Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Take your job and shove it

I'm coming up on 9 years as a freelancer.

It's the longest time I've ever held a particular job title. Previous to that, I had spent 6 years working at Chiat/Day. But I'm pretty sure my last year I was phoning it in and spending inordinate amounts of time on, or dozens of other job boards.

Lately, perhaps due to the seismic changes in the Los Angeles advertising community, I've been asked how I handle life as a freelancer. Which is often followed by, "Don't you ever want to go back on staff? You know, for the job security?"

If I did go back on staff it would not be for the "Job Security."

It'd be for the direct deposit checks. Or the paid dental cleaning. Or the opportunity to spend 12 hours a day with stunning 25-year old women who say charming things like, "Oh you're so funny. Just like my Dad."

You see "Job Security" is an illusion. It's a Unicorn. It's Sasquatch. It's The Ark of the Covenant. It's a Rosie O'Donnell String Bikini. These are things that simply do not exist.

Job Security does not exist because fairness does not exist. Fairness does not exist because meritocracy does not exist. And meritocracy does not exist because Careerism, with a capitol C, does exist.

I'll give you a good example.

A friend of mine was in charge of the Creative Department for a certain client at a certain unnamed Orange County agency. Prior to taking that job he had been a successful freelancer, but decided he wanted something more "permanent". So he re-entered agency life and poured himself into the work. Sales went up. Month after month after month. Then his client hired a new CMO.

The new CMO also wanted Job Security. So he did what all new CMO's do: disregard any success of the past, clean house and install his own people. And before you could say, "two years of aggregated growth and sales expansion", my buddy, who sat through countless meetings, who bit his tongue at countless stupid criticisms, and who fought off every instinct to throttle the numbnuts across the table, was shown the door.

A glutton for punishment, a year later he tried his hand at a different agency hoping for a different result. The circumstances changed, the outcome did not. Or as a brilliant account executive once explained to me: Same shit, different shithouse.

These stories, or permutations of them, happen here in Southern California, in SF, in Chicago, and all over NY. And, they will continue happening. Which might have bothered me in the past but doesn't bother me now. Because I have job security. Albeit, a not-so-conventional definition.

My job security comes from within.

It comes from knowing that I am my best resource. That I over-deliver on every opportunity. And that I control my own fate.

Of course it's not all internal. My job security also stems from the quality of work in today's advertising environment.

Did you see the commercials during this year's Super Bowl?


Robert Moss said...

Just once I'd love to hear about a new CMO who comes in and asks the incumbent agency to show all the great work rejected by the former CMO. I think I'd plotz.

Carrie Talick said...

I completely agree with your post. What i've come to understand in my eight years of freelance is that I give myself more job security than any agency possibly can by constantly working on new and different clients over different mediums. I'm diversified. Unlike many of the staffers I know who've been working on the same client for years.

The other thing I find is that staffers tend to have this fear that leaving their current agency, even if they are on the verge of suicide, is a bad thing - that somehow the 'freelance uncertainty' is a crazy form of living on the edge. They get scared. This pox of inertia makes for unhappy creatives. That's why they call in the freelancers.

Cheers, it's a great post!

Brian Engleman said...

Great post. I have been freelancing for about 5 years now and it's been a fun ride. You do get some fun creative opportunities that you might have to wait forever to work on as a staffer. Pitches are also exciting to work on because you get the chance to win new business and be a hero. The only negative about pitches is that a lot of the work never gets produced or goes through so many rounds that you hardly regonize it when it runs.

KimO said...

Fantastic. You capture it so perfectly... the job security is from within. Great post.

Michael Folino said...

You fucking. fucking idiot.

You just made 100 new freelancers/competitors with this post.

Nice work, Dickwad.

Renee said...

Good stuff

Mike S said...

I'm all goosebumpy (and other words I immediately regret typing). Thanks for that.