You’re a wizard. You have to save the world. You’re The One. Without you, there could be no future for the children of Middle Earth. There could be no home for the birds; no home for the bees. It would be total desolation if it wasn’t for you. Unfortunately, the tremendous yet noble task of saving Middle-Earth cannot be completed alone.
So, if you are a mighty Grey Wizard in need of assistance, would you go for the first people that offered to help you? Or would you be like Gandalf… and take your time finding the best people for the job?
Hierographx would like to offer you a scenario: We tried to think of the most cohesive team in pop culture–in this case, the fellowship of The Lord of the Rings–to help you imagine what would have happened, had the that team Gandalf chose to destroy the ultimate Ring of Power been hired as freelancers.
To Gandalf, the Hobbits are the only race of people in Middle Earth that are nice enough to handle the ring without being tempted by its power. Think of them as Canadians. For all intents and purposes, Tolkien describes the Hobbits, essentially, as all things Canadian.
Freelancers can be saintly people. We won’t deny that. But there is an issue when you hire freelancers, since you don’t always get to know who works for you. What if Gandalf never went to Bilbo’s 111th Birthday? He may not have known that the old Hobbit, exposed to the ring’s corrupting power for far too long, was becoming possessed by it. Bilbo might have left the Shire with the ring, losing it to a random Orc (or someone even more untrustworthy) down the line. That would have been the end of the series right there. The evil Sauron, who sought the ring in order to rule the world, would have been unstoppable.
Imagine your ex for example, with the ultimate ring of power. That’s bad news, dudes.
While fine for some things, freelancers can sometimes be something other than they claim. A freelancer can claim years of experience; but they seldom have to prove it. When you need an important job done the right way, you need the right person and the right team. Let's be real, here: halfway to Mount Doom and mid-battle with Orcs is no time to find out your guy padded his resume.
Consider that Gandalf needs not just any Hobbit: he needs a Hobbit like Frodo. Although a descendent of Belladonna Took, who was kin of the legendary Hobbit adventurers, Frodo is at first reluctant to carry the ring. Hobbits generally want to stay home and eat all day, but Gandalf’s knowledge of Frodo’s background gives the wizard confidence in entrusting the ring to him. Gandalf’s team of Dwarves, Elves, and other races of Middle Earth is not only equitable, but proves highly effective. The wizard chose his team as much for their loyalty and intestinal fortitude as he did their great successes when working together.
Of course, we’re not suggesting that anyone hire people based on their bloodlines. Rather, we point out that Gandalf chose his team because he not only knew their strengths and weaknesses, but he understood that their teamwork meant a higher level of productivity and professionalism. Sure, everyone has their quirks, but isn’t it better to know those ahead of time instead of rolling the dice on a freelancer you’ve never met?
Gandalf didn’t choose team members based on who had the most impressive credentials. He chose based on who was most malleable. Sometimes you just need to meet someone to get a feel for what they can do, and Gandalf had a long history of friendships and alliances. Had he hired a freelancer, his choices might have been based on first impressions.. and the work on the job may not have met his professional expectations.
So let’s get that out of the way: If Gandalf hired a freelancer to carry the ring of power, then the journey would have ended in the first chapter/scene. Using freelancers is the equivalent of throwing out the fellowship.
You’ve got connections. After all… you’re a wizard! Your plan has to be done correctly or everything goes south. With a plan this big, resources might be an issue. Sometimes you need investors. Sometimes you need really rich, pretty people to help you accomplish your goals (hair flip).
These partnerships mean a lot of powerful players with a say in your vision for a project. If Gandalf hadn’t gotten the Elves to help, he may have given up and just stayed at Minas Tirith smoking the pipe he brought along with him to “recharge” his wizard “magic.” The Elves could have spent the entire time looking in the mirror, shining their shoes, and making sure the silverware was set just right on the pearly white tablecloth that their servants had set for them. If the Elves didn’t help Gandalf with his plan, then this whole battle for Middle Earth game might have been a win for Sauron.
Like Gandalf, your projects–big or small–may mean that you’ll need investors to help you along the way. To get those shiny investors to fork over their shiny assistance, you’ll need to prove that you have a team of capable adventurers that can act with skill.
Investors (and Elves) are more likely to assist you if you don’t hire random people for the job. If they see that you have a worthy team, they may just let you borrow their huge army.
Possibly the most famous scene from the Lord of the Rings trilogy–whether you have read the books or only seen the movies is the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog. Here Gandalf pulls his best savior moves and dies… but doesn’t really die.
