We’re fine with being a team of one, right?
Except that we all know that we are better when we are around others, sharing the ups and downs of work and life. Enjoying the freedom and control of being your own one-man band is why most of us chose to go freelance, but sometimes we yearn for the camaraderie of other people.
Most freelancers will work with other freelancers in loose ‘associate’ networks at one point or another in their independent careers. But the dynamics are completely different. And here’s why.
Corporate team playing
How do you manage a group of people with very diverse behaviours, cultures, habits and motivations? In most companies, there is a strong sense of corporate culture. This is an age-old mechanism for getting human beings to behave less like individuals and more like a group with common interests. In my day, you used to call it brand values. In my experience, those so-called values very rarely chimed with my version of them.
The fact is, that people aren’t stupid and most find a way of interpreting these cultural norms and adapt them to their own version of the corporate hymn sheet. It’s about survival and how you manage to keep afloat, whilst demonstrating your individual prowess. It’s not about being extraordinary, because that alters the make up of the team. If you are extraordinary, you will be accused of not being a ‘team player’.
While individual success (on the back of the team) can do wonders for your own profile, negative results can always be blamed on the other team members. Hey, you can always move on.
That’s a rather negative picture, but I’m sure that it resonates with at least one team that you’ve been part of. The saying. ‘all men are equal, but some are more equal than others’ is very true.
Associates are your team
There is something very different about the freelance associate team though, and it’s got to do with motivations. One of the most extraordinary features of freelance life is that other freelancers look out for you. They form a natural support blanket around you, constantly looking for ways to hold you up when times are tough, finding pockets of time to share knowledge, intelligence about clients and complementary skills.
Why is that?
Well, for selfish reasons, your freelance network is your new business machine. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. But there’s more to it than that. Even if you are competing for the same kind of job as I am, you are on the same side.
It’s you and me against the world. Or at least that’s how it feels sometimes.
A team of associate freelancers will automatically do what’s best for the group and the project. There is a closer relationship with the ‘common good’, which seems to get lost in corporate world.
Perhaps it’s because our work needs to be exceptional, because we are judged by our last work. Perhaps it’s because there is recognition that we are all forging our way, that it’s not about some distant vision, designed by and for someone else, but about a common goal.
How interesting that it is easier to share a common goal when you work independently, rather than when you work for an organisation.
I’d welcome your thoughts in the comments below.