Nothing is sweeter than a life of a freelancer. You are the ruler of your schedules. Basically, your days officially start at 12:00 midday, despite having woken up at 7:00 or 8:00 am. You wake up. Sit in bed and reach for your Bible, phone, laptop and notebooks and place them next to you. Social media religiosity calls first, and by the time you are being done replying to emails and laughing at Infinix emoji’s jokes, it is already 9:30 am or 10 am. It is then that you realize that you haven’t had breakfast and you jump out of bed like an arrow towards the kitchen. If you are lucky to have an appetite you will pile scrambled eggs, bacon, milk and whatever else you can find in that kitchen and carry it to your bedside.
Your sip your tea slowly and munch on your snacks, at a snail’s pace. You talk to clients over the phone, in between bitings of bread and mouthfuls of tea, but they cannot tell.
That is the beauty of freelancing. You can make calls, negotiate deals and sign contracts from the comfort of your sofa or bed, when looking like a total disaster from head to toe. Ragged hair, haggard looking face, unwashed eyes, maguru mahunyuku, in booty shorts and an oversize t-shirt. The voice on the phone and the personality in the email is a sharp contrast to what you look like.
Life is not always this way for a freelance. On some cursed days, you get a client who wants you to meet them during an early morning. On such days, you will set around 20 alarms. each 5 to 10 minutes apart from each other. You will comb through your closet the entire morning for something decent to wear. You haven’t touched your suits in days, and you have forgotten how to walk in high heels. You are so afraid that you will look like those cheap china phone promotional balloon men on sticks that you meet along Kenyatta Avenue before your feet get adjusted to a life on high heels. This are the days you carry high heels and wear them at the door of the office you are going to. And it becomes worse if the client sets up a meeting at midnight for the next morning. You jump into the bathroom and get a Do It Yourself Hairdo because, just probably, your hair has not touched a comb in centuries. You will smile and wink at yourself several times in the morning before you leave the house. And give yourself an imaginary tap on the back; “Looking good girl, like a lady boss”.
You will meet the client and your heart will break because to some extent he doesn’t live up to your expectations. He doesn’t deserve the effort you put in to look good. Maybe he offers a deal way too less than what your expected. Maybe he isn’t too handsome for the efforts you put on the mirror. Maybe it is the type that is used to calling the shots, so it is either you take their deal or nothing. The kind that can ruin your morning by assuming that you are desperate because you don’t work an office job, not knowing that if you applied for a job, you wouldn’t know what to take because you could get around 20 job offers, with the employers praying against hope that you will accept their offers. These are the kind of clients that you feel like rolling your eyes to and casually say, “Boss, the bed is my office. And the pillow my personal assistant.”
I was recently telling a friend that as freelancer you can work from anywhere, from the top of a tree, in the middle of screaming children and crying babies, in a matatu bound from one end of the world to another. This is because our minds haven’t been conditioned that for us to work we have to be confined in an office space with glass walls and the boss peering over you to see whether you are browsing your Facebook feed. Most of us even have office corners in our homes, we have desks and what have you, but we never just use them. The bed and sofa are always a better option. There is just something about working when your legs are hanging up in the air.
Sounds like bliss? Yes, it is. And it is dangerous too. You have got to have tonnes of self-control. This way you will know when to work, and when to play. When to sleep and when to obey the alarm. Freelancing is work too. Otherwise, you will drill a back door to your house to avoid the land lord.
Which is when you make a choice to try a 9 to 5, or 8-4, you surprise even yourself. Of course you don’t apply for it. Someone writes you some mails, and asks them to end you your CV. In a few days, you receive a call, for an interview. You go, it’s intensive. Somehow you know you will get the job but there is always some doubt that lingers. You go for a series of other interviews, to meet who is higher up the rank than who. You go back home and wait. See you are used to a freelance lifestyle so your heart is torn between accepting the job offer or not. Hence, you do not do the niceties, like follow up emails and phone calls. You tell the job, “if you are to come find me on my bed just like the opportunity did”.
Disclaimer: Do not try this at home; please do send those follow up emails and calls. Unless you have a gut feeling that you are already running with the job offer. And unless you are not broke. If it doesn’t come, you have nothing to lose.
Weeks pass. You even stop checking your mail. And on this particular Monday, you receive two job offers. No interviews. No protocol. Nothing. They simply want you because they know you can deliver. And because of many becauses. Like you have worked with them before. It is both a beautiful and confusing moment.
There is always something about being desired by many people at once. Something about feeling like a village belle with men drooling over you, each hoping that she will accept them.
You sit down. Put your inflated ego and pride aside and face the real facts head-on. Job offer 1; you sit down; consider it but due to some reasons, it just can’t work. It is an ideal job; with likes of traveling a human interest-angled stories to write, just the way you love things. You have a potato in your throat when you decline it.
