“’Tis a big and beautiful world. Most of us live and die in the same corner where we were born and never get to see any of it. I don’t want to be most of us.”
– Oberyn Martell
Spoilers throughout, obviously
Oberyn Martell, the Prince of Dorne, the Red Viper and freelance mercenary. He lives the dream that any freelancer aspires towards, travelling across the narrow sea, exploring the free cities, enjoying the sights, sounds and sensual delights of exotic, far off lands.
We’ve heard before from Jon and Josh about what they learnt about freelancing from dogs and cats, respectively. I don’t have any pets, but I do watch an awful lot of TV, so I thought I’d share the five things I’ve learnt about freelancing from watching my favourite TV show – HBO’s epic fantasy, Game of Thrones.
1. Get over the Wall
One of the biggest challenges for a new freelancer is securing that crucial first client. For the aspiring self-employed, making that first step can appear as fearsome an obstacle as the 700-foot-high wall of compacted snow and ice that separates the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from the wild lands to the north.
It’s a lonely, treacherous climb and only those with real desire and drive will make it without falling to their deaths. But once that final ice pick sinks into the wall’s glittering façade and you haul yourself, weak from exhaustion, up and over the summit, a whole land of milk, honey and Self Assessments lies stretched out before you.
Just remember – Jon Snow did it, so you can too!
2. Don’t be a Joffrey
If we learnt anything from the short reign of King Joffrey of the House Baratheon, the First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm, it’s that if you act like a prick, expect to be poisoned by your wife’s nan.
Joffrey teaches us to avoid at all costs a sense of entitlement. As a freelancer, you have no safeguards and you’re only as good as the work you produce. Never expect to be awarded a contract and, once a contract is won, never expect that you’ll keep it.
Joffrey was a massive bastard (literally) but the real reason why he failed as King wasn’t his temper or his menace – but the fact he did nothing to deserve his authority.
3. Be more Arya
When I say ‘be more Arya’ I don’t mean be more like a teenage girl. Although she is no doubt a stroppy and precocious little nuisance most of the time, she’s actually one of the most strong-willed characters in the Game of Thrones universe.
From the beginning of series one she would not settle for the boxes people tried to force her into. She wanted to show everyone that she was just as good an archer as Bran, despite being a girl. When the Starks moved to King’s Landing, she was determined to learn how to fight. Although the way she got to do this was by whining at her dad forever, she got what she wanted nonetheless.
A good freelancer should set themselves goals and be zealously determined to stick to them. In the same way that Arya recites the names of all the men she’s going to kill every night, you should always have your goals in mind, or you’ll never get what you want.
4. Don’t be a turncloak
For those Game of Thrones fans who hadn’t already read book three of George Martin’s series, the penultimate episode of season three was not a pleasant television viewing experience. Some say that the collective gasp as the Lannisters sent their regards could be heard in deepest, darkest Antarctica.
In what some may see as a controversial opinion, I would say that Robb Stark bloody well deserved what he got. He broke his solemn word to Walder Frey and, with the ties to House Stark severed, one might argue that the Lannisters were the only choice left for the betterment of Walder’s house and name.
I mean come on, Robb… just because some saggy old northerners name you their King, you don’t have the right to be an oathbreaker without consequences. In the freelance world this is the same. Don’t expect loyalty from any of your clients just because.
The world of business can be just as cutthroat as Westeros and if you break your promises, miss your deadlines, abuse your client relationship or become complacent, a crazy old man who lives in a bridge will murder you, your wife, your mum and sew your dog’s head to your beheaded corpse.
Or, you might just get fired.
5. Fight for your birthright
There are two characters to learn from here: Tyrion and Daenerys. Although there obviously aren’t too many similarities between the ravishingly beautiful Targaryen princess and a limping, misshapen dwarf with only half a nose, one thing they do have in common is their spirit in the face of adversity.
Both outcasts, and with all the odds stacked against them, they still fight for their lives to secure what’s owed to them by birth. You may not be the heir to Casterly Rock or the Iron Throne, but you have rights nonetheless.
A freelancer is not only their own boss, but their own lawyer too. It’s your responsibility to know your rights and how to enforce them. Most importantly, if a client is acting illegally – no matter how much you value the professional relationship – you must be prepared to threaten legal action if necessary.
Images courtesy of HBO