THE joy of freelancing goes further than the ability to
label more days a week as casual Friday.
For the lucky ones, Skype meetings in a formal shirt can
mask the rest of a sleepy body that remains embalmed in pyjamas. Or so I'm
In a race to get business, being there for clients and
staying ahead of the growing pack of experts that also roam free range, missing
a call is equal to spilling coffee on the boss' lap during a performance
management discussion (on the other side of the corporate fence).
Some, I am told, answer their phones on its first ring to
strive for unparalleled client intimacy.
When my fellow freelancing business associate recently
answered her mobile on the second ring during a meeting, we knew it was based
on a similar ethos she holds: one of sealing a deal before it melts into the
many other happy hands and fast-answering equals nearby.
The call, however, was from her mobile network operator. The
Having had trouble with said operator over a period
recently, she evaluated the rare opportunity to speak to a proactive and
informed call centre operator up against the rest of us back in the meeting.
We winked with a comforting indication to continue with a
call that may smooth operational obstacles we may face in the near future if
she remains unattached from South Africa's patchy cellphone network.
With not much information available, she ended the call,
armed only with the promise that something will be sent her way in due course.
We high-fived, slapped shoulders and ended the meeting
prematurely in the hope that the new phone she's been waiting for was finally
making its way through a complicated mesh of end-to-end chain management.
The inspiration of corporate efficiency enthused us to
complete a handsome set of freelance work that day.
Scarcely able to redirect our slight distraction for the
next week, while the promised package made it from conveyer belt to bakkie to
courier to another call centre operator, a short discourse in disillusionment
After a series of phone calls from the operator's delivery
company, the address of our office was confirmed, reconfirmed, checked, agreed
and finally resent.
They still got lost, yet persisted. To avoid further delays,
an offer was considered to meet in a well-lit public space around lunch hour to
take ownership of the mystery package.
Still not entirely clear on what to expect, our bets moved
on a scale from a surprise exotic island holiday for the entire office, to the
actual phone we all initially thought was being dispatched.
When it finally arrived, you could bottle the sweat drops
that rolled in excitement in unison from our foreheads.
A package the size of two shoeboxes (or, if you can recall
Doc Martin shoes from the 1980s, one of those) passed from eager courier man to
We battled steadfastly through layers of packaging material
that could have offered safe passage to a small nuclear device or a human organ
Our shrieks of joy soon faded into a collective and silent
confusion when all that popped out of the layers of protection was a single
internet dongle, the small device that connects a laptop in support of a
prayed-for 3G network coverage.
Never on her list of items to expect from the big operator,
she remains hopeful that the handset is still making its way through a similar
intricate process of delivery and dispatch. And that this unexpected delivery
was indeed just a dry run for the real deal.
The time spent on phone calls, the trees chopped down on
packaging material, the petrol spent on courier fans; a whole tank of energy
lost on an unwanted delivery.
In freelance republic, clients cannot be billed for hours
lost on a misguided brief such as this. The corporate journey of sustainability
tips tightly on the race of connecting the right product to the right client,
and destroying as small a piece of the planet as possible in the process of
When Adriaan is not finding his way back out of the
packaging material that piles around him, he zips on Twitter as @aiBester while
co-pondering the @FutureCapeTown.
* Write a column on women in business and become a guest columnist
on Fin24 - send your contribution to email@example.com.
*Follow Fin24 on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.