Thursday, September 17, 2009

Freelance: The New Way to Work

I can't remember where this came from, but I remember it well: a humorous list titled "How Work is Like Prison." In prison, you're kept in a windowless cell most of the day; at work, you're kept in a windowless cell euphemistically called a cubicle most of the day. In prison, you have parole hearings, which rarely result in the release you want; at work, you have annual performance reviews, which rarely result in the raise you want. In prison, you have to stay on the warden's good side or he can throw you in solitary; at work, you have to stay on your boss's good side or he can fire you or at least stop inviting you to the "good" meetings. It went on from there, but you get the gist -- and I'll bet you're already drawing your own comparisons. The general theme of the work-prison is LACK OF CONTROL: over your clothes, your surroundings, your equipment, your lighting, the level of background noise, and so on.

When you change from being an employee to a freelancer, you experience not only a renewed sense of control but also an actual improvement in the quality of your daily life in many respects. Instead of leaving your house at oh-dark-hundred for an hour-long commute (involving your choice of a trainload of loud-talking cell-phone addicts or drivers trained at the I-Drive-For-Maximum-Annoyance school), you can roll out of bed and fire up the laptop in your jams. Instead of spending the day working up a Vitamin D deficiency in a dark cubicle in a dirty city with nary a blade of grass in sight, with dinged furniture and a shabby chair, you can work in your bright living room and look out over forests, fields, and gardens, with your pets for company and the option to breathe fresh air any time you want. (Your lungs physically reacted to that description, didn't they?) You can make a personal phone call without half the office finding out when your next OB/GYN appointment is. You don't have to have whispered discussions with friendly co-workers as to whether and how to address the behavior of the guy in the cube across from you, who cuts his toenails at his desk and "cuts the cheese" at a predictable time every afternoon (and I swear on my souvenir copy of a certain company's Employee Handbook that that is a true story).

As a freelancer, you can structure your work life in a way that is life-giving rather than spirit-sucking. And that is what's known as change for the better.

-- Val Walker, (Elance User ID: skalawalker)

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