It's only been a few months since starting this blog and since then I've interviewed 8 feral freelancers including writers, designers and artists working across film, theatre, visual art and creative writing. I've gone through the interviews and picked out running themes, favourite quotes and advice for budding ferals.
Here's a recap of the many job titles freelancers have under their belts.
Workshop leader, publisher, poet, playwright, performer, project manager, board member, admin, marketing, accountant, content producer, campaigner, proofreader, painter, collaborator, teacher, visual explorer, printmaker, coordinator, supervisor, maker, assistant, buyer, researcher, technician, tutor and mother.
What on earth would I do with it!? Feed it to my unicorn, presumably. - Rebecca Sharp
What made our freelancers eyes roll out their heads and what they would like waged people to understand about working as a freelancer?
I want waged people to realise that we don’t get sick pay or holiday pay, there is no job security. There is no financial security unless you are lucky enough to have savings. You can feel isolated and not have a network to be part of for support. - Saj Fareed
Money and routine and predictability are not my motivations. - Sarah Rychtarova
People don’t see what I do as a real job and think buying a coffee will be enough of a payment to do their alterations, like how is coffee going to pay my rent? It is important for people who are on a full time wage to understand that most of the time being freelance is hard work and not fun and games. We don’t have the luxury of a monthly wage, we are constantly having to prove ourselves and build our brand to gain future work. We do this because we love bringing art into the world for all to enjoy. - Amy Copland
I get annoyed as people don’t realise the amount of time it takes to do the research/development/designs. I’m a professional designer of 20+ years in the industry and believe my skills and creativity adds value and should be paid for. - Louise Kirby
All the times you are asked to work for free?! REALLY? I’m in MY FORTIES NOW! For exposure or promotion “on a website”?!!! <eyes roll back so far they disappear into my brain> The uncertainty of where the next money comes from – the precarity of it – is hard for waged people to understand I think. - Kirsty Whiten
I roll my eyes right out of my head quite often when prices are discussed. If a business is outsourcing something to a freelancer, there’s a tendency to think they can get it for cheap. - Linda Barcley - Isles
I recently received a pretty prestigious funding award and someone asked me what I was going to spend the money on, as if I’d won the lottery (it wasn’t as much as winning the lottery, by the way!) – or as if it’s magic fairy-money or something. Or maybe we somehow function differently to ‘regular’ people and don’t even need money – what on earth would I do with it!? Feed it to my unicorn, presumably. - Rebecca Sharp
I’d love more people to understand that freelancers aren’t on a clock the way a waged person is. Every email, call or meeting is unpaid time for us – when for a waged person it will be part of their working day. - Rebecca Sharp
I think you'll notice a running theme on why my interviewees like being freelance.
Freedom! - Sarah Rychtarova
That I can choose my hours and work around family life. I don’t like 9 to 5 culture and I have always hated the idea that you live for the weekend when you work standard Monday to Friday. - Saj Fareed
The variety. - Jane Petrie
I love the freedom it gives me. - Amy Copland
I like to be free to choose projects that excite and challenge me - Louise Kirby
The total flexibility of where I put my energy, how I spend my time. - Kirsty Whiten
Not having a boss. How wonderfully freeing it is not to have to navigate the ego, whims and demands of a manager. - Linda Barcley - Isles
Fucking freedom. - Rebecca Sharp
The hardest parts of self employment usually come down to precarious financial/work situations, self discipline and not over working.
The insecurity of the availability of work. Having to always hustle and not knowing where or when your next job will be.- Saj Fareed
You have to know how to be a bookkeeper, promoter, social media whizz, marketing expert, salesperson, budgeter, writer, photographer, funding application buff, and know where to find the sources of funding, opportunities, information. - Sarah Rychtarova
Managing home life when the work is intense. - Jane Petrie
I admit not having a set wage coming in each month is a stress when you have bills to pay. - Amy Copland
Getting the work life balance right, it can be difficult to stop and switch off when there is deadlines. - Louise Kirby
Having total responsibility for where I put my energy, how I spend my time. - Kirsty Whiten
Not having a boss. With no one cracking the whip you do need a lot of self-discipline. - Linda Barcley - Isles
Precarious income, forever trying to hang on to an abundance mindset. - Rebecca Sharp
For some, self employment has been a calling more than a strategic business decision.
