The freelance life is a mixture of freedom and chaos, self-reliance and anxiety. It’s been this way for over ten years now, when I swapped a staff job at the NME in London for an irregular livelihood in the hometown. On a good week, the work-life balance is decent, the work pays well and there’s space for a bit of fun. Then again, there are times when it feels like you’re being shot from a cannon.
Last week, for instance, was a chronic rush. There were spur-of-the moment calls from a bloke over from Helsinki who has a huge multimedia centre and wanted to compare notes with the Belfast scene. A day later and a posse of musicians from Novia Scotia had hauled into town and they also wanted to know the score. Meantime there was a filming session with the Sonic DJ Academy, a documentary edit to view in Bangor, reviews to write for the Saturday Magazine show and a request from Arts Extra to talk music festivals.
The freelancer doesn’t want to say no to a paying gig because the phone may not ring again for a while. The work may go to someone else and may never return. So you keep running on the giant hamster wheel and hope that stability will follow.
On Friday there was also the issue of an outside broadcast from Mullan’s Bar in Downpatrick. A load of blues players had been booked, the BBC engineers were on site and another deadline was looming. So I was on my pushbike, heading into town and worried that I might miss an important slot. Instead of crossing the road outside the house, I took a short detour along the footpath. This was a dumb idea as a bloke came striding out of a Chinese take away, directly into my path. I clipped him, and he spun around.
He wasn’t hurt, but his food was on the road and he was justifiably angry. I tried my best to resolve the mess and his order was replaced. But there was a very plain conclusion to the story, a truth that’s often declared by every granny in the land. If you work yourself into a frenzy, the results aren’t likely to be great. You might want to increase your productivity, but too much haste is really uncool.