Changing how I work

This week I put down my paid work with the Transition Network. For some years now I’ve done a monthly community newsletter for Transition Stroud, and of late I’ve also been doing the social media as well. It’s been a good project to work with and there’s a lot to like about it. The pay was steady, more than the minimum wage most of the time, and it was work I could do well. I poured a lot into it.

Like many self employed people, I work multiple small jobs. The trouble with this is the generally invisible work around working. If you just do one job, you probably won’t notice it. You need to know your people, the outfit you work for, its rules, habits, assumptions, systems and whatnot. As someone doing social media work, I also have to know the brand identity and how it’s evolving and be on top of news developments.  There’s quite a lot of mental work that all of us do around the work we officially do.

When you work multiple jobs, you still have to have a full job’s worth of that knowledge for every single job you are doing. Then you have to move between jobs, keeping track of what applies where.  It might seem like having lots of small jobs would be no harder work than doing the same number of hours on a single job, but it is, because of all that extra mental labour required.

There was a brief patch when I was up to eight jobs, and a long stretch when I was doing seven.  I’d successfully brought the number down, but even so it’s been hard. The Transition work was my one remaining outlier, the job that doesn’t overlap with any other job, which makes it the most expensive in terms of tracking all the information I need.  It’s not been easy to let go of, but if I am to avoid burnout and stay passably sane, this is the kind of change I need to make.

The other less than perfectly visible issue with having lots of freelance jobs, is that you have none of the benefits conventional employment gives. There is no paid sick leave. There is also no paid holiday leave. In the absence of paid time off, you either have to take a pay cut to get a break, or you have to work extra hard to offset your missing week. Neither of these approaches is restful.  Having done years when I didn’t manage to take a whole week off, this kind of thing is hard, and not good for mental health.

There are advantages to companies and organisations in hiring freelancers – no national insurance to pay, no pension requirements, no holiday or sick pay, short term contracts, fewer rights for the person you’ve hired, and it’s easier to have them on flexible terms. For a small outfit this can be an unavoidable necessity – Transition Stroud is a community group with a small budget and just doesn’t have enough work to turn what I was doing into a full time job.  This is also often the way of it around marketing and social media work, and quite a lot of publishing industry work. These are also reasons we really need Universal Basic Income to smooth things out for individual workers and small organisations alike.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Changing how I work

  • exploratorydruid

    Thank you for sharing your struggles and perspective here. I hadn’t thought about the difficulty of switching between different small jobs, and I’m grateful to have my eyes opened. I agree that a basic universal income would smooth out many things for many people. It is a different conversation in america, but at least a conversation that is starting. Best wishes for you to have a stable income and also mental health.

  • lornasmithers

    It’s great to hear Transition Stroud is in a place where it can pay staff – our transition towns in South Ribble never got beyond a group of volunteers and I was one of them and eventually we gave it up because it didn’t have the impact in the local community we hoped – people just didn’t want to be transitioned!

    I understand the reasoning behind your decision to give it up. Yes, it’s not only about the work but being knowledgeable and engaged ‘in that world’. And having too many too many ‘worlds’ on the go just isn’t doable.

    • Nimue Brown

      And with a bit of luck, someone who needs the work more than I do, who has fresh ideas and energy and will enjoy the space, will get to step in. I think there’s increasing recognition in the Transition Network that depending n volunteers is problematic and exclusive.

  • Yvonne Aburrow

    Very true. I used to be a temp (many years ago, before Labour introduced some protections for temporary workers) and the same issue applies: you have to learn the company culture of each place you work at. I’m always super tired for the first week of a new job because of that. It must be completely knackering to do it with juggling multiple jobs.

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