Updated: May 10, 2020
It’s been quite a week. Seven working days ago I was a jobbing freelance. Tomorrow I start a staff job after three years out on my own. I got a phone call. I had a chat. I got an offer that I couldn’t refuse. And it didn’t involve a horse’s head.
Details have to remain confidential for now – but it’s a great challenge and something long-term. I’ve enjoyed freelancing and wasn’t expecting to go back to work full-time. But I’ve always kept an open mind, and life can surprise you.
I was concerned about the commitment I made to UCA Farnham and the staff and students there. So I’ve negotiated with my very understanding new employer that I can continue at least until the end of this semester as I was, and then to retain some involvement until the end of the academic year. I want to continue the networking and building that we’ve started there, and this means I’ll be able to while fulfilling my commitment to the students.
What have I learned while freelancing? For starters, a lot about digital media. In my previous full-time job, digital didn’t have the profile I thought it could have had and that was a major factor in me leaving. I’ve learned a huge amount since then, not just about the technical side of things but also about new opportunities, new dangers, and about the thought that needs to be applied to working in a multi-platform environment.
I’ve also realised just how tough freelancing is. My family tell me I seem more relaxed since saying ‘yes’ to the job. So much for the free time and flexibility of freelance life. I have enjoyed it, but the truth is that you tend to see every minute as potential earning time. So going for that run, taking time to cook a decent family meal, following up that project – all take second place to producing stuff that pays. And there’s a lot of time spent networking, with stuff in the pipeline, potentially there, being considered… But the ratio of ‘possible’ to ‘cash in the bank’ tends to be a little less than you think when the dust has settled. And I reckon on average I’ve worked a 10 hour day – with some days becoming shifts of 16 hours. That’s from someone who is a good time manager!
I’m not expecting the new job to be easy – but there’s something to be said for a bit of security. Constantly chasing new leads takes its tool – and there’s a fair bit of stress involved in chasing payment and managing cash flow.
I’ve been lucky though. I’ve had a lot of work via AOL’s money websites, first Daily Finance and now AOL Money. That’s enabled me to cover finance and business at very exciting time – the growth of digital media, the rise of search and the emergence of UK Uncut and the popularisation of tax reform, the development of an engaged and complex but popular alternative narrative to neoliberalism… all have provided fascinating areas to work in. Plus I developed a strand on the business of sport, which has proved very useful in my latest teaching post. I wrote 738,814 words on 1,214 posts in just under two years. I’ve been very lucky to work with an imaginative and supportive bunch of people at AOL, and long may the site continue. It’ll be nice to move away from the 6am starts though.
I’ve also contributed regularly to Stylus.com, a subscription website offering business intelligence. I’ve been writing about technology and how it affects people’s lives for a business audience, and it’s been a welcome opportunity to write longer pieces and develop some analysis.
What’s been really nice is that both AOL and Stylus have invited me to contribute when I feel I can – so I must have been doing something right. I’ll see how things pan out with the new job – and ensure that I’m not taking any freelance work away. But I might pop up from time to time on both sites.
Teaching has proved a real challenge, but an enjoyable one. The marketisation of education means courses can’t always be constructed in the way those delivering them think they should – and ironically not in the way much business, which likes to decry the quality of education while refusing to invest in the training it really wants, would like either. But despite the many challenges and the constant running down of anything public sector, teaching staff by and large deliver some great work. It’s been a real pleasure to work with so many talented people. Students themselves, of course, present their own challenges but – cliché though it might be – when you see the light bulb go on above their heads and they start to get it and too grow in confidence, it really is all worth it.
I’ve made countless other contacts and forged some great working relationships in areas I never even new existed too. And I hope to keep those going. Thanks too to everyone who has helped me over the last few years – some of whom I’ve already been able to repay favours to.
There are also some book projects in that pipeline – it’s had a lot of use over the last three years, that old pipeline – and I may even get the chance to blog more regularly about some of the things i never had time to write about now that I’ve got set working hours again. So I hope to have plenty to keep both my regular readers interested.
For now, there’s a dinner to cook and some shirts to iron. And a new chapter to begin…