The second, the manager is just waiting for a nod from some higher authority for you to commence. The nod takes too long, and as you are waiting, something wakes you up at 3 am one morning. Just something. Or someone, a guardian angel maybe. Telling you to check your mail. Company 1, (the one that you never followed up) had scheduled a meeting a few hours away, two days ago. Damn, you say to yourself, if this angel didn’t wake me up this early, this would be a lost opportunity. You throw a thousand kisses to the darkness and coldness of the 3 am hour. And click confirm on the calendar.
And then you remember that your hair is partly done. This is how both an angel and a devil pay you a visit. Same time, same place. All gambling after the same thing.
See the beauty of freelancing, unless you are sure you have something extremely important coming up, you can even take a week to make your hair; three braids a day.
You jump off the bed, do some magic on the unmade part of your hair, check and recheck yourself in the mirror until you are satisfied. You go to the meeting. They offer you the job. You are not quick to say yes. You need some time to consider it. You should be in a position to give a reply in 24 hours. They say it is okay. Remembering you are still waiting from a nod on the side. This is going to be hard.
But this one is harder. You again politely reject the other job offer that is getting a nod coming too long. You ditch the paperwork you had already started with them. Out of three in just one week, you are just left with one. And the irony of it is that you don’t feel like taking it too. For reasons you cannot put a name too.
By the way, people think that accepting a job is an easy decision but it is not. You get to agonize over lots of things. Of course there are those, the desperate ones (I can’t blame them. the economy is bad enough) that don’t care at all. Whatever offer that comes calling they jump at it like it owes them something.
You don’t do this though. You sit and agonize over the decision. You draft the reject email and almost send it before deleting it as fast as you typed it. You type a new one, ask your friend to listen to you as you read it to gauge how it sounds. She gives you a disclaimer. she will only listen if it is not meant to reject the offer. She doesn’t understand the agony in your heart. How important this decision is to you? How the email you send will determine the way your life will turn out in the next few months. It is the email that will determine your sleep, eating, reading patterns. The email will schedule your classes, writing on the blog, traveling, everything, for the next few or many months.
You call your best friend from miles away. You tell her how afraid you are. Of not living up to the JD, of being a misfit in the organization, of running crazily overwhelmed soon. She always has a way of convincing you. Plus, you remember there are millions out there who are looking for this but have no way of getting it. For you, it was handed to you with minimal effort if not on a silver platter. You cry for being such an ingrate. And you admonish yourself for forgetting that this is year you are trying to move beyond your comfort zone.
You draft and accept email and hit send, saying you will start work in the next four days. You don’t check mail for two days.
You casually tell your mum that you are starting a new job. She knows, better than everybody else how you love sleeping. You tell her that you are afraid. She smiles, and tells you that she knows you can hack it.
The day prior to work, you ask your friend to wake you up. And you also set an alarm. It goes off around 20 minutes before the time you had asked your friend to nudge. You stay in bed, floating between dreamland and wakefulness. The minute she opens your door, you sit upright in the bed with the dexterity and speed of someone who is resurrecting from the dead. As soon as she closes the door, you tell yourself that you are going to sleep for just 5 more minutes and then get going. She comes back 20 minutes later, only to find you asleep. She carries your duvet to her place.
You report to work, put on a smile as you are introduced to the to- be colleagues. You don’t get their names even. You are bundled into a room with men only. You smile. God knows how hard to understand fellow women for you.
By the time the day ends, you are a log.
You are in a hurry leaving the office to catch the school bus. One more minute and if you delay it will leave you, and you will have to start agonizing of walking to the bus stop, which is on the other side of the city. You carelessly cross the road. It is not your first time. Your dad even commented once that he would never be shocked if you were knocked down on the roads. It has never happened though.
You pass closely by the bonnet of an oncoming car. It belongs to a pervert. You know because instead of saying sorry he shouts over the window, “Na wewe si ni mrembo. Si uingie kwa gari nikupeleke nyumbani.( You are so lovely! Can you hop into the car? I would love to carry you to my place.”
“Dude, I love my skull write where it is. Not as a trophy in a shelf in your house.”
Before you hurl this subtle insult at him, another one oncoming vehicle on full speed slows down as he notices that he was just about to hit you. He releases the steering wheel, puts his hands on his head and wails out loud when he notices who he was going to knock down. Such a beautiful girl with pink shoes and a pink handbag running to school. You smile, because he is charcoal black, and you know what is going through his mind. Where would he get a brown girl like you if he was told to replace you after knocking you down. You know how they say in Kikuyu, “We just want another one, na ti kurihia( and it’s not levying). Makes me wonder what it is.
You slept late last night. Your eyelids are heavy with sleep and your colleague is laughing at you at how pathetic you look. It’s day three and you feel like you are already losing the game. You brainstorm on some blog business ideas. You are making some wall art and this one you are brainstorming on is specifically meant for an office setting. You write the first line.
“In this office, people wake up late”
This is when and where you officially give up on yourself.