I always thought I was a person. A normal(ish), human person who thought and felt much in the same way as other human people. But sometimes, as a freelancer, you start to wonder if actually that’s true.

A while back I worked at a company I really loved. They’d made such a good impression on me at the interview that I happily accepted a day rate 6% lower than I usually had (it doesn’t sound like much, but adds up after a few months). What I think I liked best about this company was that you couldn’t really tell who was what, until you were told. The Head of Development was just another bloke in the office. No one pulled rank. And freelancers were treated like absolutely everyone else.

We got invited to parties (and these were all-out, no expense spared sorts of parties). We all stayed for Friday beers in our very cool office. We attended all the company meetings and get-togethers. You wouldn’t have known who was a freelancer and who was permie. I really liked it there.

Then, one day, it was announced that the company was going to be merged with another, bigger company. They had the same sorts of values and ethics and while the office wasn’t anywhere near as cool, it shouldn’t have changed too much. But it did.

Some of us started to notice that we were no longer invited to company meetings. In one big sort of ‘kitchen get together’, the acquiring company boss made a point of reading out all the names of the people who’d joined in the acquisition, but a lot of us were left off the list. There were employee satisfaction surveys that only went to some. Fun, weekly updates with a selective distribution list. You’ve probably guessed it: freelancers weren’t included on any of these things.

It was horrible. Suddenly we were second class citizens. There’s a general running joke in most places that freelancers are only there to make lots of dosh and then get out of the office as quickly as they can in the evening. And this new attitude not only implied that, but it encouraged that behaviour. After all, why would anyone want to go the extra mile for a company that doesn’t acknowledge their existence? How could I possibly help to achieve the company goals and aspirations when you refuse to tell me what they are? Why should I trust your leadership, when you won’t trust me enough to invite me to a presentation about current projects?

This was actually one of the main factors of why I left. I no longer felt part of that team, and so I was no longer willing to accept reduced pay. We don’t expect to get bonuses, pensions, or free childcare. But they had no loyalty to me, and so I couldn’t bring myself to feel loyal to them. It’s a shame. I had really loved working for that smaller company, and I hope they manage to bring back some of the atmosphere and inclusivity they’d had before.

In the meantime, though, I think I’ll work for a company that acknowledges I exist.