In last week’s column, I shared some of the things that I love — and hate — about working for myself. But, I haven’t always been a freelancer. I, too, have also experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of having a job.
There’s no doubt that working as an employee gives you a more consistent stream of income. It’s also great to learn from others, be part of a team and achieve big things together.
Recently, a friend of mine who owned her own business for several years made the leap back into the corporate world. She was presented with a great opportunity heading up a division of a well-known brand and working with a team to create the next generation of their product. She was excited to get started her first week back at work, and felt filled with energy.
It only took two days of working in an open office space, learning to play politics again and sitting in endless meetings to remind her why she went out on her own in the first place. But, at the end of her second week when she got a nice fat direct deposit into her bank account and was enrolled in benefits she hadn’t had for years, she remembered why she went back.
A steady paycheck is nice, but working for someone else also has its drawbacks.
In a job I once had, I got caught up in a hot mess of politics. I had been hired to run a team that provided training. The organization I joined was right in the middle of rolling out a large, new application that would impact the work processes of the entire staff, as well as their customers. As one of my first tasks, I reviewed the rollout and learning plan, and I was alarmed to see that training was scheduled in a very short window, during a very busy time.
It seemed like a recipe for failure, so I went quickly up the leadership chain, where I ran into a brick wall. “We already have a plan,” said the CIO. “I have confidence in the team, and I don’t want to set the project back just for training. We’re already behind schedule for implementation.”
Over the next month, as the application collided with its users, the level of panic in the department began to rise. Ultimately, we had to hire multiple contractors to sit side-by-side with users in order to make the new tool work while developers worked feverishly to resolve bugs that should have been found before the system was rolled out.
Being an employee means you often do not have the authority or political capital to change things that you know are wrong. It means settling for an outcome that, if you were the business owner, you would never allow to happen.
And, then, there was the time I was laid off.
There is nothing worse than being told on a Tuesday that you are no longer necessary. I may have ups and downs with clients as a freelancer, but, because I have multiple streams of income, I never lose all my revenue at once.
The truth is that we all have “grass is greener” syndrome. As employees, we are often working directly for someone else. We say all kinds of things in the interview process about how we’re passionate about the company, the product, the customers and the vision. When it comes right down to it, working as an employee is about making someone else’s dream come true instead of your own. As a freelancer, we have to run every last part of the business, and we only get paid when we actually land and deliver the work. Neither option is perfect, and everyone has their own tolerance for the pros and cons of working.