I’m self-employed. This means that I work with what I want, where I want, when I want, and on my own terms.
I have plenty of experiences being someone else’s employee though. Sometimes I miss having colleagues and routines. But for the most part, I walk around in a state of constant joy over being my own. And the thought of turning back feels more and more unthinkable.
I guess I’ve become unemployable. And here are some reasons why:
1. I can’t deal with rush hour
Since it was someone’s brilliant idea that all work should be conducted between 08.00 and 17.00, this brings about certain difficulties. Like the fact that every person with a job has to commute at the same time.
Squeezing into crowded spaces, being bumped into and spooned by total strangers with morning breath drastically lowers my quality of life. I can’t even stand it anymore.
So even if I were to work at a place I love, just transporting myself there would kill me.
2. I don’t do my best work at an office
I have a hard time getting into a creative and productive mood when I have zero control over my surroundings. When people, however pleasant they are, disrupt my focus.
When someone else’s music is playing. When the room is to chilly because someone opened the window. When the chair is too uncomfortable, the coffee is too strong, the lighting is too…fluorescent.
Other people seem to be able to brush off stuff like this, but I can’t.
3. I want to choose who I work with
The downside with being a freelancer: no co-workers. The upside with being a freelancer: no co-workers. Just saying.
My clients and collaborators: I have chosen to work with them. And I could choose to end our relationship should I want to. But if you’re an employee and forced to work with an idiot, you’ll just have to suck it up.
I suck at sucking it up.
4. I refuse to brainstorm at 4 o’clock in the afternoon
I want to decide when to be creative, when to socialize, when to organize and when to produce. I think most people do. I don’t think anyone truly feels like brainstorming the next brilliant idea at 4pm after a long and stressful day.
But there’s no room to be picky at a workplace where everyone’s calendars need to line up like a bunch of planets in space.
As a freelancer and solopreneur, I do creative work when I’m feeling creative, and in a setting that promotes my creativity. And that produces spectacular results.
5. I don’t like putting on makeup and fancy clothes
Aaaah, the joy of rolling out of bed and plopping straight down in front of the computer to start work. No time wasted putting on a bra or concealer.
Is there anything more terrifying than when a freelance client proposes a quick video chat on Skype? As if I’m sitting here in my (often wardrobe sized) home office all business-like in a blouse and nice jacket. Seriously, who does that?
(By the way, I read somewhere that you feel more productive when working from home if you dress up as if in a “real” office. I tried that a few times but I just felt ridiculous, like “who am I trying to fool?”)
6. I need guilt free work breaks
Sometimes, I like to pause whatever I’m doing to go lie down on the couch for an hour. Listen to a podcast. Play video games. Watch an episode of a tv show. Re-furnish my living room.
None of these activities would fare well at an office. At least not without unwanted attention.
7. I like to switch up my work environment
I can work at my desk, sure. But more often, I prefer the kitchen table, or the sofa, or the balcony. I can sit in a library or a café or a hotel lobby. I can do creative problem solving while in a bath or out on a run.
I guess you could say that I work best at any place that is not a traditional workplace. Must be some kind of recoil from all the years spend chained to an office desk...
Here are some of my “offices” over the years...
8. I don’t like having my work ethic questioned
I’ve heard of workplaces where it’s totally okay to “come and go as you like” and to take naps during the day or pause for a round of Solitaire. I call them unicorn workplaces. Because they (probably) don’t exist in the real world.
In most offices, everyone’s secretly competing over who’s there earliest and leaves last, who’s the busiest and who’s working weekends. What’s actually getting done is not as important as how productive you seem to be.
I first learned this when fresh out of high school and working as a receptionist. The coffee machine could be refilled, the dishwasher emptied and the reception area empty for hours, and yet god forbid I should get caught reading a book or surfing the web while on duty. My job was to sit, back stiff and eyes on the door like a robot, ready to serve.
Truth is, the brain needs variety and rest in order to stay alert. Science knows this, and yet office politics prevents it. Everyone wants to gossip, compete and micromanage each other.
I'll be honest: Some days, I don’t get anything done. I’m just not feeling it. So I’ll binge watch tv shows, eat ice cream and feel sorry for myself. But the next day, I might be on top of my game and produce like a crazy person for 16 hours straight. Some days I work 9 to 5. Other times I feel like working at 1am on a Saturday.
Because work is not something you "go to" or "sit at", it’s something you do.
9. I can’t handle people hovering over my shoulder
You know, like when a colleague sits next to you at a meeting, watching you take notes? Or when a manager creeps up from behind when you’re at your computer? I can’t deal. I get paralyzed.
It’s not like I’m doodling nonsense during meetings or browsing porn at my computer, I just get so self-conscious when someone’s watching what I do. I can’t even handle my boyfriend catching a glimpse of my screen while passing by to get to the bathroom.
I don’t know why I’m like this but it sure as hell is not a suitable problem to have in an office full of people.
10. I value results, not hours worked
The corporate world is obsessed with time tracking. I get asked about my hourly rate all the time. It drives me nuts. Who gives a damn about how many hours something takes me, as long as the result is satisfactory? This method is only applicable to factory work, and how many of us work in factories nowadays?
There is no punch clock in my office. I don’t even use time tracking software. Give me a fixed salary and a deadline and I’ll work wonders, but don’t ask me to time track. All that does is incentivize me to work slower, so I can charge more for less.
11. I am motivated by economic uncertainty
Sometimes I miss having a fixed salary landing in my account every month. It sure feels safe. But I have realized something important: safety does not equal personal growth and excellence.
When I’m on a monthly salary, I get lazy and demotivated. I only do the bare minimum effort, because I have nothing to gain from performing better or faster.
As an employee, my salary is predetermined and I can only work my 40 hours a week. But as a business owner, I’m the one setting the goals and limits.
As an employee, my employer owns my time and can choose to let me go at a moment’s notice. As a business owner, I’m free to work as much or as little as I want, and if times get tough, I’m the first one to know about it. I can adjust my strategy, hunt for more assignments and work a little harder.
I don’t see it as insecurity, I see it as freedom.
12. I’d rather have a little vacation every day than 5 weeks a year
I’ve never understood the logic of running in the hamster wheel, week in and week out, only stopping to catch my breath on weekends and only really relaxing during few allotted vacation weeks each year. Getting burnt out, worn down and tired. Dreading Mondays and longing for Fridays.
Who decided this was humane? (Probably the same person who thought clogging up the subway every morning and evening was a good idea.)
If you have a career that inspires and energizes you, and gives you freedom and autonomy - you don’t long for the weekend, you long for Monday. You won’t need to go on vacation because someone “lets you” - you can take it any time you need to, to recharge your batteries so you can continue doing what you love.
This setup works much better for me. I’m not a marathon worker, I work in sprints and short bursts. That way, I can be motivated, productive and inspired all year round.