I can remember saying to friends, shortly after going freelance back in 2001: “I love it. I love the freedom. You’d have to drag me kicking and screaming back to a proper job.”
Well I’m now a year or so into having the proper job, which I took on rather gradually over several months, and no dragging, kicking or screaming was necessary. For someone who spent the best part of a decade freelancing, it’s been an eye-opener.
I’ve just got back from two weeks off. It was the first proper two weeks off I’ve had for about 10 years because, as a freelancer, I never felt properly “away” from work. I was constantly thinking about the next thing, the next potential thing and the next definite thing. And if nothing definite was on the horizon, I spent that same time worrying about where to find it.
That’s not to say I wasn’t happy: most of the time, I was having a great time. My work/life balance was the envy of all my friends. But I envied their income, their job security, and their proper time off.
I think it’s fair to say I was not very good at the business side of freelancing. And you have to be, you really do. It’s no good just being good at what you do. You also have to be really good at looking after your business, at managing your money and paying your tax and saving for the future and organising a pension and chasing the next gig. And when you’re freelance, the team is the unit of delivery is the bum on the seat you’re sitting on. Everything’s down to you, all the time.
So now I have a proper job with all the things that come with it, and all of those business-side things are taken care of. I can concentrate on being good at what I do, and when the time comes for me to take two weeks off I can actually do that. And enjoy it.
I never thought I’d relish the act of switching on an out-of-office reply on an email account, but when the time came to do exactly that I found I had a big grin on my face. I got up out of my chair and from that moment on, I was on holiday. On proper holiday.
That’s one of the nicest things about having a proper job.