In da house

As a relatively new and penniless freelancer, I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a few in-house gigs across the capital. Some involve writing news articles, some are focused on copy-writing, some demand unending hours in front of InDesign, making tiny page tweaks over and over again until my eyes bleed. But I’m thankful for them. They instil in me a sense of gratitude that I don’t have to suffer a daily Tube commute, and of course they help to put a rat-infested roof over my head.

But there are rules. There are unspoken rules to working in-house. And here they are:

1) Every day is like the first day of a new job
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been there, or how many shifts you’ve done. The security guard will eye you suspiciously as you smack your head against the revolving door for the third time that week, because you don’t have a special swipey pass. You know who you need to report to, but not where you’re sitting, so if your contact person for the day is absent when you arrive you’ve no choice but to float around with a false air of purpose. This may involve ‘hanging out’ in the kitchen until they arrive. But this is not without its own problems. See #3. Nine times out of ten you’ll have to sidle up to the desk of Simon in IT and ask for help logging on to the system because they won’t give you a password that lasts for more than two days, and despite having this conversation with alarming regularity and consistently coming in with the same face, Simon will always ask you if you’re new.

2) Your name is irrelevant
Now, this is not the case at all companies, granted, but at least one of my gigs involves members of staff repeatedly shouting ‘PAGE SIX IS READY TO GO’ into the ether of the open-plan office until I turn around and realise they’re talking to me. You will be introduced to new starters as ‘the freelancer for the day’. You will hear ‘Pass it to the sub’ at least once a day, from one production editor to another, who are sat on either side of you.

3) The kitchen is a potential minefield
What’s the deal with the mugs? Does everyone have their own mug? Do I need to be assigned a special ‘freelancer’s mug’? I’d use this one but it looks someone might have paid money for it. I’ll just use the one covered in chips and advertising a van hire company instead. But I did see it on Dave’s desk yesterday – maybe it’s his? Should I just ask? Would that seem mental? ‘Hi Dave, I’m the freelancer. I know you’re very busy but I was just wondering if you would claim the regular use of this particular mug?’ Then there’s municipal cake. Someone’s leaving or had a baby or whatever and you don’t know them and they couldn’t care less who you are but damn it there’s a cake in the kitchen.
Minefield.

4) Your face will be ridiculous
Someone gets in the lift with you = slightly strained, lippy smile. Sign in at reception for the fourth time that week = lippy smile. See someone from the office while out on lunch = lippy smile. Encounter group of girls in toilets getting ready for after-work drinks = lippy smile. Practice lippy smile in mirror of elevator and be horrified at your gormless, vacant expression, until someone gets in. Lippy frickin’ smile.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “In da house

  1. Yeahhhh. All of the above, and to add: pretty much only being spoken to when you’ve done something wrong. Ah, love it.

  2. Chris

    Ha! Brilliant. That pretty much sums up every freelance gig I’ve had, especially the ‘lippy smile bit’. I don’t do a lippy smile though, mainly because in those situations the two sides of my face refuse to work together, resulting in some sort of skewed facial contortion that makes me look like a stalker.

    Don’t for get the other rule too: do not try to impart your own knowledge on the staffers. They don’t care, and even if you do mutter something useful it will simply be dismissed. Because really, they all hate you.

  3. lokimars

    Very interesting but count yourself lucky you’re working in-house and I assume paid for your time.

    I am still in the role of ‘free media work labour’ where you’re offered internships for 3 to 6 months, full time hours with the only offer of a paid lunch and a travelcard if you’re lucky.

    Then these potential employers AKA cheap bastards looking for free labour screw their face when you say ‘how am I suppose to afford to work for no money for half a year’, like they expect everyone looking for a media job to be living in a mansion with their super rich parents, instead of living on their own in a mouse-infested council bedsit desperately selling their soul blogging, tweeting and copywriting in said Council bedsit to ‘make it’ and avoid the career of folding t-shirts in 25 different ways (courtesy of GAP).

    Cool blog by the way.

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