Instead, it's... actually I dunno what it is. I just saw it trending on Twitter, followed the links, and saw that other people were writing about it. And I rarely miss an opportunity to jump aboard a bandwagon.
Get this: I've been a freelancer now for very nearly twenty years, which is a dreadful thing to realise. Soon I shall be dead.
As some of you who have read my history of Digitiser will recall, the opportunity for me to go freelance arose through a slightly odd combination of factors. These were as follows: me having a week's paternity leave due to the birth of my daughter; Digitiser's Tim "Mr Hairs" Moore publishing a Gossi The Dog column in my absence; said column incensing our bosses after the focus of that piece, Dave "The Other One" Perry, rang up to complain; Tim being fired as a result.
When Tim went, I was left to write Digitiser alone, because there was nobody else capable in the office.
So one day I asked my features editor whether they'd consider letting me go freelance, like Tim had. I fully expected them to say no - that sooner or later they'd replace me on Digitiser, and pull me back to the graphics job for which I was still contracted to do.
To my surprise, they agreed to my proposal. And suddenly I was self-employed.
At first, working from home was kind of weird. I went a little stir crazy. I used to take myself out to the cinema some afternoons just to get out of the house.
I had a good three or so years of freelancing on Digi before I realised that it wasn't the same as being an employee.
One day, as documented elsewhere on this site, Teletext slashed my pay in half without warning. Something they could never have done if I'd had a full time contract, with employee benefits.
Fortunately, by that point I was starting to make a little money from TV script work - enough to make up some of the difference. I also took on some freelance work for magazines, though - at that point - it felt like a massive step backwards.
I got a commission from a games mag to visit Oxford for an interview with Rebellion boss Jason Kingsley. I was so depressed on the way back that I had to pull over by the side of the road. It was a mixture of Kingsley being a bit flash and not shying away from telling me how rich he was - and what he planned to do with 2000AD, which he'd recently bought - plus losing a thing I'd loved so much, and what I thought was a guaranteed income. I had the weight of my family on my shoulders.
With hindsight, I probably was depressed as a result of what happened with Teletext, and a few other things that had kicked me to the curb in my personal life, and it didn't take much to tip me over the edge. It just felt to me like I was scrabbling around in the dirt, looking for pennies, because I'd lost my safety net and security.
In taking that away it had given me a wake-up call as to the realities of freelance life.
The myth of freelancing is that you choose your own hours, you get to be your own boss, you have unlimited holiday time...
I've never experienced any of that. I don't really get to be my own boss, because when you're a freelancer you can't afford to be choosey. Instead of one boss, you have many. Often several at the same time.
And they all think you should give all your time to them, they get to choose your hours for you, and those hours tend to be longer than you'd work in an office. I don't even get to take a sickie unless I'm really, really ill.
A few years back, I was working until 10pm most nights, and on weekends. I've fought hard to restore some sort of work/life balance. Now I try to stick to office hours, unless it's an absolute emergency. It's better for my work, and it's better for my health and sanity.
The biggest issue that I've found with freelancing is the insecurity. The not knowing when the money is going to turn up, the feeling that you'll never work again once you finish a job, never quite knowing how much to put away for tax, because you never know quite how much you're going to work in any given year.
I hate paperwork, I hate dealing with accountants, I hate anything to do with money. It gives me massive anxiety. Working in an office, for a company, all of that is taken care of.
I've got better over the years at staying on top of it all, but it can be an unwelcome pressure when all I want to do is write stuff.
The other stuff I've hit up against includes trying to make people understand that just because I'm at home doesn't mean I'm bumming around. There's often an assumption that I'm available for... whatever. If I have time away from my laptop running domestic errands, doing the school run, helping somebody move house - there's nobody to make up the time lost other than me.
Once, early on, my dad dropped round for a cup of tea. I broke away from a script to answer the door, and he greeted me thusly: "So, not working today then?".
And then there is the envy. I get why people would view freelancing as some sort of golden ticket, but my experience is that it's not really any better than working in an office. Both have plusses and minuses. There have been many days where I'd have happily chucked it all in to sit at a desk five days a week. And yet, on occasion, I've had to face up to jealous digs that I've somehow got a gilded existence.
The only thing which puts me off going back to the 9-to-5 is the prospect of a commute. I never enjoyed it. But now the time I would've added to my day by commuting is spent doing more work, rather than lounging around like a velvet dandy, sipping limoncello from a bugle.
Also, the line between work and home being blurred still makes me stir crazy sometimes. I never quite escape the "office".
So why do I freelance if there are all these negatives?
Well, firstly, I like the job that I do, and as far as I know there aren't any office jobs for scriptwriters.
Secondly, I'm successful enough in my niche that I've managed to make a living out of it for a while now. I continue to have the same anxiety that the work is going to dry up, but... thus far... it hasn't.
I do also have the luxury of being able to do something else that I love alongside my main job: Digitiser2000.
Though my ability to juggle both is as much a product of my ADHD brain as anything else.
When I was employed at Teletext as a graphic designer, I needed Digitiser and Turner the Worm on the side to stop me from getting bored. It's an enormous bonus that many of you are kind enough to contribute some money to it every month. It has meant I've been able to panic a bit less about finding income elsewhere, and meant I can keep producing this site, more or less daily.
So, should you freelance? Consider my advice:
- 1) Don't just quit your job and dive in. Build up contacts and potential people to work for, while you still have a safety net.
- 2) Think very hard about whether you should do it if you have a mortgage, are the breadwinner, if you've got kids. Advice I never took, but somehow managed to get away with.
- 3) Don't think it's going to be easy, or cushy, or a doss.
- 4) Don't assume t's going to make you rich.
- 5) Be nice to work with, however horribly someone might treat you. They hold most of the power, sadly... and if you upset them you never know what they might say about you. I once dropped out of a job - because I didn't agree with the direction it was going in - and I heard on the grapevine that the script editor was telling people I was let go because I was being unprofessional and not turning up to meetings. Which was abjectly untrue. Fortunately, he had a reputation as a twat.
- 6) And be fast, be reliable, and people will keep returning to work with you. Stick to deadlines. Better still: deliver before deadlines. You will be rewarded.
- 7) Think hard before you turn down work. If you need the money: say yes. Even if it's not the sort of job you usually do. Working with lots of different people can pay off long term.
- 8) Be bold. Take the leap. And ignore all of the above. Fortune favours the psychotically irresponsible.