Why I Became a Freelancer: TL;DR
I became a full-time freelancer when I was made redundant.
But that’s just the how, what about the why?
Pilsen (Plzeň): city in the Czech Republic (or ‘Czechia’, if that’s your jam) where Pilsner beer comes from (hence the name).
I moved here in 2005 to teach at the state language school, and I was the school’s only ‘native speaker’ English teacher for 12 years. Until that fateful day in 2017 when I walked out the door, redundant.
And my boss’s behaviour on the day I left was THE perfect example of why I HAD to go freelance, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
You see, the boss and I clashed.
I had a different work ethic that included, amongst many other things:
Looking after children when they're sick (boss: that’s women’s work),
Staying home when I'm sick (boss: if you can walk, you can work),
Not worrying too much about paperwork (boss: paperwork is number one priority).
I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea.
I also wholeheartedly and fairly vocally disagreed with the outdated and, quite frankly, archaic way in which school was kept and run - simply walking through the door made you feel 30 years older, and I swear, the place smelled like a retirement home - and then add to that the cronyism and corruption inherent in the system and, well...
Anyway, they tried several times during that final year or so to unsuccessfully force me out or dismiss me for a whole bunch of made-up reasons (mostly based around taking ‘too much time off’ to look after kids - which I was well within my rights to do, BTW). And my own knowledge of Czech law and the Labour Code was a constant frustration, apparently, as I refuted one claim after another.
By this point in my career I already had a business licence for ‘teaching and language services’ and was actually freelance teaching on the side to make a bit of extra cash, so I was familiar with the ins and outs of invoicing and taxes and all that.
I also started my journey into voice over at about the same time, recording audio guides for a local studio and tourism specialist.
So, there I was, skirting around the fringes of the world of freelancing, poking my head in through the door now and then to see what was going on; and most of the teachers I knew were either in the same boat as me or full-time freelancers.
But the one thing preventing me from going full-time freelance was the ‘security’ of the job I was in.
The benefits were substantial:
Paid holidays (and this was a state school, so the holidays were good!),
Social and health insurance paid automatically,
Taxes paid automatically,
I couldn’t be fired (unless I did something really terrible!),
The contract was open-ended - making it, essentially, a ‘job for life’.
Ah, yes, that word: ‘redundant’.
not or no longer needed or useful; superfluous.
no longer employed because there is no more work available.
able to be omitted without loss of meaning or function.
You see, my boss was so intent on getting me out that the only recourse he had left to turn to was redundancy. And, by definition in law, the position became redundant as well, because, under Czech law, when you make a person redundant, you are effectively saying that the job and position is no longer needed, and you are then not permitted to employ anyone else to do that same job.
Now, bearing in mind that he was running a language school specialising in English, and that I was there for 12 years as the only ‘native speaker’ English teacher in the whole establishment, somehow in the eyes of the boss I was ‘superfluous’; I was ‘no longer needed’; I could be ‘omitted without loss of meaning or function’.
Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!
The cherry on the cake was the official goodbye and the parting gift.
And don’t forget that I had worked there for 12 years.
So, on the day I left, the bosses (there were 3 of them in total, and I really didn’t mind the other 2, they were okay) came to visit me in my office to say goodbye. There they stood as I finished packing up my desk into bags and boxes, and they offered a hand shake each and the boss said something curt to the effect of “Good luck,” and handed me a slip of paper.
“What could this be?” I thought to myself. A little bonus, perhaps, for my 12 years of hard labour? A small gift of some sort? Surely it’s got to be something nice, something pleasant, something that finally shows at least a little appreciation for the long years of toil I gave to the school?
It was a list of the books I needed to return to the library, “before you leave the building, please.”
And that, my friend, was a defining moment.
Never again would I work for someone else.
Never again would I follow someone else’s rules in the workplace.
Never again would I answer to someone else for my own work ethic.
From that day forth I would be the boss.
From that day forth I would make the rules.
From that day forth I would be the one in charge of my own fate.
They can never take our FREELANCE!!!
*sorry - got a bit carried away there*
And it was the best thing that ever happened to me, from a career point of view.
It’s not easy.
In fact, it’s bloody hard!
But now I answer to no-one but myself and the board meetings are shorter.
I can look after the kids whenever I need to (or want to),
I can take my time to recover when I’m sick,
The paperwork is minimal and almost entirely paperless.
And the office parties may be smaller, and few and far between, but the boss always pays for everything.
I have the best boss in the world.