Does taking orders from everyone at your employer bother you?
This is a rather simple concept that is commonly overlooked by novice freelancers. It is also a difficult concept for some to accept. If that is the case for you then freelancing might a short-lived experience instead of a satisfying career.
First, let’s cover the basics. You are not a full-time employee and if you work from home, in a different state, province or country then you are not on site either. This puts the freelancer at a distinct disadvantage since office politics will have just a much sway over them as if they were there and could read the pulse of the business.
Participating in office politics versus keeping up with it are two different things and I tend to favor the latter of the two. When off-site you are not privy to day to day happenings and what info you will get is filtered through the eyes of the person giving it to you. It's not called politics for nothing.
Careers live and die by office cliques and clashes.
Being off-site also has a positive in that you are not there to witness all this. You are rarely caught up in the drama that can bring productivity to a screeching halt. However, this rarely outweighs being there to know how to navigate the hazards.
One way to survive is to remember the important people in any firm. The people that answer the phones, make the appointments, order the supplies and generally see that every day is just another day at the office for everyone else.
These fellow grunts are in the trenches with you and can become easy allies that collectively have their eyes, ears, and hands-on almost everything that goes on within the company. They are a great source of the one thing you lack… local intel on what is happening right then and there.
Keeping in mind one important fact… they are not so much your coworkers as they are your bosses too. Deferring to them and treating them so will show them you are sincere and generally be rewarded with mutual respect and trust you would never get otherwise.
It is also a trust you would never want to betray. Keep in mind company policy so that you never get the employee in trouble. Never throw an onsite employee under the bus. This is as close to career suicide as a freelancer can get. They help you so stick by them and never undermine them to their peers or supervisors.
While there are exceptions to everything most fellow grunts will not boss you around or take advantage of the situation. In fact, you might become something that is golden in the freelance world… their ally. Their brother in arms so to speak.
It’s a good feeling to hear that you were recommended for a contract by the receptionist or the customer service rep. Particularly great to hear when it’s an executive assistant or secretary as they have access to the highest levels of business and are generally the smartest people in the room.
It all boils down to constantly grooming contacts at the employer for better more productive business relationships.
A question has come up about “grooming” or “growing” business relationships as manipulative. I see it as management… not manipulative. I see it as planning… not taking advantage of. I see it as being prepared. Of being proactive (one of my favorite words) versus reactive (one of my least favorite words).
Do not take advantage of inside information or make that info public. Besides… you probably signed a non-disclosure agreement anyway. Always honor that agreement above all.
Treating everyone at your employer with respect and deference will go a long way toward making you their “go to” freelancer.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.