heard, and been the star of, several horror stories. I won’t go into too much detail, but it usually involves blind, stubborn adherence to outdated policies that don’t actually do employees any favours.
Stubborn adherence, do you say? That leads me to my next point.
This is not a pop at older people I’ve worked with. It’s more to do with a complete, heel-digging refusal to move with the times. I’d been at one job for a few weeks when someone excused their lateness in sending over some data by admitting they’d only just stopped using paper records. In 2016.
Call me a millennial, but I was flabbergasted and couldn’t understand how on earth that was an efficient system (spoiler: it wasn’t). In the same role, I basically had to do someone’s job for her, such was her utter incompetence with using Excel. I know it’s difficult to find time for these things when you’ve got a system that functions, but really. I’m no technological whiz, but I understand what tools I need to do an effective job.
Working at home brings sweet relief. I have everything I need to do my job, and I don’t have to teach anyone else how to use it or waste my time doing favours.
The ‘ideal’ employee
I do understand that certain companies may want or need a particular type of person to work there. I don’t think someone like me, riddled with poor mental health as I am, would thrive in a place where I had to compete for commissions or, you know, talk to anyone at all.
Some places, though, have an almost toxic view of who they want to work there. People who will listen and not question, perhaps. Those who can very skillfully complete the job, but flail when it comes to working in a team.
Being the wrong fit for a place can be miserable, particularly if on the surface you are a good fit. I’ve worked in a place like that. I was well-liked until it got to a certain level of management. Until I did things my own way (having had no choice, there was no one around to tell me otherwise). I wasn’t in the ‘cool’ crowd. I didn’t know the ins and outs, the gossip, what people expected, and frankly, a lot of the time it felt like smoke and mirrors.
Clearly, I didn’t fit the mould. Unfortunately, places need that sometimes. You don’t want to get caught up in nepotism or inefficiency. Having to try to adapt is hard, and I don’t have to do that when the only expectations are my own. I don’t have to watch what I say around someone who’s close to the director. Mercifully, I don’t have to say anything at all.
Leading on from my flagrant disregard for being the perfect employee, I really don’t like it when people can’t see the wood for the trees. When people are so blindly loyal that they don’t want to change anything or anyone. Don’t get me wrong. I am a loyal and hardworking employee. I’m also honest, and it may take time (hi, anxiety) but you’ll usually get how I really feel about something out of me eventually.
I respect the food chain, but I don’t see those above me as infallible. In fact, I think it’s dangerous to portray that to your colleagues. Don’t try to cover up if you fuck something up. It’ll probably just make it worse. Just own it, and then say how you’ll fix it or what help you need. Acting as though you never make mistakes puts pressure on everyone else.
If those above you don’t own up to their shit, you’ll likely end up cleaning it up for them later down the line. It’s important to be open to the possibility that those ahead of us are human, too. Being a loyal employee can sometimes mean speaking out about something and not getting your head down, saying nothing.
Working for myself, I can’t hide anywhere. If I fuck up, it’s on my head and my head alone. I don’t have to try to blame anyone else and I actually prefer this.
My honesty doesn’t always go in my favour, but it’s better than the alternative and I think, in the long run, honesty is respected more. I don’t mean everyone should march into a director’s office and call them every name under the sun. Just open up, and see things as they are: real, and human.
Of course, working at home for myself is far from perfect. You can rest assured I’ll be back soon with an equally ill-advised rant about what doesn’t work for me in my current situation.