Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Too many freelancers

In the past week and a half I have discovered three colleagues who decided to hand in their staffer key cards, with all its incumbent amenities: 24 hour access to the office, free weekend parking and enough complimentary NutraSweet packets, colored post it notes and mechanical pencils to last a lifetime.

Not surprisingly, they've jumped right into the Freelance Pool.

My friend Mike Folino, who bills himself as the World's Best Freelancer (er….cough) often complains that my nonstop railing against the holding companies and my deadly accurate portrayal of sad agency life is only fueling the creative department departures.

"Siegel, what are you doing? You sit there in your pajamas, drink your coffee, put on your noise canceling headphones in your comfortable den and drone on about Open Office Plans and shitty status meetings, all while pulling down a healthy day rate. And sometimes two. You're a Retention Manager's nightmare."

In deference to Mike, and other well established freelancers who now find themselves swarmed by competition and fighting harder and harder for gigs, I've decided to spill some ugly truths about the freelance life.

Dry Spells -- Contrary to what some might believe, there are times when my phone doesn't ring and the only email I get is from pharmaceutical companies pitching me their expensive, hard-to-swallow (and useless) penis enhancement pills.

When one gig ends I don't seamlessly roll right into the next. I'll often find myself in a non-revenue earning gap of a day or two. Or even three. And with my new book about advertising completed and soaring up the Amazon sales charts...

... it's difficult to know what to do with myself. There's only so much napping and daytime bourbon-drinking an underachieving writer can do.

Smiling and Dialing -- Something else they don't tell you when you leave the safety net of the agency, you have to hustle. You are in pitch mode every day. You may be a 44 year old copywriter with more than 30 years experience, but that wealth of experience means little, if anything, to the folks in charge of handing out the gigs. Moreover, they're getting younger and younger and may not even be familiar with your dated credentials.

"What's a double page spread? Are you sure you have the right number?"

Making Nice -- In my early days, I was quite the hothead. My anger would get the best of me. I would snap. Bark. And bite. I did not suffer fools well. I still don't. But now, as a freelancer, a temporary employee whose livelihood depends on being collegial, when a client says or requests something stupid, I feel compelled to bite my tongue and reply with words that do not come naturally to me: "Awesome", "Super" and "Wish I had thought of that."

Trust me, that can be the hardest part about being a freelancer.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Think long and hard on this my art director or copywriter friend. You may not be cut out for a life with a lot less stress, a lot more money and unpredictable flexibility in your schedule. In which case, I suggest you keep your day job.


Todd said...

Rich, love your blog. Ready it all the time. But...
How are you a 44 year old copywriter with 30 years of experience?
Did you start at age 14?
Just doing some fact checking.

P.S. I'm about to dive into the freelance pool myself, after 37 years. Yikes.


Anonymous said...

I think most freelancers would go full time if they found a gig where the people were honest, decent, paid well and cared about good work. I'm going on my 17th year of freelancing.