Monday, June 10, 2013
Have you ever thought about ditching your life as an ad agency staffer and exploring the wonderful, carefree existence of a freelancer? A life full of rainbows, unicorns and fat, tax-free paychecks.
Or maybe the shoe is on the other foot.
Have you ever yearned to crawl back into the agency world and cozy up to a full time gig with free bagels, paid vacations and an endless supply of moleskin notebooks?
It's quite the dilemma. And it probably gets discussed more in the hallways of an ad agency than that other proverbial discussion about the "asshat client with all the vision of a ground mole."
I know this to be true because I've batted for both teams.
In fact, next week I'll be celebrating 9 mostly-successful years as a freelancer. Before that, was more years than I care to think of as a full time ad guy sucking on the corporate teat.
A couple of months ago I received an email from a friend in NY, who shall remain nameless, but whose story is quite universal. He was going through a rough patch in his career, meaning he had to work on a day that ended in a "Y", and was envious of my position as a hired gun.
What he didn't know was I had recently turned down a gig in Orange County, mostly to recover from the exhaustive Honda/Acura pitch, and that my phone had stopped ringing.
One day off turned into one week off.
One week off turned into a fortnight.
And a fortnight with no visible stream of revenue turned into mild panic disorder. With nightmares of my family eating out of a dumpster and me in a dirty nursing home with Jamaican orderlies pilfering my loose change and my Vicodin.
The point is, there's enough tsuris for everyone.
Staffers have to sit in the middle seat on a last minute flight to Des Moines.
Freelancers have to sit in a janitor's closet, jerry-rigged to be an office.
Staffers have to listen to junior clients tell them why the work is off strategy.
Freelancers have to watch Montel Williams tell tattoed amateur rappers they are the father.
Staffers have to smile through pep talks, status meetings and employee reviews that always end in, "there's no money for raises or bonuses."
Freelancers have to endure spouses and children yammering, "when are you going to get a real job?"
In short, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. It's brown, it's full of weeds and it's often littered with the unwanted business of the neighbor's dog.
So it boils down to picking the lesser of two evils. For me, I'd prefer the poison of a freelancer.
Back to the dry spell. Eventually, as it always does, the phone did ring, multiple times. And like a schmuck I ended up taking the gig with the lowest day rate.