Freelancing. Geeze, I was almost over the nightsweats and flashbacks and then Chucky the Freelance Penmonkey had to go and do a blog post. And I had to go and comment. And ol’ Chucky pointed out that I might as well have written my own blog post, so long winded was said comment, and I thought you know, the boy has a point. I barely keep my own blog turning over and here I am wasting 300-some-odd perfectly good words on his.
So yeah, I freelanced. I did twenty years, 1986 – 2006. Actually got over the hump and had a pretty good business humming along. You gotta have a niche, and the Chuckster’s whole vampire/gaming niche sounds like a lot more fun than mine. I did marcom work for professional service firms, accounting firms mostly. You needed 3500 words explaining what tax treaty changes in the EU meant for US companies’ transfer pricing strategies? I was your guy. Yeah, OK, it was boring. But I was past the where’s-next-week’s-check-coming-from stage. Arthur Andersen was the biggest accounting firm in the freakin’ world, and their HQ was right here in Chicago and I was dug in like a tick. Ads, newsletters, collateral, web copy, even speeches for the executive team. What could go wrong?
Oh. Enron. Well, OK, there’s that.
Sure, I had other clients, but Andersen was more than half my business, gone overnight. And suddenly their whole marcom department was out on the street looking for gigs while they scrambled for jobs, calling all the same people I knew, and it’s not like accountants don’t understand the whole supply and demand thing, so the average hourly rate (and don’t get me started on hourly rates, either) went from around $100 an hour to $50 if you were lucky.
Oh, and those how-do-I-break-in-to-freelancing-calls? Gotta love those.
“Dan? This is Marsha, the entitled bitch? I know your wife from the mom’s group at school? Say, I’m a pretty good writer, and I’m looking to get back into working, but something that doesn’t take up too much time from tennis and stuff, ya’know? I thought maybe you could give me some tips on this freelancing thing.”
“Screw writing Marsha. How do you feel about selling?”
“Where do you think the jobs come from Marsha?”
“Oh. But you must have lots of contacts.”
“And you want me to share them with you?”
“Well . . .”
“You want me to call up my contacts and say ‘hey, those projects you send me that pay may mortgage and feed my kids, go ahead and send some of those on over to Marsha, OK? I can always dig up some more work somewhere else.’ Do you know what I went through to get those clients, Marsha? Do you know how much arcane business nonsense I’ve had to internalize to do the damn work? Do you know what MACRS is, Marsha? Or the difference between LIFO and FIFO? Or what the PBGIC is and why an HR department needs to care? Of course you don’t. See, even if I gave you my contacts’ names, you wouldn’t be able to do the work.”
“Well . . .”
“You see Marsha, I don’t want you freelancing. I don’t want anyone else freelancing. I don’t encourage competition. And when I find new competitors on my patch, my new goal becomes to shut them down, to steal all their work. To go to their homes and burn their offices and to sow the ashes with salt so that nothing ever grows there again.”
“Well . . .”
“Say hi to Floyd, Marsha.” Click.
I was almost over it. Almost.