Thursday, February 18, 2016
FREELANCERS AND HYPOCHONDRIACS
Well, that was interesting.
Since childhood, I have been fortunate enough to avoid allergy season. Genetic luck.
On Saturday, that luck ran out.
My face swelled. I couldn't see the knuckles on both hands. And did I mention the reddish Kandinsky-esque pattern that I now suddenly wore, like some nightmarish onesie?
Faced with what was clearly my end-of days, and like any modern educated person, I took the smartest course of action.
"I'm too young to die...how does ebola even get to the inner west of Sydney?!"
Yes, I'm aware of how insipid that sounds now. But keep in mind, I'm in my thirties. Any new attraction your body unveils at this age, is generally a horror sideshow. No-one is rewarded for their longevity with an extra inch here, or a kilo less there. Quite the opposite actually.
Once I calmed the hypochondriac part of my brain, I made the first clear-eyed decision of the day.
Now, with all due respect to the Saturday workers of the world, there is something about Saturday doctors that sits at odds with me. I imagine that the top echelon of any medical practice - Patrick Demspey styled rock stars - get to choose their comings and goings. The rest get the dreaded Saturday shift in the clinic.
Where I now sat, waiting for my turn.
Wishing my regular doctor was open on a weekend. Have you ever tried to look less like a leper in public? Doesn't work.
When I finally met with the doctor, things only deteriorated.
"Oh! What an unusual skin condition."
Sensing the clearly unimpressed look on my face, the doctor continued.
"I'm sure it will clear up in a couple of days."
Nearly severing my own tongue with repressed displeasure, I politely said: "Yes, but what is it?"
The magnum opus of ineptitude was to come.
"I'm not really sure. It certainly is interesting. It looks like the kind of thing that will clear up in a day or two."
And for the briefest of moments, the most unpleasant ailment I was forced to endure was no longer on my body, but standing in front of me. Wearing glasses.
An hour later, slumped on the couch researching funeral homes, I had a quiet moment to reflect on my experience. Funnily enough, it reminded me of stories I had heard working for clients as a freelance creative.
So many clients had been burned by their encounters with freelancers.
I could get into the details, but ultimately each tale of woe summarises into two simple follies.
First, the client underestimated the work. The client assumed, because they own an iphone with iMovie installed on it, that the genteel craft of powerful creative work is simple, even pedestrian, and therefore inexpensive. Thinking that they could avoid undue expense, or dodge the wait for the right person, the client forgot the golden rule: pay peanuts...
But the client wasn't solely to blame.
On the freelancer side, the creative made the greatest mistake of all: forgetting why a client outsources this work in the first place. No, it's not for your sterling expertise. Nor is it for your unfaltering colour palette. It's not even your snappy dress sense.
That is why someone hires you to do the work.
They could Google. Buy expensive software. Scrape together a skillset. Do it themselves...kind of.
Or they could post a job request on a random bulletin board and hope for the best.
But why do they hire you?
Because they want you to give them confidence that the work will be managed to completion, on time, and to the highest of standards. They pay you, so that the part of their brain that is filled with anxiety about this task can focus on another priority.
It's the reason that so many of these clients had negative perceptions of their past freelancer experiences. In due course, the work was done, but the way the creatives managed the workflow, and the communication, meant the client was never freed of the burden.
A freelancer who is so busy being an 'expert' that they forget their primary purpose is to alleviate the clients' stress over the project, is a failure.
As is a doctor who says "Isn't that interesting?", without using a single medical vernacular, to a neurotic patient.
And failure makes a client leave. Like I did.
First thing on Monday morning, to my regular doctor. Doctor Pete.
Who used two medical words in the blink of an eye. Who explained that, despite never having had an allergy, I had clearly developed one late in life, in the midst of a high allergen season. Then the best news: a simple anti-histamine for a few days and I would be completely back to normal.
Keep in mind, aside from the anti-histamine, the overall prognosis was roughly the same between the two doctors. But only one clinic left me comfortable that a Last Will And Testament was an unnecessary indulgence.
So, to the clients of the known universe, I have a basic piece of advice. Get the right person, not (necessarily) the cheapest or easiest to source. Experience counts, especially if you don't want the uber-stress of micromanaging an outsourced project.
And to the freelancers of that same universe, a simple message. To be that 'right' person for a client, remember your primary function, even far higher than being the most knowledgeable, is to lighten the client's mental load. Inspire confidence in the process as a priority.
It may seem simple, but it's the difference between a client being on the right trajectory, or researching their own funeral songs.
P.S. I'm still alive. I now look more like a Goya painting.
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