Wageslaves and Runners: 4 Freelancing Lessons from Shadowrun

Wageslaves and Runners: 4 Freelancing Lessons from Shadowrun


For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been into the Medieval-type fantasy genre: early exposure to games like WarcraftHeroes of Might & Magic, and Baldur’s Gate all played their role in shaping my appreciation for elves, dwarves, wizards, and demons. It wasn’t until Shadowrun Returns, however, that I got my first taste of these mystical creatures outside of their usual haunts, the backdrop shifting from hills and dales to neon streets and shady bars in Seattle.

There was something enchanting about this interpretation of a 2012 apocalypse. As the Mayans predicted, the world as we knew it ended. Instead of fiery meteors or the reversing of magnetic poles, 12/12/12 marked the rise of a new age of magic, reawakening the metahuman races (elves, dwarves, trolls, orcs, and the like) and countless creatures with it.

Wageslaves and Runners: 4 Freelancing Lessons from Shadowrun

Old governments crumbled in favor of megacorporate statehood; once-forgotten tribal and animist lore gave shamans a renewed connection with their aspects from beyond the veil. Mind you, I’m paraphrasing, but if you’re into fairytales and cyberpunk, Shadowrun‘s universe is a fine marriage between the two. Despite all the magic, corporate espionage, and mercenary finagling, it’s the shadowrunners granting the franchise its namesake I’m most interested in.

Shadowrunners are “talent-for-hire,” a means to an end for getting things done out by any means necessary. Whether you’re a street samurai (see “muscle”), an ultrahot decker (see “hacker”), a spellslinger (see “wizard”), or whatever archetype you care to be (see “idfk”), your craft is all about leverage. It could be a simple milk run to get some low level information from a competing firm. It could be the sabotage of an entire manufacturing facility. To some runners, the details don’t matter. It’s the pay, after all, that speaks the loudest.

Now if you can’t tell where this is all going, what with the headline and recent articles I’ve written, I can’t help but identify with runners. To be free from the shackles of big business, grinding away dozens of hours a week to make someone else rich and then tell me how much my work is worth? For all the stress and uncertainty that comes with it, I’d take freelancing over wageslavery any day of the week.

Granted, stealing trade secrets or taking out corporate paramilitary detachments isn’t my chosen career path, but Shadowrun‘s fundamentals can still be applied in safer, legal ventures. Unfortunately, our world is as mundane as ever. But with a few of these lessons from Shadowrun, perhaps we can do a little alchemy of our own.

I’ve already got the first four reagents right here.

1. Resourcefulness

“One does not defeat the enemy solely by strength of arms. One must turn one’s own weaknesses into strengths. It is an old and valuable lesson, too often forgotten.” – Gaichu

Much like the universe of Shadowrun, our own favors only the most resourceful individuals. For instance, understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses is the first step to leveraging your own resources. Identify what it is you do best (are you a good writer or convincing salesperson); what skills you have (do you know other languages, programming, or experience leading a project or team); and–being as honest as you can–your shortcomings.

Wageslaves and Runners: 4 Freelancing Lessons from Shadowrun

Practice your craft daily and immerse yourself in work you love whenever you can find the opportunities, but remember: spend your time, money, and energy wisely. There’s always those out there competing to be better than themselves the day before… to be better than you.

Fret not, chummer. Hone in on what comes naturally and minimizing any gaps in your knowledge or work ethic. From there you’ve begun building a solid foundation for your freelancing career. Keep in mind, however, that even the most well-rounded pros could do better with the help of friends.

There’s an old gestaltist adage about how “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In the case of the human mind, multiple brains working in tandem can achieve expontentially more than what an individual can. To cover your own weaknesses, set out to form a sort of “mastermind group” as it were, comprised of people who are better at other things than you.

If marketing and branding isn’t your strong suit, find a graphic designer or someone who works in social media. Have no idea how to put together a web page? Find yourself a programmer and web designer to help bring your concept to life. As technology brings people closer together, succeeding in the working world has become less about what you know and more about who you know.

By teaming up with others who are better than you in other skills, you only stand to learn from each other. After all, if you’re the smartest in your own group of friends, it’s often a sign to look for new ones. Same applies in the shad– err.. freelancing world.

Besides (and take it from me, fellow introverts), getting out and meeting new people is good for you. Through talking and networking, there’s so much we can learn about the world and all the others in it. One person has countless dreams, ideas, and stories they could share; just think of the wealth of knowledge in a group of a dozen, ten dozen… even hundreds or thousands of people you could meet and befriend.

Simply put: know thyself, know thy neighbor, and find something (other than a wall) to build together.

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About author

Anthony Magestro

Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.