Oh, relax. You’re not about to lose your job. I just needed a catchy headline. You: you’re going to wear the seat out of the chair in your cubicle. You're going to watch your boss go grey. You're going to make a fool of yourself at more than one company holiday party in the years to come. Trust me, you will.
I mean, in this economy… (How many times have you heard that phrase in the last 3 months? I bet you can't even count. I know I can't.)
The economy: It keeps popping up in conversations. It's the lead story in every publication. It’s on my mind; it’s on your mind; it’s on that guy’s mind, too – the unshaven banker-type sitting over there, frantically punching the keys on his Blackberry. It’s tough out there. Rough seas. Stormy weather. Insert your own analogy or pithy phrase here.
If you have a job, I feel for you. I do. How do you handle the constant stress, the not knowing? Are you doing okay?
I had dinner the other night with a few other freelancers – call us independent professionals, contractors, small business owners, whatever – and we all agreed that our reaction to the current economic crisis is slightly more subdued than other “employed” types we know. The world is falling to pieces around us, but we're still sleeping through the night... most of the time.
Are we worried? Of course we are. We’d be stupid, or naïve, or worse, if we didn’t feel the tremendous stress our country is under. We do indeed grasp the gravity of the economic crisis, and yet – the capricious nature of the markets feels remarkably similar to our everyday reality. Look, we’ve had to pay for our own health insurance for years. The insanity? We know all-about-it.
Here's why we’re still (somewhat) sane:
1. Freelancers grasp the fleeting nature of employment. The first lesson we learned when we struck out on our own was that things change. Fast. A project appears out of nowhere one day; another disappears without warning the next. Up economy, down economy – we've been on the roller coaster for a looong time, so we aren’t shocked when things change.
2. Freelancers know where the buck stops. When we checked “Sole Proprietor” on our tax return, we suddenly realized: whatever happens is up to us. How much money we make is up to us. Whether we have health insurance is up to us. How many hours we sleep is up to us. Whether or not we have happy clients is up to us. Gulp. So we hustle. We say “yes.” We accept criticism. We answer the early calls, and the late ones too.
3. Freelancers always have a Plan B. And C. And D. Due to items 1) and 2), freelancers don’t (or try not to) depend on just one or two clients. We juggle multiple projects. We run ragged for weeks at a time. The moment we decide to pare our client list back, three drop out, and we’re SO. GLAD. WE. DIVERSIFIED.
4. Freelancers understand the importance of saving for a rainy day. Since we don’t have a predictable paycheck (see items 1-3), we inherently understand the need to sock away extra cash. We stash as much as we can, and we try not to touch it, and then when we have a gap between clients, we can still afford the mac ‘n cheese. We don’t understand why most Americans think “savings” is a dirty word; to us, it means “salvation.”
5. Freelancers don’t cry. When we lose a client, or don’t win a bid, or when one of our plum accounts hires someone to do our job “in house”, we shed a tear. Then we move on. Time’s a-wasting, and slamming our foreheads against the desk won’t pay the rent. Freelancers know that to stop moving is to lose ground. Hey! Maybe we should write a book, titled: “Your Company Just Isn’t That Into You.” Joking. They love you.
Bottom line? We’re not heroes, or special, or immune to disaster; we're just survivors: a little bit jaded and a whole lot scrappy.
So, from us to you: hang in there. It’ll get worse. Then it’ll get better. Then it’ll get worse again.
It’s called Life, baby.
And in this economy, you have keep your chin up.