17 August 2011

On the ‘free’ and ‘lance’ of freelancing

My little girl Dayadi ('Affection-giver') who will soon be 8 years old, has figured me out completely; just as any 8 year old of any father, I suppose.  This morning she told me she had figured out why I don’t have any time. 

‘You don’t need a lot of time for your work; you need time for other people’s work,’ she said. 

‘How do you know?’ I asked

‘I have heard you speaking on the phone.  You are always telling people “hari, hari, karala dennam” (ok, I’ll do it).’

Got me thinking.  She is correct.  My problem, perhaps, is that I don’t know where ‘my’ ends and ‘someone else’s’ begins.  This, I figured is the problem of freelance writers.   Perhaps it is the same for others who work on a freelance basis, I don’t know. 

The problem with this freelance business, for me at least, is the ‘free’ part of it.  I am lanced by the free.  In two ways.  First, people think that being freelance means one is free or has enormous amounts of time with very little to do with it.  My little girl is correct.  It’s doesn’t take too long to do what I usually do.   An hour or a little more for each article I write to this paper, and about the same time for what I write elsewhere.  There is some time spent on relevant research, but these are internet days and that doesn’t take too long. 

The up side of freelancing, to me at least, is that it gives me a lot of time to just be.  I like to sleep, for instance.   Read too.  Visit friends and family.  Be with my family.  All this is the value that I save and the compensation for the scandalous return on investment in this business of writing on a freelance basis to newspapers. 

The other down side of freelancing is that so many people cotton on to the freeness of the ‘free’ part and call me asking me to do this and that.  These are the calls to which I respond ‘karala dennam’, that line whose regularity was not missed by my little girl.  There are so many that my freedom to just be, to sleep, read and be with my family is severely curtailed. 

And then there is the other meaning of ‘free’.  Things done in the national interest are done free.  When I am thanked, I tell people to thank C.W.W. Kannangara for giving me the opportunity to benefit from free education.  There are debts I owe that I can never repay.  ‘No charge’ for friends. ‘No charge’ for deserving causes.  As for the rest, un-corporated and ignorant of market rates, I generally brush aside price query with ‘whatever you think is ok’.  Some are actually apologetic and say ‘this is worth much more, but this is what I can afford’. 

Some exploit, and when I cotton on to the exploitation, I duly avoid.  In most cases though ignorance, stupidity and an awareness of the impermanence of things makes it possible for me to say that I am an unemployed graduate or else an under-employed one.  
As my sister once said, ‘it is not that you are sacrificing anything or being generous; this is a conscious choice you’ve made’.  Yes, I can’t make a virtue out of it.  Not complaining.  Just saying.

It is not easy being a freelancer.  I should take up farming or something.  Full time.  I might have more time for my little girl.  She certainly deserves it, for all the love and caring. 


Pami said...

nahh .. farming will take up even more time ... and effort ... and cause unnecessary stress :)

Anonymous said...

written easily without any efforts as words came from depth of the heart. In that sense it is 'free lance' writing.
On of the best piece of writing i have read recently.
Only a freelances writer can write in this way.

Ramzeen said...

Daughter's opinion mentioned (that's what started the self-analysis), sister mentioned. I'd like to hear from the missus too!

Shan said...

Touching piece of writing. Yes deserve more time for the family.