Freelancers beat the blues
“Blue Monday” has been getting it in the neck on Twitter and Facebook this week, with scientists deriding the idea as a PR stunt. They’re right, of course – there isn’t a jot of proper evidence to suggest that Monday 21 January really is the precise day on which British workers hit rock-bottom in a post-Christmas, mid-winter, credit card debt-inspired depression.
However, like all PR stunts that capture the imagination and get people talking, there is a bit of truth to the Blue Monday idea. There’s no doubt that many people are fed up with their jobs – and that in early January, when there’s not much to look forward to other than months of cold weather, and when the bills for Christmas start to arrive, work can feel even more miserable than at other times of the year.
Full credit, then to Kashflow, an accounting software provider, which came up with its own take on the Blue Monday PR exercise. It installed emergency boxes in locations around London – like the ones you see on trains – containing £50 and a letter from Kashflow founder Duane Jackson encouraging people to start their own businesses (plus a year’s subscription to Kashflow’s services). The boxes were labelled: “Break glass in case of emergency” – the emergency in this case being stuck in a hated job on the supposedly most depressing day of the year.
Kashflow’s campaign was a cute trick with a resonant message. For as many freelancers discovered some time ago, the thing to do if you’re miserable at work could well be to strike out on your own.
We know, of course, that many people have already done exactly that – Kingston University’s research put the number of freelancers in the UK at 1.53 million at the end of 2011 (the figure has probably risen further since then), up from 1.4 million three years previously.
That increase sometimes gets dismissed as a function of the difficult economic environment of the past five years – the suggestion is that people are going freelance after losing their jobs and being unable to find employment elsewhere.
No doubt some people do fall into that category - but many of those who have gone freelance after a redundancy have deliberately chosen to do so in preference to looking for a new job, rather than being forced down this road. Others have simply decided that they’ve had enough of working for other people.
Freelancing is flourishing in the UK and there’s every reason to think it will continue to do so. In this context, Kashflow’s campaign – PR stunt though it certainly is – will strike a chord with many people. Freelancing may not suit everyone, but there is every reason to give it a shot – particularly if you’re so miserable that Blue Monday actually feels like a reality, rather than a creation of the marketers.
If you’re freelancing already, feel free to spread the message by explaining how you spent Blue Monday. One of the big advantages of working for yourself can be the opportunity to decide when to work; freelancers who felt despondent on Monday got to go back to bed – or go sledging.