A Nation of Shopkeepers

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freelancer n : A person hired to do specific assignments, not employed continuously

The world of the freelancer is a stressful place to be.

In my career as a Communications Specialist I have worked with many different clients, in many different business sectors and have often been approached by marketing, advertising and PR agencies to provide freelance support.

For me, freelancing is a secondary activity, smoothing out the inevitable peaks and troughs in workflow that beleagues the self-employed, and is an activity that I enjoy immensely.

However, the role of freelancer is in danger. Like the corner shop that has gone before them, the freelancer’s true worth to the communications industry will only be realised after they have long gone.

Let’s look at the evidence.

Over the years the supermarket has emerged supreme – cheaper and easier to access – but it lacks the convenience and quality that the corner shop offers. The smaller, more specialist corner shop is always there if needed, when it suits, but taken for granted.  Occasionally it’s used, picked up and put down when the whim takes, however, the commitment of long-term support or the guarantee of on-going loyalty is totally out of the question.

Fast forward a while to a Christmas Eve when an essential ingredient has been forgotten and is needed urgently for the following day.  The faithful corner shop springs to mind for the purchase but it is no more. Forced out of business due to lack of support, it has long closed its doors forcing the essential ingredient needed desperately for Christmas Day even further from reach.

Like the old adage, nothing is truly appreciated until it’s gone.

I do hope that communications agencies wake up in sufficient time to recognise the true worth of the freelancer before they are extinct, for they are the foundations on which the industry is built. mercenary

I must confess, however, that a smile was brought to my face when I learned that the term ‘freelance’ was also defined as “a mediaeval mercenary”.

Perhaps the freelancer needs to re-connect with their mediaeval ancestors and become a bit of a mercenary to survive.



  • How true it is, Nick, that everything is now measured in quantitative rather than qualitative worth.

    I fear that we now live in a land where second rate is the norm and third rate acceptable – few recognise, or value, first rate anymore and it could be many years before that trend is reversed.

    Glad your corner shop is surviving, though – where would we be without the ‘staff of life’?

  • The origin of this quote, attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte is to be found in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith in 1776.
    “To found a great empire for the sole purpose of raising up a people of customers may at first sight appear a project fit only for a nation of shopkeepers. It is, however, a project altogether unfit for a nation of shopkeepers; but extremely fit for a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers.”
    What I find distressing is that, since Thatcher and including the Blair years we have become just that, a nation whose government is influenced by shopkeepers. Everything, it seems, from child development through to natural biodiversity and including the Arts now has to be assessed and given a quantitative, rather than qualitative ‘worth’. As Oscar Wilde said in ‘ The Picture of Dorian Gray’ “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”. People are no longer individuals, simply ‘Human Resources’
    Art in its many forms, nature and the development of an individual child cannot and should not be simply given a material ‘value’ so that it can be costed by a government run by accountants as to whether it has any worth to the great god ‘The Economy’ and yes, a freelance was just that, a free lance and, thankfully, my village shop is thriving which is just as well as I forgot to put my breadmaker on yesterday and was able to buy a loaf at 6.20 this morning!

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