One of the many challenges of balancing freelancing and caretaking while working in the “gig economy” is that gaining a new client can be slightly disruptive. I should know – in the past few weeks, I’ve taken on another short-term project. As a freelance copywriter/marketing consultant, I often find myself “in the hustle” when it comes to looking for jobs, yet criticized by some peers for not “crushing it.”
For those who may not be aware, “crushing it” seems to be derived from the title of a book by Gary Vaynerchuk. After reading one of Vaynerchuk’s other books, I gave Crushing It a glance…but after thirty pages fought off the temptation to write soliciting a job as Gary’s ghostwriter. I also realized that Vaynerchuk has promoted a very toxic – and limited – idea about success – namely, that being successful as an “entrepreneur” doesn’t just mean gaining a heads-up, but total mastery of a situation. It means denying any and all other parts of your life in single-minded pursuit of a sole idea. In short, it’s not just “living the dream” but also making sure that nobody else can compete.
It’s an attitude that I have seen when out networking and meeting professional peers. When the subject of caretaking and work comes up, I always mention that my time is limited (after all, self-care is an important part of any caretaking regimen). Of course, many people understand and are willing to help…but for a select few, their faces take on a very select look. That look starts with disbelief and scorn – after all, I can’t win if I don’t play the game, right – but then takes on a sad, almost desperate look of disbelief.
The reason for the look? They realize a truth that I (and many others) had learned: the idea of “crushing it’ in the gig economy is a myth. A myth that, when under the influence, can be particularly harmful and self-destructive.
Last year, The New Yorker published a commentary about how the “gig economy” has an adverse effect on its workers. This attitude is similar to career coaches who advise that “looking for a job is a full-time job”. From my own experience, balancing family needs with seeking work in the gig economy is an ever-present challenge. With only a limited amount of available time, setting aside time for self-care and relaxation can be especially challenging. (Please note that my experience is limited and that many others face more dire situations). And unfortunately, many are seeing freelancing in the gig economy as “aspirational”.
It’s not. For many of us, it’s practical. Very few can afford to simply “not work” (even caretakers like myself), so finding steady, consistent work is critical to our survival. Yet in recent months, I am finding that more people – and organizations – see the gig economy as a condition to aspire towards rather than a work situation that requires some acclimation. In one of my volunteer positions, when I expressed concern about seeing this attitude, I was informed that yes, they saw freelancing as “aspirational”. They also emphasized that they were more interested in overall growth than nurturing existing groups.
(Without identifying the organization, I will say this: for a group that claims to advocate for the rights of freelancers and other workers in the gig economy, my experience in communicating with them has been frustrating. As I informed my contact, I would not tolerate such conduct from a client. Although things have improved slightly…I’m still on the fence. And enough “vaguebooking” via the blog).
Ironically, I blog about (and work in) a field that encourages entrepreneurship and seeking out new opportunities…but I’m also finding that I’m appreciating a sense of balance in my life. I know my value and the skills that I bring to clients, but I also know that many others don’t face the challenges I experience on a regular basis (And a larger group faces multiple challenges on a variety of fronts). Recent experiences with friends and colleagues have me reevaluating my life and relationships. Although I have had to put some of my life goals on hold for awhile, I also realize is the reason why I made one decision last year that had a great impact:
I have limited time with my remaining parent. That is more important to me than any egotistical drive towards mastery…and the only thing that I will be “crushing” is the idea that having priorities and self-care are negative ideas.