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  • Diana Schneidman

Sick of corporate stress? Try freelancing

If you’ve spent any time online learning about the benefits of becoming a freelancer, consultant or some other type of entrepreneur, you are well aware of Johnny Paycheck’s example and why you should tell them to “shove it.”

Writers expand on the pleasures of self-employment: wear what you want, do what you want, sleep when you want, amuse yourself when you want, and ideally, have enough money to pursue all these pursuits and more.

Anything is better than your last job, whether you are now drop shipping Chinese-manufactured exercise equipment or selling old stuff from your basement on eBay, they argue. You just may be able to afford a second (or third) home and still have spare time to coach your child’s T-ball team.

But lately there is an even more compelling justification for self employment: the commonplace, yet extreme, dysfunction of many corporate workplaces.

Now I don’t have numbers to support my theory—I can’t even suggest ways the Departments of Commerce or Labor would measure it—but the anecdotal evidence is pretty convincing. The atmosphere in the modern office is highly toxic. Psychological cyanide is billowing out the A/C vents and saturating those long gray hallways and gray cubicles.

What a time and energy drain the typical office has become.

Today, the very best part of freelancing is removing yourself from omnipresent corporate stress!

Let me reminisce about the early 1990s. The receptionist would get a call at 10:30 that everyone must be back from lunch by 1 for an ad hoc staff meeting. Right at 10:30 work would come to a complete stand-still and we’d gather to speculate about the big message.

Often if was merely that a different executive was being rotated in to head our department. We’d think that was big news, but it pales in importance to the major layoff notices coming down more recently. Well, the stress is huge lately, in case you haven’t noticed. Corporate employees are falling apart from the craziness.

If you’ve been working inside this environment, you know what I mean. It’s the insanity that makes unemployment seem desirable. It is the underlying cause of silly arguments, temperamental blow-ups, withholding of critical info and most important, conflicting and impossible demands on staff.

The best thing about freelancing is that you can limit exposure to tension to 10 minute blocks of time, all of them by phone. We commiserate when the client is pressured or fearful, try to distill meaningful input, and convince them we know what we’re doing and the results will be fine.

Then we hang up, go about our work, and thank God we don’t work there. Or we sit back with our coffee, turn on Oprah or go for a walk. But mostly you smile, knowing it is their problem, not yours.

Or perhaps it is your problem. Your contact’s job may be in jeopardy, and in turn, you may lose out on future assignments if they are let go.

There’s a solution for this too. As a freelancer, you are always looking for the next assignment. So simply redouble your efforts, just in case.

Originally posted 3-29-09

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