Free ― Lanced in lockdown

Source: pngtree.com

There’s an entirely new language developing, thanks to a miniscule little virus wreaking havoc in the world. Corona virus has shown us covidiots, established a coronaverse and caused a corona coaster. Some salaried people are smiling because they can work in their pyjamas and now proclaim to know what work-from-home means – coffee whenever you want, wake up without an alarm and surf the net at random. Why does this make me giggle? I wish I could work like that.

The gig economy

It made me think about my work as a freelancer in the so-called gig economy. I thought gig economy was a newish phrase too but, evidently, it was coined years back already. I’ve not heard it used frequently in my circles, which are a little small admittedly and, no doubt, out of touch. Nevertheless, the gig economy refers to work or services offered on demand, often through online platforms and remotely. Apparently, it’s what I’ve been doing for nearly 10 years.  

Am I a gigger then who giggles? Or a freelancer who frets?

The gig economy is clearly not the same as the economy of salaried employees working remotely from home in a pandemic. Neither is it as laughable as they suggest. It’s a never-ending adventure that requires utmost resilience – much like what anyone needs when braving the Golden Loop or the Anaconda. And then, along came the impact of the corona virus, casually given a name akin to a fairground attraction. It arrived almost to prove the depths of our tenacity and the breadth of our courage as freelancers, with its descriptive name and an opportunity to swing us high and low, up and down, all around until dizziness, tears and screaming with laughter have been exhausted. They call it the corona coaster. It’s what we know as the up-down and down-up nature of freelancing.

The freelance fairground

The down side of freelancing:

  • paid per job
  • no employee benefits such as holiday pay or paid sick leave
  • no traditional/fixed working hours
  • no work no pay
  • carry all your own risk and manage all your own resources
  • toilet breaks, tea and texting are for one’s own account

The upside of freelancing:

  • be your own boss
  • determine your terms of work (this can also mean no work!)
  • manage your own tax and hopefully pay less
  • organize your time independently
  • regulate your workflow to accommodate other commitments
  • be your best promoter
  • control how exploitable you are
  • be accountable to yourself

Corona coaster freelancing

Source: animatedimages.org

The pandemic arrived and we all panicked – necessarily so. Many of us lost work and were forced to rethink our ways forward. However, what we’ve lacked in income we’ve made up for in creativity, energy, persistence and determination. We’ve joined forces and shared resources. I realised that my years as a freelancer prepared me to cope more effectively with the changes imposed by the corona virus than the salaried people I know and even the stay-at-home/unemployed people I know. It’s really quite an irony. In a time of despair, loss and change, it is the freelancer, unprotected by employee benefits or maybe even a partner’s income, who knows how to negotiate stormy weather, access potential gigs and just keep on roller coasting – up and down and all around. To those still on the down, know there is an up. I’m also still waiting. To those who thought they knew how I worked, laughed away my feeble explanations about stress and constant juggle, or ignorantly envied what they thought they understood about it …it’s worth a sort of giggle as we now, unfortunately, ride this corona coaster together. I‘m not sure who gets the last laugh or even if it’s worth a giggle.

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3 Responses

  1. NIiice.. ironically all South Africans employed or not, and the SA economic fortunes are as always at the mercy of the likes of US dollar and markets, driven by a US labour market, of which 60% is constituted by the American gig economy….

  2. Love the wordplay! Some sobering realities in there Alexis. The fact that you’ve been gigging all this time certainly takes away some of the shock factor that the coronaverse has brought upon us. Or does it.

  3. Carona Coaster. I love that so much that I am wondering (as we all do sometimes) Why didn’t I think of it? I was giggling so much that I couldn’t think of an answer. Best of all, it’s a free ride. Oops. Perhaps it’s an expensive ride. Thanks, Alexis

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