That’s what receiving criticism/feedback is like. It’s kind of like dying but not really dying. So pretend that Gandalf just went with a freelancer instead of recruiting Gimli. If Gandalf hired a random person and didn’t consider the Dwarves’ culture, he may have never traveled through the Mines of Moria. He may have never encountered the Balrog. If he never encountered the Balrog (our bit-of-a stretch metaphor for criticism), then he would not have emerged as Gandalf the White.
Criticism is important in any hero's journey. Freelancers are great at handling criticism, but most freelancing websites don’t allow for the freelancer to give criticism. The success of a project depends on the quality of criticism that team members give one another. Even the great Gandalf himself needed to make some changes to ensure the safety of Middle Earth. We all have good days and bad days. Without advice from others, we would be walking through the mines blindly and never evolve into a better version of ourselves.
What if you hired some random freelancer instead of him? You know him. He is that handsome guy in the room that should be king one day. He seems to get all the jobs done with ease. Nothing seems to bother him. The only thing standing in his way on the daily is the wind blowing through his long dark hair, and the piles of defeated foes he leaves in his wake. To him, this whole project, this whole adventure, is just another day. One day, this man will lead the world like no one ever has before. He’s just that great. He’s the guy. And damn… he is so good looking.
Every successful business has at least one of those guys on the team. Experts say most guys like that tend to have a “J” in both their first and last names, but in Tolkien’s case his name is Aragorn.
Aragorn is most definitely not a freelancer. He is the soon-to-be king that is crowned in the final installment of the Trilogy. Eat that, spoiler alert! He is a king because he deserves to be king. He is the most talented fighter. He is charismatic but calm. He cares about everyone, but doesn’t openly show it. What a guy!
Every good team has a master planner, but every good team also has a master implementer. Aragorn is that team member that can do it all. If Gandalf didn’t recruit Aragorn as part of the adventure, then there would have been plenty of dead innocent people that were never saved. There would be no worthy (and man is he worthy) and loyal king at the end of the series.
In all seriousness, freelancers are not there to stay. A freelancer can easily be the best of the best, but they won’t be a constant member of the team. Freelancers don’t have the opportunity to grow with the team since they are temporary. If you have someone that works for you that can “do it all” like Aragorn, it is likely because they have been a consistently responsible team member. Gandalf didn’t spin a wheel to choose the next king. He recruited someone he trusted, and that trustworthy person proved to be worthy of being King.
If we had to take a guess at how Tolkien felt about the idea of freelance work, then we should look no further than the corrupted Golem.
You see, Golem thought he could handle the power all by himself. Golem tried to take on a task too large. In his craven greed, he let the ring corrupt his heart for so long that he lost his mind. Golem’s instability causes him to betray friends, disregard basic hygiene, and also makes him talk to himself more often.
Golem is just too overwhelmed by the basic necessity of survival. He has no friends to bounce ideas with. By the time he has any companions, he is just too weird to be trusted. After years of corruption, mad ramblings, and some serious disruptions in cognition, the old fella just isn’t what he used to be.
After decades of living only for himself and not for others, what does Golem end up being good for? Falling into the fire. That’s it. Golem is only good to be the main fall guy.
Golem is too far gone to be completely trusted. It isn’t because he started out bad. It’s because he was corrupted by the power that he alone wielded. By the time Golem comes around to offer good feedback or advice, he is stabbing Frodo and Sam in the back just to feel that rush of power (or just to eat dinner) again.
Gandalf could have entrusted the entire responsibility of carrying the ring to Golem, since he knew Golem already had the ring for many years. Gandalf is smarter than that, however. He knows that even with Golem’s knowledge of Mordor, he would have given into the ring’s temptation. Gandalf just can’t afford the risk of entrusting the fate of the entire world to just one person with a little extra job experience.
While a little self indulgent, we hope you see the same connections that we do between the corporate world and Gandalf as a CEO… and by extension, what a CEO who hires freelancers could be up against.
Like Gandalf, you probably realize that you just can’t take the risk of hiring random adventurers when big things are at stake. There are clear distinctions between dedicated, cohesive teams and hodge-podge teams of fly by night, rebels for hire.
As a leader (or wizard), you have to carefully position your team to be diverse, effective, and goal-oriented. Freelancers might know the way, but if Tolkein’s “Lord of The Rings” is any indication… they could just bite your finger off if a better opportunity came up.
You want to form a fellowship of skilled people that you can trust and collaborate with: people who can help you win. At Hierographx, we’d like to think of ourselves as maybe not quite “Elven” pretty… but certainly skilled and dedicated. If you want to win… our teams of researchers, developers, designers and (>AHEM<) content writers can do just that.