Abuse at the hands of a corporate job is the reason I started freelancing. Period.
I have a long story about learning to get paid for online work, navigating social media, and turning a hobby into a business, but really, all that rested on the foundation of one thing…my job was treating me horribly. It was killing my health, wearing down my emotional relationships, and sucking my life away day by painful day.
A Leap For Others Only
I looked online for support and found a (largely White and male) culture encouraging breaking away from a job and going out on your own to forge your own path. I looked at their stories, and saw White men with resources and the privilege of safety that I simply did not have. Still, I took what I needed, discarded what didn’t apply to me, and started selling my writing services, first to a company that sold vacations to Thailand where fighters went to learn muay Thai. Being the generally conservative person I am, I did this while maintaining a full-time job.
The Rejection Of Family
Right around that time, one of my uncles had a birthday party, and my being the “corporate” niece, conversation turned to my job.
Megan! How’s everything at the job?
~Well, I just got back from a trip to our new client in Indiana, but to be honest, the job is wearing me down.
~I guess, but it’s really starting to get to me…it’s burning me out.
…just keep climbing that ladder! You’ll make it to the top.
That wasn’t the first, or last of conversations like that. I’ve been chastised as negative or unsupportive for being critical of the behavior of corporations when it comes to how they treat individual employees, and I kind of get it — Black people don’t have a lot of security in this world, and the idea of an insecure, or even abusive job, while terrible for White people, can be crushing for us. The idea that even your income — even the work you do that provides food and shelter — is out to break you down and take advantage of you…I can see how that can be too much for some people to bear.
…but I also see how some of us simply love the idea and prestige of a career path endorsed and respected by White culture overall. It’s a reason I’ve been incredibly grateful to have my father…who was laid off with most of the other Black workers at his job after 20 years of service…he understands how the game works and doesn’t expect me to play along.
The Social Stigma Of Freelancing
Either way, it can make the task of freelancing just that much heavier on a social level for Black people. You face not only the inherent risk of insecurity, or even being found out by your current employer, but a general social culture that is mistrustful of this type of work, despite the fact that we need the insulation freelancing provides from frequently racist hiring, promotion, and retention practices that exist in so many corporate cultures.
I’ve found myself only open to sharing my work as a freelancer with Black people who are willing to express dissatisfaction with their current jobs, or people like new graduates or the recently laid off who are wading through the difficulties of racialized hiring processes…people who have no choice but to feel and acknowledge the pain.
That’s a shame though, because I believe there are many of us who could benefit greatly from exploring freelance work.