What Does Freedom (At Work) Really Mean?

Posted: November 5th, 2008

I remember all the way back when I was sixteen years old, I had at the time a job which I thought had the greatest freedom that a job could possibly have. To an extent it still holds true to me today. You see, I worked in a rather rundown cheesesteak shop (without a sign I might add) inside a large shopping mall. The pay was borderline free for my employers here but I had it made.

I worked alone most times, made myself a sandwich when I felt like it, called my friends, gave free food to my friends once in a while and cut out early nearly every day I worked. Don’t tell mom but I even drank beers from next door in the back room. I probably would have worked there for free if they would have inevitably fired me (which they didn’t).

Although this wouldn’t fly in today’s place of employement (that sandwich shop did close down by the way) we still have an idea of what kind of freedoms are ideal for us in the workplace. Can you picture a drunk tank where you can clock in and sleep until you sober up? How about just coming in whenever you feel like it, having a two hour lunch or having a beer while you’re at a meeting?

It would seem our perception of freedom in the workplace is derived from wanting to skirt the rules our so-called superiors set for their employees which is true in a sense. Workplace freedom is, however, the desire to break free from the CONTROL that our employers have to place on us in order to for us conform and do our jobs.

Though I hate to use political references, you can view this employer control as a kind of socialism where your freedoms (to come in late, drunk, etc.) are suppressed for the productivity of the whole, which is the company. The downside to this is that it is totally necessary for a company to survive. OK, maybe there are exceptions like the Google campus, but we all can’t work there, can we?

Then there are the freelancers who would be the democratic adversary to the “socialist” company. A freelancer’s freedom, however, isn’t what you’d expect. Sure, you can expect to sleep in and wake up hungover once in while but what you would actually consider freedom in the workplace actually becomes a distraction to the freelancer.

Control for a freelancer is not placed in the hands of another but within himself. It is ironic that this complete control often drives new freelancers to quit and go back to their jobs. After all, YOU have to look for your own work, manage your own business and make sure you are making ends meet and then some so you can continue. This is all on top of the actual work you do. This added responsibility often drives people to quit freelancing or to not even start at all.

The truth is freelancing does have it’s learning curve and there are certainly going to be times where what you are earning will become an issue. The way to deal with that control, however, is to use it to your advantage. In other words, learn the ropes, take your punches and keep on rolling. I’ll admit that it’s easier said than done but when the end of that learning comes near you won’t regret it. Only then you’ll see what freedom at work really is.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

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