Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Working in your underwear is overrated!

Freelance Schmeelance!

I don't care what people say about freelance work or about being independent, setting your own hours, being your own boss, not dealing with office politics, blah blah blahhh!

The best benefit I heard from someone about being freelance is the freedom to "work in the comfort of your own home in your underwear, your robe or just your slippers only if you want." (insert image of dirty hairy crack on office chair mixed with the nude pianist from Monty Python). Disturbing.

I'm not complaining when I say, "Freelance work sucks a**!"

Ok, maybe that was complaining. Let me reword that. I am glad to have some income even if it is temporary and glad to keep my mind working and fresh for my future full-time hire (oh, let this happen soon, please!!). I also enjoy doing the work I do and creating new things all the time and this allows me to be challenged by clients to do just that and i get paid for it. But....

I just can't fathom why anyone would prefer to work at home. First of all, business should be separate from the home in my opinion. It is the one time you can spend the whole day away and in the company of friends and co-workers working together towards one simple goal. Then you return home to share stories of your day, warts and all, with your loved ones. Like the hunter and gatherers of the tribe sharing their adventures of the past day or days around the fire at suppertime.

There is no hunting party in freelance. I sit alone in my home with nothing but the silence and desolation of my unpopulated desolate freelance cave. Only me and my equipment — the machines. A group of warm-blooded humans are what gets the job done. It's not cold metal computers and leash-like smartphones getting something done together. It's the people behind the machines. Work is about the exchange of ideas to reach a common goal. It's done through interaction with humans with faces with smiles, sometimes with frowns, all with teeth hopefully and warm-blooded hands to shake on a job well done. It's not done with the chilling embrace of cold metal keys under my fingers and some blindingly, monolithic monitor, with expressions only formed by punctuation & emoticons as acknowledgement for a job well done.

I just don't like communicating online all the time while my jaw muscles rot away from limited verbal communication channels like the almost extinct phone conversation. Ah, the phone conversation in the freelance world is like the distant ship that the marooned sailor sees and jumps for joy and raises a fire and hoots and hollers even though deep down he knows it won't come and they can't see him. Everything is IM and email now. Ask someone to call you, you get a text or IM in return and with that the possible miscommunication inherent in that, since people can misread your demeanor if you don't constantly include your emoticon.... ;) (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Freelance is still ultimately work. No matter what they tell you, your client or customer is still your boss and you still answer to them. Only now you don't get to complain to your co-workers about them at lunch and get the necessary stress relief and the more positive shift in perception and acceptance that venting brings. I mean you COULD do that at home in your freelance cave, but then you might need to seek help since you are TALKING TO YOURSELF. (Ironically, you can't seek that kind of medical help because that health insurance policy you got as an individual that fits in your budget as a freelancer turns out to only cover your funeral expenses, but that is another blog.)

Their is a need to be with your tribe and interact with your tribe members in a personal and physical way. The life of the freelancer is the life of the hermit or the oracle who lives on the fringe of the village. They are sought only in times of need and in disconnect to the rest of the villagers in the office village. You are helpful to their cause at times, but you will always wear the number 1099 on your chest. They also think because you are the 1099 outsider working at home that weekends and business hours don't count for you and you can work all hours and days. On a side note, a lot of times I do smell and look a lot like a hermit or an oracle when I hit the grindstone for long hours each day and lose sight of mirrors or the benefits of co-workers who will tell you that you are wearing the same mustard-stained shirt from two days ago — or more importantly they might simply say, "Dude, you can't come to the office in your underwear! Are you high on meth?!"

I think I really just miss the humanity of working and the workplace when I am working in my freelance cave. The social aspect of walking in the office in the morning and greeting the security guards, the receptionist or whoever might be the first smiling face to start your day, or even better, whoever might be the first face YOU can bring a smile to in the morning. Making your way to your cubical, office, floating desk in the hallway or whatever you call your space at work. Reading the morning emails and making your list and being able to pause as your employees and co-workers arrive one by one and fill the air with the sweet sound of chatter — an excellent distraction to the cold world of ASCII text glaring at you from the blinding light of the monitor. The joy of heading to the break room and talking to someone by the water cooler. Even getting yelled at by the boss is an interaction I miss. The clear volume of their voice running over their vocal cords instead of the cold electric created through the speaker phone. The feeling of their hot breath and the change in pallor as their temper flares. I actually do miss it, because at the very least they did notice you and they are not imaginary like the friends you made out of staplers and paper clips in your freelance cave. I miss the office's tribal celebrations like birthdays or even simply hearing about someones kid winning some stupid event in his intramural sports and the pride on that person's face filling the room with the joy. Even the commiseration in mourning the loss of a co-worker's pet or loved one is a welcome relief to the cold dark cave and silent world of the freelancer.

© 2009 David La Cava. All Rights Reserved.

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