I had a bout of Freelance Envy recently, having brought in a team for a project I was just beyond the beyond-o on. They did their thing (very well, I might add), dropped off the files and their invoice and said the magic words, the words only freelancers get to say:
“Here you go. Hope you like it.”
I never had the intestinal fortitude to go freelance full time. Waiting for the phone to ring while writing out mortgage checks was just not something I could handle.
There was a brief period years ago while I was “exploring other opportunities” as the press release put it, when I did freelance, and boy, was it fun. It was good money, too, but honestly, if it weren’t for those pesky mortgage checks, I would have done it for free.
Think about it: an agency pulls freelancers in for only two reasons: 1) they’re short-staffed and the client’s freaking; or 2) the people on staff (or the last batch of freelancers) couldn’t crack it and the client’s freaking. Either way, the agency is desperate and at least temporarily open to a new take on things.
Not coincidentally, those are the optimum conditions for creating great work. Add to that the fact that you don’t have to deal with internal politics or client comments, and it’s a pretty sweet gig. You’re the Gunslinger. You come into town, take care of business, and ride off into the sunset.
But then two nights ago The Seven Samurai was on TV and I thought about those master-less ronin, with nothing but their swords and their honor as they wandered from gig to gig, and thought about all the great work freelancers do that wind up as meeting fodder, or with some other jackass’s name on it for the award shows.
That’s the flip side of “Here you go. Hope you like it.” And it is no small price to pay for freedom.