Having no boss

It’s silly to think that by quitting your job, you suddenly have no boss. In reality, as Paul Graham said, “the position of boss is now open to be filled by your customers.”

Having a boss, whether its a customer or a traditional manager, means you’re going to have to make compromises. That’s the nature of most professions. When someone is paying you to do some work, you will have to change and tweak things in order to deliver what’s expected of you.

How much tweaking you have to do is up for discussion. That’s the grey area here. That is your amount of creative control and what I’m proposing is that you can make choices to increase your amount of creative control.

Consider the freelance designer making logos for $30 each. In his mind, he could make a couple vector images in 10 minutes, so $30 seems like a steal. In reality, he has to field a vague phone call from the founder of the company who is trying to haggle the price down. The founder has an idea of what she wants, but not much concrete direction.

The designer goes to work after an exhausting and inconclusive call. He has some great ideas, but can’t run with them because he has to work within the given construct. An hour later he has a few mockups that he emails to the founder. She responds the next day dissatisfied with his work. She complains that he didn’t match the vision. She actually wanted that part to be blue and those letters to be bigger.

Another day another drama and the designer goes back to work, making the suggested edits. You get the point. That process ends up taking several hours and by the end of the whole ordeal, his effective hourly rate was less than $10/hour.

Consider another case: The designer who charges $200 for a logo. It turns out, the kind of person who is willing to pay $200 for a logo is much less of a hassle than the person who is looking for the cheapest person on the market. Admittedly, there are fewer people willing to pay the higher price tag, but you don’t need as many in order to be financially stable. Also, the kind of person who charges $200 for a logo is probably pretty good, thus the client leaves them alone and gives the designer more creative control.

As people doing work, it’s universal that we like to have some agency and control over what we create. The interesting part is that there are decisions we can make and situations we can create that will give us more of this autonomy.

You might always have a boss, but you get to choose who you want that boss to be. Choose wisely.