Tom Hodgkinson ponders whether freelance life has lost its appeal now that we’re all working from home
When my good friend Gavin and I started the Idler magazine many, many moons ago, my idea was to help people grab the reins of their own life, liberate themselves from the mind forg’d manacles of the modern world, and to escape boring energy-drainers like commuting and office politics.
In the decades that followed a few of us chucked in the day jobs and sacrificed financial security for freedom. How I laughed at those friends of mine who toiled in nine to five jobs for their daily bread.
However, I’m not laughing now. As legendary brown rice importer Craig Sams remarked in an email to me a few weeks ago, an invisible virus has done more for the cause of idling in a few weeks than I have managed in two and half decades of toil. Everyone’s getting idle.
Take my friend Mr Steerstrait. When in his early twenties, he rejected the allures of bohemianism for a career in marine insurance. This involved getting up early every day, putting on a suit and spending the day in a glass tower near Liverpool Street. Sure enough, it seemed to bring in the cash, which my life as a freelance hack most assuredly did not. The size of Mr Steerstrait’s houses has increased dramatically over the last 25 years.
However I comforted myself by reflecting that he was a slave and I was a free man. I could sleep all afternoon if I chose, sit in the garden or take a day off and drive to the beach.
So it is mildly irksome for me to see the recent changes in his situation. Thanks to lockdown, he now works from home, and by his own account, sits in a deckchair in the garden all day with a phone, while his daughters bring him cocktails. So he has all the advantages of an idle life with the added bonus of a whopping great deposit paid monthly into his bank account.
It’s so unfair.
On the bright side, I feel extremely lucky to be a freelance operator for the simple reason that no one can sack me and I do what I want all day.