The Dark Side of Freelancing a Cautionary Tale Part 1

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Freelance work is great if you're starting off in the Tech Industry, but can have a serious downside that you're not aware of.

I’ve been working in the Tech industry since 1998 and have been through the ringer long enough to know the dark side of freelancing. When I was in high school they told us we’d change our career 7-10 times in our life. 7-10 times we would change our money earning vocation. Wow did “they” have it wrong. All you need to do is look at my LinkedIn profile to see how wrong they were. And I don’t have nearly all the freelance jobs I’ve worked listed here. In this post I’ll outline the long and winding road of a so-called freelance tech savvy hipster.

The Downside of freelancing is You’re a Freelancer

In the dawn of my career I bounced from start up to start up. I was living in Hollywood and was 24 years old. It was at the height of the .com explosion and companies thought they had bottomless pockets and endless opportunities. It wasn’t until the bottom fell out of the Tech industry that I would realize that the job experience I was developing would end up branding me as a freelancer.

In 3 years I had 8 different tech jobs ranging from Sony to TNT Networks to Home Shopping Network to Palm to EToys to IGallery; (the only publicly traded adult website on the NASDAQ at the time), to NASCAR to Shannon Elizabeth to USA Networks and many more. This was a great time to develop experience, but would brand me a “freelancer” which I would find out later was not the positive feather in my cap that I thought it would be.

The downside to having a “go-getter” attitude is that possible employers see you as someone who always wants to be moving onto the next project/ opportunity. While I’m always ready to move onto the next project I’m not ready to move onto the next vocation. Employers see a rich employment past as someone who’s not ready to establish roots with them.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have always been looking for a company that I could establish roots with and eventually, someday in the twilight of my career I could get the retirement party and the proverbial gold watch.

As it stands now, I don’t know that I will ever retire. I’ve climbed up and fell down the employment ladder so many times that I don’t know where I stand anymore. I wrote this post to outline just some of the “we’ve got to let you go” moments I’ve been privy to. I got to the point where I almost accepted a job as a professional painter in a union just so I could have a full time gig with a regular paycheck. It’s not been easy. The following stories are true. Some names have been changed to not so much protect the innocent, but to not drive web traffic to companies that I’ve been let go from.

I’m not alone! There’s a laundry list of developers, designers and otherwise professional tech guys that likely have a lot of the same stories or close to the employment stories I’ve lived through. I write this part to purge the stories I have stored in my grey matter, but also as a way to gain some solidarity with my fallen fellow tech pros that have been beaten down by a tough industry.

Story #1 The time I Worked at the first online college accredited company on the internet & got canned

Sunset High-Rise Sold for $42 Million

The year was 1999. I secured a job in the House of Blues building on Sunset working for the first accredited online college company traded on the NASDAQ. I was a fledgling graphic designer at the time. Macromedia’s Flash was brand new to the market. Me and 3 other designers were dubbed the companies leading Flash developers. What this meant was that we were familiar with the brand new animation platform known as Flash.

Flash was the industry standard for online animation at the time. They handed all 4 of us 1 program book to share and learn to become masters of in a very short period of time. This was the book that came with any program you would purchase that explained how the program worked. It was the stereo instructions of a burgeoning technology that had no forum, no tech books, no support from any sort of online community.

Macromedia FlashAll 4 of us were put in the same general area donned with nameplates that had our monicres with the title “Flash Programmer” emblazoned on a framed piece of paper claiming we were the leading developers of the software that came out possibly a year before. I didn’t understand why we got so many accolades and given such prominence in a company having as little background as I did. I figured we were one of the lucky few, but much like the facade that is Hollywood I would find out that we were not what we thought we were.

In November of 1999, much to my surprise this company started to bring in tourists from all corners of he world to or facility. Day after day people from all countries were paraded by our cubicles and being shown off as the leading developers in the animation industry. Mind you we were all in the positions we had on short term contracts.

To make a long story short we were not renewed for the project and were dropped for the training were employed for.

Story #2 The time I worked for the start up company that had Top Cow, Sony Pictures, Palm, TNT networks, Shannon Elizabeth, Olivia d’Abo, Thomas Jane and many more and still went under and i went to Disneyland

EruptorgirlsI was hired at a dream job for any 24-25 year old geek/ male. I was doing web design/ graphic design and production animation for the burgeoning online animation industry. I got to flex my Flash skills and every Wednesday we had a huge line of beautiful girls lined up out the door for a “Maxim style” photo shoot for the Eruptor Girl of the Week. I even had the opportunity to go to Manhattan Beach and run a T1 line on the beach to show off our platform but also our talent….IT WAS AWESOME!

The office was located in Santa Monica, CA and was a hotbed for up and coming tech savvy hipsters and…well hotties in general. I helped develop the website and did a lot of production animation for one of the first online animation companies online. We produced 7 different online cartoons and had regular Top Cow comic book artists in for interviews.

I got the chance to be part of an online series that was one of the first on the Internet to use vector animation. They encouraged employees to be extras in what would become webisodes. I went to the then home of Shannon Elizabeth and installed a webcam for her and then, boyfriend/ husband Joe Ugly and her dogs to do…well it was the birth of this type of thing. So to do what ever and hopefully see Shannon walk by her webcam nude.

I was on top of the world. I had just recently gotten tickets to “The Magic Kingdom” from one of our promoters. I was finally living the life I thought would come along from being in a successful company. It would seem that the timing was appropriate as the company reached the 3rd quarter and lost funding from a major credit card company. All venture capitol was pulled once the projected business plan did not turn a profit in time that pleased the funding venture capitalists.

When the shit hits the fan you’ll need more than a pocket square to wipe your lips

Me and another web designer from the company walked in one morning to locked computers. I tried checking my email only to get an “Outlook Cannot Connect to the Exchange Server” error. This was quickly followed by my boss, the company lawyer and a security guard holding a cardboard box approaching my desk. I was told I was let go. I was given no prior notice, but was told that they had the right to fire us at any time and that that time was now.

I filled my cardboard box with zip and jazz drives full of what work I could get my hands on. As I stood in the parking lot loading up my Civic hatchback among the Beamers and Mercedes that surrounded me I was greeted by one of the developers of our gaming platform. He walked out cursing the company we were both fans of the day before.

We convened at the Santa Monica 3rd street Promenade to regroup. We made an executive decision to visit the Magic Kingdom only to find out that they didn’t share our need to imbibe. So we left the park, got some clear booze and had a “We’re going to Disney Land” experience.

The story continues from here, but will return as a sequel. If you can empathize with this struggle please share your story. LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS HERE! I know I’m not alone. I know you have horror stories of your own. Exorcise the demons here. Don’t sit on these stories! Let your slice of life be heard. Please share this on your favorite social networks, high jack logged in computers and share it on their social networks. Push down people actively tweeting and post this to all of their social networks. If you’re in a university post this from your stoned neighbors dorm. Post it to all of their social networks.

Have I made my point yet?

Get this out there. Show it some social love. I respond to all comments. Chapter 2 coming very soon.



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