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Fancy a break, freelancers? Become an employee again

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In April of this year, I quit my part-time job of 15 years (almost to the day). Until then, two days a week, I was one of a number of pairs of hands… (ugh! What an ugly way of putting it! But I’m leaving it in because there’s something vaguely Radio-4-comedy-at-6:30 about it…) I was one of a number of pairs of hands that banged out the subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for various TV channels. Emmerdale, X Factor, Corrie, that sort of thing. Even Jeremy Kyle on a very bad day. If you have any complaints about news subtitling, incidentally, don’t look at me. That wasn’t my bag. Or my bad, come to that.

Anyway, the point is, I was previously working two days per week as a permanent employee, and three days a week as a freelance copywriter. The hours for the subtitling job were on the long side; I often started at 7am and didn’t stop 6pm. And the salary wasn’t great either. But it was at least constant and I got paid holiday, sick leave and free eye tests like every other employee too.

But, as I’m sure was and still is common, if I was ahead of target one week, I wouldn’t feel the need to bust a gut. Of course, I’d still made sure I worked hard…but if I happened to fancy buying something online or browse for my next holiday when not on my official lunch hour, I wouldn’t think too much about it. As a full-time freelancer now, though, I’m rather more careful. So, I'm going to put it out there:

I think freelancers work harder – and I submit that a lot of freelancers would say the same.

My view is that freelancers have to work harder because they have to prove themselves on a regular basis – sometimes daily. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘you’re only as good as your last piece of work’ and there’s a lot of truth in that. Do a bad job for a client and you’re unlikely to be their first port of call again in the future. And you can kiss those word-of-mouth recommendations goodbye, too.

Conversely, do a great job and they’ll have you on speed dial quicker than you can say ‘day rate’, especially if there’s a regular stream of work that needs covering. So why NOT work harder for that very reason?

Freelancers also have to work harder because they almost certainly won’t know the company in question as well as a permanent staff member. Yes, of course they will have some excellent transferable skills – some of which may be better than those of a permanent employee. If they’re a copywriter, they may have a wealth of experience in writing web content, adverts, direct mailings or press releases. But in terms of insider knowledge and relevant company history – or the minutiae of house style – they may be in the dark or make an understandable faux pas. I once worked for a client that had a house ban on semicolons. As a result, the freelancer has to make sure that their work is even better to almost counteract these ‘deficiencies’.

Then there’s what is classified as a day’s work. Personally, I am scrupulously honest with my timekeeping. So if I’m working for a client at home and charging by the hour, and I’m then interrupted by a phone call for 10-15 minutes from another client, I make a note of that and make up the time at the end of the day.

By contrast, I’ve worked with permanent employees who habitually turn up late, start the day by having a bowl of cereal, making a coffee, catching up on the weekend’s events with their colleagues… It’s a good half hour or 45 minutes before they do anything. And then there’s the constant chatting, emailing…and as I said at the start, even booking holidays online.

I’m not judging them, you understand; if they’re hitting their targets and doing all that, then who am I to take any sort of moral high ground?

But you can bet a freelancer wouldn’t act like that; they simply can’t afford to. 

Not if they’re working on site, anyway. Now, I’m sure there are reasons why some people might feel that the reverse is true and that a permanent member of staff works harder than a freelancer. They may be constantly worried about job security, for one thing. Or their boss may be a bully and a clock-watcher. And, of course, it depends on the profession. But let’s stick to the sort of jobs people here on Creativepool do. Whether you’re permanent or freelance, what do you think? Leave your comments below…

by Ashley Morrison

Ashley is a copywriter, blogger and editor

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