For almost a full year, I was in an amazing relationship. We had tremendous respect for each other, the perfect amount of give and take -- it was easy. No one ever felt like they were working too hard to make things work. I was happy. They were happy. It was as close to relationship bliss as I've ever encountered.
Unfortunately, I'm not talking about a romantic relationship. The near perfect year of my advertising career was the year I worked as a freelancer.
I'd heard amazing things about freelancing. How freeing it was; liberating to be able to come and go (practically) at will. How the hours tended to be more reasonable because when you're being paid a day rate, overtime gets expensive for companies.
More and more these days, advertising is being taken over by freelancers. Since so much of what we do is seasonal and the business operates by hiring people to work on specific brands rather than spacing them out over a range of them, it can be difficult to find enough projects to support a full-time salary. Instead, companies hire employees on a need-to-have basis. This way, if they're good, they can be rotated within a company on various projects rather than assigned to a specific one. Salaries can be more easily justified that way. Sure the work can be sporadic, but the day rate more than compensates for periods of downtime. When I began looking for opportunities, there was work aplenty.
And so, after finishing a year and a half at my third full-time agency job, I embarked into the wide world of freelance. A friend of a friend who was in need of a copywriter partner recruited me. The gig was at a company I'd previously sniffed around for a full-time role. My (future) partner and I had a phone call. We vibed instantly. He told me the pay was good, the work interesting and the environment mellow. They needed us for a month-long project. I didn't need much convincing.
I started the following week and for the first time in my career, felt truly respected. My coworkers were amazing, I enjoyed the work I was producing and, in a business as fickle and cruel as advertising can be, I was lauded daily for my efforts. We did well and were given relative autonomy on our projects. The best part? As a freelancer, I got to keep out of the office politics -- the facet I loathe most about the advertising business. I was getting paid to do a job and as long as I did it, everyone was happy. On top of all this, my partner was amazing which certainly helped -- in advertising, there's nothing quite as important as the relationship between copywriter and art director, and as far as partners go, I'd hit the jackpot.
What started as a month-long project turned into two, then three, then four... you get the point. Every time we got an extension, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was in the clear for a bit longer. But every month that passed, I asked myself, was I capable of this uncertainty? Could I thrive not knowing what tomorrow would bring?
Whereas some fellow freelancing friends told me they loved the week on, week off dynamic because it gave them a chance to relax or focus on other projects, I didn't look forward to the down time -- I was terrified of it. I don't like to think of myself as being defined by my career but I'm a person who thrives on routine and genuinely enjoys what I do. The prospect of not working, even for a week or two, was tantamount to my worst nightmare. After a half a year had passed, it seemed like our contracts would/could be extended indefinitely and though this certainly helped ease my anxious nerves, every time 'the final date' approached, I'd freak out.
Over the course of the year, I interviewed -- and was offered -- full-time jobs at various agencies. But since my freelance situation was so ideal, I knew it would take a near perfect opportunity to make me leave. That said, even with my freelance rate, Obamacare was still a hefty monthly load and, as a woman who at the age of 15 told my parents I needed to open a credit card to begin building a line of credit for my future, the absence of my beloved 401K frustrated me every single day.
As we were coming up on month ten of our time at this company, a recruiter reached out to me with an opportunity that sounded pretty close to perfect. Unlike most advertising interview processes, this one was fast and furious -- I was offered a job the day I met with the company. A week later, I accepted and have been working there ever since. My new job is great. My coworkers are lovely, the work is challenging and the opportunities vast.
Nearly two months in, a part of me feels like I got what I wanted. The 'coveted ring on my finger'. The mutual commitment. I have a great health insurance package, just signed up for my 401K contributions and get to take advantage of company perks. But even with all the positives, I'd be lying to say there aren't days that I wake up wishing I were still single ... and freelancing.