Sunday, January 5, 2014

So, tell me what you're waiting for?

When you’re hired by a company in Seattle (and, I’m guessing, many other cities), one of two things happens: you’re hired as a full-time employee right away, or you’re give a “trial contract.” The contract is to see if your joining the team will be a mutually beneficial thing. Typically they’re for 3 or 6 months, and you’re usually on a 1099 basis.

When I left my last job in April, I was offered a 3 month contract… which, the female half of the couple who owned the company assured me, was guaranteed to lead to full-time work unless something major happened (I set fire to the building or they lost every customer, for example). I felt confident enough to take the risk, because I was ready… I’d learned all I could from my current job, I’d given them all I had to give, and I was beyond over it. So I quit the job, I went to Vegas and drank vodka until every annoyance was but a distant memory, and I returned ready to begin a new journey.

And I liked it! The couple who owned the company was nice, the office was much smaller than my building of 400 fake-happy, worked-to-the-bone employees before it, and there were no absurd, annoying, almost daily time-wasting meetings. I got to write about parties all day, I got to work from home once a week, and I got trained in something I’d been putting off learning about for years: SEO keyword implementation. A month into the job, I was put in charge of all social media accounts. Basically, it was a good move.

Of course, working for that company wasn’t part of my long-term goal. I wanted nothing more than to permanently return to the land of self-employment, a land that meant working from anywhere I chose and setting my own hours. Of course, it was also a terrifying land of no guaranteed income, no health insurance and no set paydays. After the scary transition from our lives in Idaho to our lives in Seattle, I rode the coattails of stability with pride.

From the day I started that job, I found myself making excuses for putting off my “real” goal. This company pays me more than the old one…. I mean, I can work from home once a week, that’s something… plus, when I’m hired full-time I’ll have health insurance. And paid vacation. So maybe I’ll just stay on with them until we have a baby or something. And for awhile after...for security.

Then, for a scary minute, it looked like the decision might be made for me. Two months into my new job, during a regular “check in” meeting with the owners, I was told there was some concern about my “focus.” Anyone who manages social media accounts knows that a great deal of focus is actually required...but there’s also a great deal of necessary multitasking. To the untrained eye, walking by and seeing your employee with 15 windows open on her computer screen probably looks like she’s messing around rather than creating content for three Twitter accounts, four Facebook accounts and a shitload of Google Plus pages.

I panicked. I worried I’d get fired for doing my job, something that seemed impossible. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to my previous company with its long hours and low pay. So I reached out to every possible freelance contact I had. And I’m so glad I did, because as it turns out, I had everything I needed right in front of me and I’d never even realized it. Apparently my contacts did have writing work for me, and they had plenty of it. The work hadn’t presented itself to me because I hadn’t asked for it. It was as simple as that.

I was still terrified to leave the day job. Wasn’t stability and comfort what I’d been longing for all those sleepless nights I spent wondering how in the hell I was going to pay this bill or that bill? How stupid was I to leap right back off the cliff?


The gentle nudges from the universe got less gentle. The freelance jobs kept coming. The day job went into full-fledged micromanagement mode, something I’ve never been great with. The passive aggressive comments flew. The drive to Bellevue got longer by the day, with traffic jam after traffic jam leaving me sitting on the I-90 bridge enjoying the rare summer sunshine only through my car’s sunroof instead of on my building’s rooftop I pay good money to enjoy.

And then I went to Paradiso, cleared my mind for a mere moment and realized what I’d known deep down all along: I don’t want to be someone’s employee. I do want the self-employed life, even with its ups and downs. I don’t want paid vacation days...I want MY vacation days, whenever I want to take them. And all my fears about the money and work drying up were just fears I was carrying over from my previous life in Idaho. And that life has been dead for years.

So on the eve of my three month anniversary with the company, when I should have been preparing to sign my life over to full-time employment status, I was drafting a proposal. The proposal was simultaneously turning down their offer and making an offer of my own, to keep doing their social media part-time on an Independent Contractor basis. It was an offer I’d hope would help financially pad my leap, but I didn’t need it to survive. My decision was already made: I was going back on the freelance market. Like a boss.

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