Now and then: self-employed v employed


March 25, 2013 by Sian Rowland

It’s almost the second anniversary of my redundancy from local government. I’ve been a freelancer for two years and still feel very much like a newbie so now is a good time to reflect on what I was doing then and what I’m up to now by comparing my working day.

At work in the office circa 2009.

At work in the office circa 2009.

2011 8.30am arrive in office and moan about the traffic on the way to work. Catch up on everyone’s gossip and what they got up to at the weekend and boot up computer. Moan about how cold the office is and check the thermometer which says 16.5 degrees. At 16 degrees we get to go home. Union rules. Put coat back on, check whether computer has booted up yet and wonder what the grinding and shrieking noises are coming out of the back of it.

2013 8.30am wander downstairs and boot up computer while the kettle boils. Catch up on everyone’s gossip and what they got up to at the weekend via Facebook and Twitter. Make tea and moan to self about how cold the kitchen is. Perform ablutions and dress in many layers. Write and answer emails. Check deadline for next piece of writing work and get started.

2011 10am offer to make tea for whoever is in the office. Search for and fail to find any spoons in the kitchen. Water the decaying plants on the windowsill as the kettle boils and see if there’s any milk in the fridge. Stir tea with a fork. Have quick tea break and gossip with colleagues. End up screaming with laughter over a story someone has told. Get agenda and minutes together for next meeting and attend.

2013 10am make breakfast and eat in front of telly watching whatever I recorded last night.  Crumpets and Glee. Feel grateful for not having any meetings to attend today. Phone the window company for a quote. A man will be round straight away to measure up. He’s been, measured up, we’ve haggled on price and the forms are signed by 11am.

2011 lunchtime. Catch up on phonecalls and emails and consider what to have for lunch. Think about whether to risk the food in the canteen or eat the limp sandwich made that morning while still half asleep. Think back to last week’s canteen special of cremated cheese and pickle toastie and decide to go for limp sandwich eaten at desk. There’s nowhere else in the building to eat so lunch ends up being bolted down in between answering the phone. Teachers can only get to the phone during lunch or after school. Throw rest of lunch in bin because have to be at a school miles away for 1.30. Arrive at school with indigestion.

2013 lunchtime. Check fridge. Warm up homemade leek and broccoli soup and eat with salad followed by slice of homemade cake eaten at the kitchen table while listening to radio.

My work desk 2013

My work desk 2013

2011 Afternoon. Welcomed by school, work with teacher in cosy staffroom. Offered cup of tea and get loads of planning done. Teacher very grateful and feels more confident. Leave school with huge smile on face and head back to office. Another meeting. More emails.

2013 Afternoon. Visit school and work with teacher in cosy staffroom. Offered cup of tea and get loads of planning done. Teacher very grateful and feels more confident. Hand in invoice to finance officer on way out who says they thought my visit was free. Remind finance officer that fee was set with head teacher and that sadly I don’t work for free. Finance officer insists that my services should be  free. They always used to be. Yes, I say, I used to be free when I had a job at the local authority but they cut my job now I’m private and sadly that means schools have to pay. Finance officer mutters and glares while filing invoice. Consider saying something like much as I’d like to work on a voluntary basis I can’t afford to, I have bills to pay too but don’t.  Head back home and do some more work.

2011 5.30pm. Leave office and head home through crappy London traffic. Change from smart office outfit into trackie bottoms and watch Glee. Dinner, evening activities if not too knackered (Zumba or choir), hubby time, bed. Look forward to receiving payslip this week.

The sign on the loo door at work. Don't miss that!

The sign on the loo door at the old office. Classy.

2013 5.30pm still at computer not noticing the time. Fix up time to have coffee with friend or something else fun later in the week. Dinner, evening activities (Zumba, choir, writing group, writing, more work), hubby time, ok just one more check of emails, bed. Wonder if there is enough money in the bank to pay this month’s bills.

So on the plus side I don’t go to loads of meetings any more (a staple of public sector life), the canteen and bathroom at my house are better and my computer works. Yay. On the down side I miss spending time with my colleagues but often meet with friends for coffee or for after work drinks and I have more energy for my hobbies. The money is the main difference but all in all I like the challenge and on balance I think freelancing wins out.

Will I still think the same way in a year’s time?

7 thoughts on “Now and then: self-employed v employed

  1. Just read your blog – it’s great. Reminded me of how I felt after going freelance….
    In 1997 I was scared – but knew I had to make the move to independence because the situation I was in had become untenable. During the 6.5 years I spent in a Health Promotion department which kpet being re-orgainsed, I’d had to re-apply for my job ( or one that ‘they’ said was similar) 5 times.
    Now here I am 15 years later (aged 63) and not regretting a moment of it. It’s 2013 and I’ve found my metier: I love my work, enjoy being working with those who contract me to do so and treasure every moement I spend engaging with my freelance colleagues!

  2. Kay says:

    I think this is a true reflection of many freelancers lives: you miss the company of colleagues and the help on tap (computer not playing ball: just ring someone to complain versus homeworking, where you PANIC!) but not the politics, endless meeetings ABOUT meetings and pre-meetings and post-meeting post mortem etc etc. I love the freedom and flexibility, but hate the constant pull to the computer to check and re-check emails. And when the work’s there, the money’s good, but the uncertainty and irregular payment is a bind. I’d love to work in a small, creative co-operative… you could brainstorm and collaborate, but essentially stil do your own thang.

  3. Kay says:

    Sorry, I’ve obvs completely lost the ability to use an apostrophe… too early and not enough caffeine

  4. Tim says:

    Wow, has it really been two years already? How time flies …

    Glad you’re enjoying the positives and that they’re outweighing the negatives. It’s always encouraging to know that the change really does work for some (many?) people, especially for those of us who keep wistfully thinking it would be a great idea but secretly know the odds of actually doing it (unless forced to do so by circumstances) are negligible.

    • Sian Rowland says:

      Yes I’m the same- I would never have left had I not been pushed. I still often wish I had my old job back but you just get on with it I guess. I’m growing more used to my freelance lifestyle and although not very rich (who is nowadays? don’t answer that) I’m not on the breadline yet.

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