Rumplestiltskin, a Freelance Story

The original digital creative.

Note: I thought about canceling this, or at least rescheduling it, in light of the whole white supremacist coup enabled by our corrupt police force thing. But I decided… maybe you could use a laugh? Even if it’s a sick laugh.

Also, formatting this kept me from starting three different bonkers Twitter fights… so, thanks. Stay safe out there.


Rumplestiltskin is a Freelance Work Story, starring a Trans Creative.

The story is:  

Rumpelstiltskin makes a deal with this girl, a Miller’s daughter.

This girl was trapped in the King’s basement trying to spin straw into gold.

The fuck was she trying to do that for?
Well, her father lied to the king. He said she could already spin Straw into Gold. 

In some versions, a more modern feminist angle, the girl tells the king this lie herself.

It makes the story much more relatable. Who hasn’t overestimated their abilities in the digital economy? 

One minute you’re talking vaguely about storytelling potential and the next you’re locked in a room for 18 hours trying to figure out how the fuck Facebook ads work. 

In every version, the girl has to spin all the straw in the room into gold or be executed in the morning.

The king is fairly austere in his contract agreement. 

workspace: dungeon

terms of service: until you finish, or die


The girl stares at the piles and piles of straw, no doubt aimlessly googling “how to spin straw into gold while activated” or “how to calm down long enough to spin straw into gold” or even “straw into gold, SEO?” 

No dice.

Eventually, she gives up, cries, and waits to die. 

Enter Rumpelstiltskin, the original third party contractor. 

He promises the girl that he will do the work for her, no questions asked.

At this point you don’t know Rumpelstilitkin’s name yet.

You have to wonder if he uses some sort of fake marketing phrase to introduce himself — he’s a “creative partner”.

Or if he uses a fake name like Academi

At any rate, the girl doesn’t ask many questions. She’s just excited not to die. 

Rumpelstlitkin spins all the straw into gold using techniques he learned from his years on Wall Street, then he leaves. 

The next morning, king is delighted. 

He shows his appreciation by demanding the girl do the same thing for an even bigger room of straw.

Jesus Fucking Christ. 

So the girl gets locked in an even bigger room.

Maybe this time it’s an open office space, and there are tons of other 1099s struggling with ludicrous magical tasks.

Or maybe she’s locked in her apartment this time, “working from home.” 

Either way, Rumpelstiltskin shows up again to repeat the whole operation.

In some versions, he always spins the straw into gold for free, presumably as part of his marketing funnel.

In other versions, she gives him like a ring or something, a monthly Patreon subscription or something. Like she’s paying for an ebook.

Depending on which version of the story you’re reading, this continues over the course of a few days — or a few years.

Finally, in whichever version you’re reading, the girl has one final nervous breakdown: the King has asked her to spin so much straw into gold that she can’t even fathom how it’s possible. 

Even knowing she actually can’t really spin straw into gold and that she’s been outsourcing the contract this whole time. 

In this final test the King has switched to carrot and stick style management practice.

If she can’t spend all of the straw into gold this time, same old same old: death.

If she can spend the straw into gold, guess what? They will get married! She will finally have health insurance — maybe even dental!

But unfortunately for her, Rumpelstiltskin has started charging what he’s worth. 

She has used up all of her free articles for the month, and there’s a paywall. 

She is trying to access premium contact without subscribing.

She can’t access this OnlyFans until she enters a credit card nu— you get the point.

Here is Rumpelstiltskin‘s final invoice: her firstborn child. 

Like all of us urgency addicted crisis hounds, the girl doesn’t take think twice before taking him up on the offer.

My firstborn child? Well, I don’t have a first born child right now. Sounds like a Later Problem problem.

Of course, eventually the Later Problem becomes a Right Now problem. 

Once she is happily married to the king with their first born child, Rumpelstiltskin appears again, demanding she hand over the baby.

The girl is like, Oh my God! I did not see this coming! Even though this was literally the single term of our agreement!

She refuses to hand over the child, and Rumpelstiltskin freaks out.

Rumpelstiltskin’s got his own bills to pay.

For some reason, when the girl refuses to pay, Rumpelstiltskin makes another deal. He tells her that if she can guess his name in three days, (with unlimited guesses!) she can keep the child. 

Does Runpelstilitkins do this because he’s unable to handle conflict? Is it hubris? 

Either way… What a 1099 move.

You can picture his Goblin life coach somewhere being like “you need to set better boundaries with your clients.” 

The girl spends two days guessing aimlessly, probably doing some of the same useless panic shit she did before. 

She googles “names for short magic men”.

She asks random people who know nothing about her career what they think this guy’s name is.

Until finally, she overhears Rumpelstiltkin' singing his name out loud to himself.

She’s not the only self sabotaging freelancer in this story. 

She confronts him with his name, terminating their contract once and for all.

He gets so mad (at her, or himself?) that he stomps both of his feet through the floor. 

He digs himself so deeply into the earth that he is never heard from again.

Been there dude. Been there. 

What’s the moral of this fairytale? 

For the intended rural Germanic audience, presumably it was something Puritan and work ethic-y, like “don’t brag”. 

Or maybe something anti-Outsider — “don’t trust people who aren’t one of the 8 people from your village, especially if they’re flamboyant and short.

But for everyone in the precarious economy, there’s a different moral.


Whether you identify with the lying freelance girl or Rumpelstiltskin himself (or both), that moral is the same.

Never tell anyone your legal name.

JK!!!!!  That one is just for trans people. 

The moral of the story is:

When you only pay attention to the closest deadline or crisis, you sell yourself out — over and over again.

..Also — You should always read the contract.