You know, there are times it seems the Universe just LOVES to put people in my path to push my Bitch Button. I really try to refrain from unleashing the Kracken, for the most part, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Sometimes, there is the straw breaking the camel’s back.
Yesterday, someone I know (let’s call him “Mr. Camel”, shall we?) engaged me in conversation and said, “Oh, you’re a freelancer? And you work from home? Aren’t you lucky. I wish I could work from home. It must be nice to do anything you want anytime you want and make big bucks without having to work a ton of hours. What a life.”
Okay, Mr. Camel. You obviously have no clue whatsoever about self-employment, working from home, and you probably don’t know “Firefly” is the greatest television show canceled before its time.
I’m not going to get in to a whole argument of how you have it so much better than I do, or how I have it so much better than you. But let me clue you in on a little secret, Mr. Camel. You’re right. I am lucky. I’m lucky I get to perform a job I’m not only good at, I’m lucky because I have a job I absolutely adore. I don’t think you’re as jealous of the fact I am my own boss as you are the fact you aren’t as lucky and quite possibly hate your job with the passion of a thousand suns.
I understand your frustration. I was once a cubicle monkey, among other things, and it’s not fun. Unless you are very fortunate, it’s quite possibly Hades on Earth. There’s nothing worse than working a job you can’t stand eight hours a day, with weekends off, medical coverage, and paid vacations. It sucks that when you leave the office, you leave the work behind and carry on with normal activities. It’s difficult, I know, to be able to call in sick and know your shift is covered and all you need to concentrate on is getting better.
But when you’re a freelancer, you’re on your own, bub. As in, you NEVER leave the office and there’s no one to pick up your slack but yourself. You work when you’re sick, when you’re bored, when family members are sick and bored. You work even when you’re not working, because there are a hundred and one details which need to be taken care of running a business and there’s only you. When you’re not working, you’re looking for work, because while some months are flush, others you’re dodging disconnect notices because that’s just how it is. You’re always trying to think five steps ahead, even at 1 o’clock in the morning and you’ve just gotten to bed and supposed to be sleeping, having completed one deadline when you have to get up at 5AM because there’s another deadline to meet.
And that’s not to mention I have the same daily chores to complete that you do. Like laundry, or dishes, or shopping, or paying bills. I still have to scoop out the cat box, clean out the refrigerator, mop and vacuum floors. Worry about my kids. Carve out even a tiny bit of time for some kind of social life so I don’t turn into that crazy lady with the insane cat who never leaves her house and can’t talk to humans. I, too, have to deal with people knocking on my door wanting to save my soul. (I usually use a voodoo doll. What do you use?)
Not that there aren’t any perks, because there certainly are. But you know what? I’d trade working in pajamas for medical coverage; I might even consider trading in eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at my desk for a total weekend off with no worries and no deadlines and a regular infusion of cash into my bank account. But then again, probably not. Why? Because I love what I do and I know the deal.
What you don’t realize, Mr. Camel, is I have EARNED my job position. I have paid my dues. I have worked hard, and so has every successful freelancer I’ve ever met, to build something from the ground up, using all those years of being a cubicle monkey, burger-flipper, ass-wiper, etc. to learn as much as I could in order to apply it to my job today. This wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter — I EARNED IT, and so has every other freelancer. And I can guarantee you I put in more hours in the course of a week than you probably do in a month. (Okay, my math might be a little off, but you get the point.)
It takes a lot of guts to work as a freelancer, Mr. Camel. It’s scary. There is no safety net. It also takes a lot of self-discipline, passion, and sweat. Sometimes blood is involved, and most definitely tears. And I don’t think you realize the perks you seem to covet are not the perks which make it all worth it. Perks like producing a stellar product all on your own; perks like satisfied clients with whom you forge amazing relationships. Yes, I can take twenty minutes and indulge my obsession with Words With Friends (but don’t pretend you don’t do the same thing in your little cubicle, I’ve seen you, and QAT is not a real word!) and that certainly is a perk, but for the most part, you are absolutely 100% correct about one thing….
I am lucky. I love my job. And that, my friend, is the best perk of all.