Looking. Again.

I love freelancing, I mean being self-employed. I love waking up hoping that today will be the day that that promised check shows up only one month late. You know, that check that covers the mortgage, car payments, electric bill, will put a bit of food in the kitchen, etc… Yeah, I yearn for that sinking feeling that hits when today’s date is the same as the cut-off date before obtaining yet another late charge. But my most favorite thing is when I get to spend an hour of my baby girl’s day drafting yet another contract only to have it return void due to either incompetence or indifference.

Pardon me… vomit alert. This post is just a “guts on the floor” dump while trying to make sense of my life at the moment. If you find this, just ignore it. If parts of this is about you, I don’t mean to offend… this a cleansing moment for me to get the junk out of my head so I can prepare for the next wondrous phase of my life and you already know what I think anyway. Okay that sounds more sarcastic and melancholy than I actually feel. I’m excited to venture out again into that place people call “outside.”

Side note: Mr. Parker (if that’s even your real name), a retainer is what you call an arrangement where a service provider gets paid in advance for guaranteed services to be performed for an agreed upon time frame, like a month. The audacity of a 20+ year old company to expect a consultant to bill for hours worked after the fact and still want to call it a “retainer” just about pushed me over the edge today… ok well, I’m writing this post so yeah, it did push me over the edge. I’m on active duty now scouring the boards for another opportunity to work for the man, have real health insurance, get a normal paycheck and drink someone else’s coffee in my cup that will have a prime spot in my new workspace with a perfect team of future farmers where glorious things will be built and/or designed.

Who am I kidding? Freelancing is nuts. I’m an architect, an inventor, a happy part that makes the sum an impossible calculation in a factory where dreams and experiments are born and packaged and sent off to be consumed and recycled. I’m not an MBA/Excel junky who actually knows the difference between a mutual fund and anything else in the market. I actually like using the tools I have instead of paying someone else to use them. I have a beautiful wife who loves and depends on me, three healthy kids, a mortgage on a sufficient house in a great neighborhood at this time in our lives, a cell phone contract, two cars and a talking lizard to feed, and a legion of other ravenous, revolving monetary obligations, oh and an American dream that one day I’ll be making popcorn at my house for movie night for my grandkids where my house is not a trailer.

Having only one deposit in the bank in the last two months (for about 1/8 of our household’s financial needs…err..1/16 if we’re splitting hairs with two months on the line) is pretty lame—we did take our first awesome family vacation ever in ten years during this time for almost three weeks, but still… no money coming in for that long was totally unexpected. Did I fail in my adventures as a self-employed rock star?

I try to read things like this to help me feel better but tonight it’s not working. I need a job yesterday. Then I read things like this and I start to feel competent and useful again because a) I understand it and can’t wait for the chance to exploit it, and b) I convince myslef that I’ll be great for some company working for someone who gets it.

I should have taken at least one business class during that year I tried college. Or maybe not. Business is changing these days. Old rules are starting to see the stars that appear as dusk creeps over the horizon.

Contrary to my opening mood: I do love the self-employment life in most respects. I will genuinely miss lunch with my girls and being around for the “firsts” that happen spontaneously. I will miss being home when my son gets out of school. I’ll be heart-broken over not being able to flirt with my wife between deleting worthless iTunes emails, drafting wire-frames, stitching up lines of code, and making Internet Explorer’s sorry excuse for a rendering engine bow to my every whim. But this life is not working and it only looks to be getting worse. I’m realizing I have to actually work in order to survive. And to work, I need to get projects, and to get projects, I need to have clients that pay. Or I need to get out of Dodge and join the ranks lining up to get their 401K’s matched every month while they run errands like getting those regular check-ups recommended by an ex-radio jock who’s sultry voice-over is the clincher in big pharma toothbrush commercials featuring a bunch of starving med-school drop outs. Wha?

Just the other day I was approached by a co-worker (of a colleague) who is borderline disgruntled with his first full-time with benefits programming job. Granted it is with the same company I left after a year and a half of… nevermind, you can read about it here. Anyway, Mr. Disgruntled was asking for insight about freelancing since he’s basically on his way out anyway. From the mess of trying to explain my regret and my rejoice, I managed to spill into his inbox something that has had my head spinning since:

“I often re-evaluate my decision and wonder if I should have stayed employed working for the man like a cog in a ridiculous machine… with health insurance, 401K, human interaction, separation of work and home life, and a dependable steady paycheck.”

20/20 in the rear-view mirror, right? But I’ve learned a lot in the last year. A lot has happened in the last year. One year ago this month we bought our second home in the midst of having a new baby in a new town with a new job working for some very smart people, then shortly after near implosion I worked for a very interesting operation until I was fired for not understanding that “with excellence” actually means “really fast.” It’s never a good sign to start something life-changing on April Fool’s Day.

So here I am at what looks to be the last few flickers of a good-smelling candle looking again for a place to be. I’m a freelancer at heart and I’m finally realizing that full-time employment is just a variation of self-employment: it’s the version with a really good retainer arrangement.

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