I decided at the age of 11 that I wasn’t going to chase a conventional life and this is how if unfolded. - Jane Petrie
I realised very early on that I’m too wilful and thrawn for regular employment. - Rebecca Sharp
It wasn’t a decision it just happened, it was a natural progression from working in-house for the textiles design studio to freelancing for them. - Louise Kirby
I was determined to be a painter. It was a pretty straightforward decision. Really hard in the first few years, but I didn’t ever consider any other options. - Kirsty Whiten
I’ve been self-employed before so I know very well that I prefer to be my own boss. I also love creating my own jobs, that in itself is creative. - Sarah Rychtarova
I’ll be in my writing turret in an eco-cottage deep in the woods. In-built publishing studio, perfumery lab, rehearsal space, recording studio, gallery and theatre. - Rebecca Sharp
Freelancers work from a variety of exciting locations including home, home studios, their garden, assorted workrooms in organisations (wardrobe departments, workshops, studios and event rooms), outdoors on public art and cruise ships. Protecting work time from distractions can be be tricky.
I try to focus on one task at a time, instead of spinning too many plates but I am still a work in progress even after all this time! - Saj Fareed
It’s all in the frame of mind. - Sarah Rychtarova
I think it’s more like how do I protect my home life from my work distractions!
It’s hard to stop thinking about a project once I am in it.- Jane Petrie
Planning the day before is really helpful to know what I’m doing the next day so I can just get on with it. - Louise Kirby
I get loud music or a really good, really long audiobook on the go and that makes me want to get in the chair, and stay there to listen. Some days it’s hard to walk past domestic mess and undone tasks to get there, but when I have real momentum in the studio I just scale the piles of laundry heroically, and get to it. - Kirsty Whiten
Scheduling it into my diary in advance, blocking out time slots where I know I’ll be most productive - Linda Barcley - Isles
I’ve just become really relaxed about what ‘work time’ means, and what I consider to be a distraction. I’m my biggest distraction, so I own that. But there have been so many times I’ve tried to stay chained to my desk when the best thing was to take my dog for a walk; and the ideas and focus come flowing back. - Rebecca Sharp
Do you think you’ll ever retire? Looks like a resounding 'No!' to ending creative living with retirement.
To retire would be like the end of life and I am in no rush for that. - Raj Fareed
Not a chance. It’s not my ambition ever to retire and put my feet up. - Sarah Rychtarova
If I did, it might mean a new direction, not making films perhaps, but also not stopping living a creative life.. that won’t end, surely? - Jane Petrie
I could never retire! I wouldn’t want to. When I say I love what I do I truly mean it. - Amy Copland
Yes and No, it would be nice not to have to bringing in the money to pay the mortgage and bills and continue to be creative. - Louise Kirby
That is hard to imagine. I don’t think so. Creative practice is a part of me. I’m hoping I get one of the awesome late-in-life bursts of brillance like Louise Borgeious or Matisse and go on till the end. - Kirsty Whiten
Oh yes. As soon as possible. Just gotta wait for the inspiration for my best-seller to strike! - Linda Barcley - Isles
Nup. Financially, I don’t see how I ever could. And creatively, I wouldn’t want to – we all know it doesn’t work like that. I could see my work style and focus shifting and changing as I get older, and I welcome that – but there won’t be a retirement from anything. - Rebecca Sharp
Freelance advice and highlights of self employment.
It is hard work as you are always hustling and you do need to be a particular type of person. Freelancing isn’t for everyone. - Saj Fareed
My advice to students who are nervous about freelancing is to remember the wage is feast or famine and the point is to make the amount of money you need over the course of a year. If you do a well paid job, don’t kid yourself that’s your weekly wage, if you think like that, you’re committing yourself to earning a high wage for 52 weeks of the year and that isn’t sustainable...
Hold your nerve. Work towards an average weekly wage that you need and make good, creative use of the gaps when the money isn’t coming in - this is when you can do something to enrich your life. Galleries, drawing, reading, preparing for the future by studying your craft, whatever, just don’t let it feel like unemployment, it’s just part of the shape of the year.
Unemployment isn’t freelancing, it’s trying to find a job - you have a job.
Use your time off to the best effect and employment will sort itself out into a pattern that works.
- Jane Petrie
It takes a special type of person to take the risk and become a freelancer. We do this because we love what we do!. I will forever stand up for everyone out there who is an artist and isn’t afraid to be who they are. - Amy Copland
“Always go a little further into the water than you feel you're capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don't feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you're just about in the right place to do something exciting.” - David Bowie
We’ve got more power than we realise. - Rebecca Sharp
If you want to join this lofty gang of feral freelancers email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you all you need to join in.