by Ashley Morrison.
And do you do what you love? OR do you now HATE what you USED TO love?
If it's the latter, is that because it's now your job - and, because you do it day in, day out, it's taken all the love away?
I put out this question out in forums and the results actually surprised me. Many more people than I expected said they loved their jobs. Given that we as a nation often seem to come across as (or are portrayed as being) a bunch of moaners, and also given my personal conversations with various people, I would have said well over half are not only unhappy in their jobs but also want to commit workplace murder. But, based on these conversations, more often than not it's due to an incompetent and/or unreasonable boss more than the work itself.
One underlying theme that came out during my social media-based research was that the happiest people were either freelance, and/or worked from home, and/or did a variety of jobs.
NC, for instance, works for the NHS to pay the bills (which also offers him flexi-time to fit in his other activities), is a [paid] choral scholar in a cathedral choir and also volunteers at the British Museum, where he digitises rare 16th-century prints by Old Masters. He says that he has fantastic work/life balance - even if he is permanently tired.
GW works for DreamWorks as an animator, which, as many of you animators out there will agree, really does sound like a dream job. Of course, he says, there are days when it's just a job, but then he often has days when he sits back and thinks: "Wow, people are actually paying me to do this?" He loves it and, he concludes, hopefully he always will.
KG, who works in the arts, is constantly worried about [under]funding and gets very stressed by always having so much to do with not enough hours in the day in which to do it. Other people are often the problem because they aren't as conscientious as she is. Some days, she fantasises about being a lighthouse keeper but she's a gregarious sort so would probably get lonely quite quickly!
HD gets satisfaction by being thought of as an ecological god, but then gets beaten down by the unreasonable demands of a client. I guess the latter is something many freelancers have to contend with. But ultimately, he's happier being self employed and doesn't think he could go back to working directly for someone else.
The highest number of responses I received was from fellow copywriters. Once again, it wasn't the work itself that got people down among those in permanent jobs; it was the office politics and incompetent bosses and/or colleagues. However good the job itself was, this had a high impact on their enjoyment, ultimately pushing them to go freelance.
Needless to say, the advantage of being freelance is that one can, in theory, choose one's clients. Realistically, a lot of people have to take any work they can get to start with. Money makes the world go round and few people have the luxury of being able to be too choosy until they're firmly established and have built up a roster of "favourite" clients.
DE said that he once stopped working for a well-paying client because they were simply too high maintenance. They would phone him up and moan about invoices, trying to get him to lower the already agreed-upon rates. The final straw, though, was them swearing at him for turning in a first draft they weren't happy with. He says: "I'm fine if someone doesn't like my work (and the fact that it's called a "first draft" sort of implies there are going to be further refinements, doesn't it?), but I'm not OK when someone stoops to personal attacks. I suppose the client felt that, since he was paying for it, he got to play by his rules. But that's the difference between a freelancer and an employee: as a freelancer we play by MY rules. The satisfaction of firing a client is something we should all experience at least once in our careers!
The freelance or homeworking life doesn't suit everyone, however. LB worked at home as a freelance writer for eight years but missed personal interaction with colleagues. She felt like the walls were closing in on her. So she went back to an office job for five years, only to feel completely miserable, so she went back to freelancing again. Having reminded herself why she went freelance in the first place, she's now working twice as hard - but she is now happy.
For some, it's as much about content than anything else. JJ had a corporate day job in marketing communications but his boss wouldn't let him â€œwrite anything fun. It was all fine print and disclosures - the stuff no-one reads anyway. When he raised this with his boss, he declared, "But you're so good at it!"
JJ replied, "I'm great at scrubbing floors too, but I don't want to do it for a living. So he quit to become a freelancer. Now, he writes the sort of thing they never let him write when he actually worked there, he tripled his salary and he gets to work in his pyjamas. Who wouldn't love that?
On the freelance side, one other negative that came up was not being paid for sick leave, admin, holidays and so on. Then there's having to sort out and maintain one's own working facilities, plus the whole tax and self-assessment issue. For some people, dealing with the latter doesn't come naturally (I'm a creative, goddammit, not a number cruncher!â€) It's a boring but necessary evil, but some people found that part of being a freelancer a major downside.
Plus, of course, by its very nature, freelance work can dry up at any time. That can be a big price to pay for freedom and independence.
Ultimately, having collated all the responses I received, the conclusion I've reached is that if you want to love your job (and you don't want to hate what you used to love) then going freelance and working from home are the main ways to achieve working nirvana. If you're in a position where you're lucky enough to be able to choose whether or not to work with a particular client, then your happiness meter will go up considerably. AB says that if a client becomes problematic and working for them becomes a chore, they make a real effort to look for other clients and then drop the problematic ones.
CV summed up their homeworking, freelancing lifestyle like this: Less money. More time. More love.
Ashley Morrison is a blogger, copywriter and editor.