One of the things that really sucks about working on a freelance basis with an entire staff of full-time employees is not being able to share in their good fortune. Through no fault of the people I’ve been working with — just the nature of the beast — there are times when I’ve really felt like an outsider looking in.
At the particular publication I’ve been working for, the parent company decided to do something incredibly nice for the employees, which I would love to see other companies duplicate, but somehow, I doubt it. I guess there had been a 10% wage slash during the previous year, thanks to the oh-so-wonderful economy, which, as much as it sucks, is a hell of a lot better than layoffs (TRUST ME on this one!). Things are apparently on the upswing, as the company e-mailed an announcement that the wage cuts were being overturned, returning people to their previous salaries. While I was very happy for my temporary co-workers, as it is definitely a hard-working and deserving group of folks, it still felt weird being the only person in the office who didn’t give a shit and wasn’t celebrating, because it didn’t affect me in the least.
Another example: The magazine had just wrapped up an incredible 25th-anniversary issue (and I’m not just saying that because of my minimal contributions to it — it really was a fantastic issue). The following week, an e-mail went around giving staffers one extra Monday off during the summer as a reward. Again, good for them, but it didn’t do a damn thing for me. I don’t work on Mondays anyway and, even if I did, taking a day off means forfeiting money.
One last example: The night the 25th-anniversary issue I mentioned above was put to bed, someone bought a few six-packs of good beer for the staff. I was craving beer worse than oxygen at that point, but I never went over and took one because no one formally invited me to. I was probably being overcautious, as the people I’ve been working with have always made me feel welcome, and I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded sharing a beer with me, but I felt weird about grabbing one without being asked.
I will say this, though: I have found one very good aspect of being a freelancer. When I’ve been on the receiving end of annoying phone calls, which has happened a few times, I love being able to play this card: “I really don’t know what I can do about that. I’m just a freelancer here.” Full-time employees can’t get away with that, but I can!