It’s been about eight months now since I quit my day job and became a freelancer. (It sounds so much better than “unemployed”, don’t you think?)
And while I’m a long way from fending off clients with a stick and shopping for another Porsche (or even a first), it’s still the best decision I’ve ever made.
Sure I miss the people (not to mention being paid like clockwork). But believe me, there’s far more about the day job that I don’t miss.
The term “nine-to-five” obviously came from someone who either slept under his desk or lived just around the corner. They may be the hours you’re actually in the office, but factor in getting ready for work, getting kids ready for school/day care/wherever-the-hell-they-spend-their-time-these-days and getting home again, and it’s more like six-to-six.
Now don’t get me wrong. I probably work longer hours than I ever did at the office. But they’re my hours, and I can choose when I want to work. If’ I’m awake early (note to self: never rent a place near a new housing development), I can get a few hours in while I’m having breakfast. If I want to work late I can do that too, knowing I can always sleep in the next morning (or at least try to). I can even have an afternoon nap without needing to hide under my desk or go to a meeting.
Whoever said getting there was half the fun obviously never used public transport during peak hour. There’s nothing quite like running for the train and having the doors close inches from your face to get the adrenalin and homicidal tendencies going. Well, that and having to wait 20 minutes for the next one.
These days getting to the office is just a matter of walking from one part of the house to the other. No delays (unless I step on one of my son’s toys in bare feet), and no cramming myself into a train carriage and hoping my ribs don’t get crushed.
The office environment (aka ‘Cubeville’)
If you’ve ever seen the movie Office Space, you’ll know what I mean. Okay, so maybe our cubicle walls weren’t quite so high (a decision made by people who spent most of their day in private offices), but often it felt just as cold and sterile. We weren’t allowed to bring in our own plants, and music was pretty much restricted to using headphones.
And we were pretty much expected to sit at the same desk every day. Now some people like that–it gives them a place to call ‘home’, and makes them feel secure. But I tried to move every chance I got, and I loved it when the bosses reorganised the teams and shuffled people around.
(Interestingly, research shows that changing your environment is actually better for the brain. Thanks, Kathy!)
Right now I’m sitting in my office, and this is what I can see out of the window. Okay, so it’s not quite the ocean view I’d like, but it’s still much better than I ever had at the day job. And if I decide I really do want that ocean view, I can just jump in the car and head down to the Gold Coast for the day. I can work on the laptop, and get Internet access from my phone. (I even had the option of working when I was visiting Angie in the UK. I didn’t, but I had that option.)
The weather’s not exactly brilliant here in Queensland, and so I’m quite content to just sit at home and work away. But I’ve set up my office pretty much the way I want, and I’ve got some music playing in the background. (I’ll probably never get a plant though, because I’d just end up killing it. I’m happy to stick with my view of the not-so-grassy knoll.)
“Meetings: where you take minutes and waste hours.”
Unfortunately, in a lot of cases that definition wasn’t too far from the truth. I lost count of how many times I sat in an hour-long meeting listening to a discussion that had nothing to do with my work. (There’s no way we could have done it using Mike Monteiro’s meeting tokens.) The worst meetings I ever had was for a development project, which ran for three hours on a Friday afternoon. (You can imagine how much work we got done in that last hour.)
I still have the odd meeting. But because we’re both busy (and it usually is just the two of us, sometimes three), we get straight to the point and wrap it up as quickly as possible so we can get back to Twitter. And if either of us needs to clarify something, a quick email or text chat is usually all it takes.
Over the years my desk developed several large head-shaped dents. And I’m sure at least one of them was from not having full Internet access at work.
No, I didn’t think I should be able to look at porn all day (that’s definitely something you save for when you’re bored out of your brain in a meeting). But quite often I’d hit Google with a question, find the site that would give me the answer, and then be told that site wasn’t on the list of approved sites. Usually I just had to put in a request for it to be added, but it usually took a day before it would be available.
(In the end I gave up and just asked my Twitter followers instead, who’d then send me a link to a site I couldn’t access.)
But now I have full access to pretty much anything the governmemt lets me access. Which is why I end up with so many Amazon parcels landing on my doorstep.
Editing by committee
This is probably what caused all the other dents in my desk.
Normally when I get copy to edit, it’s pretty much finished. I just have to polish it, and it’s ready to go. But more often than not I’d finish editing only to be told the content was still being finalised (allow 6-8 weeks).
Sometimes I just needed to add a bit of extra information. But sometimes the new version had changed so much I had to start all over again. (In the end I started telling them to sort it all out first amongst themselves, and then send it to me. Sometimes it even worked.)
But what really made my blood boil is when someone would make “a few changes” before publishing it, such as adding an extra 40 words to the opening sentence. (I guess that’s what caused the dents on everyone else’s desks–reading the first paragraph and slipping into a coma.)
Fortunately I don’t have to deal with any of that any more. I usually work one-on-one with each client, and what they send me is usually pretty damn good. It just needs a bit of a polish before it goes out.
Which is nice, because I really like my new desks.
Okay, I should probably stop there and actually publish this. Yes, I can think of a few other things I don’t miss (performance reviews for one), but I’d sooner just forget about them. The bottom line is I’m a freelancer now, and I couldn’t be happier.
Although I’m happy for anyone to deliver a Porsche to my front door.