I’ve come to notice two types of freelancers exist in my little world. There are those who really work for a single big company 30 or so hours a week, free to fill in the rest of their time with better paying gigs. And there are those, like me, who may have a few clients they work for a number of times a year, but really are totally dependent on anything they can drudge up. Stability may depend upon the former, but I really believe that you are also getting the shorter end of the stick.
Working 40 hours a week for a local television station was great for me at the time. I’d never directed a live show before, I’d never used a proper shoulder-mount camera, I’d never worked within a large corporate system before, I’d also never really been held up to that level of professionalism alongside a need to finish everything asap. I learned a lot, but after a certain amount of time you get really good at doing the same thing. Clients and shows may change over time, but working in a large machine like that forces you to approach every project with the same rubric; running the motions over and over again, no matter how tedious it may be, watching the better options sit on the sidelines never to be explored.
Now, working with a new crew every time you step out the door forces your hand to rely on a certain structure of work to avoid the chaos of twenty strangers in a room, but the fun comes in the other 90% of the work. You may be learning how to shoot a cooking show in three days in a house, or how to shoot a cooking show in a studio in a week. I’ve been able to watch the best live concert people in the world work. I’ve watched the worst short film producers stand by as their production swirled down the porcelain bowl. I’ve seen some of the best light interviews and shoot interesting things like flower seeds!
To be fair, there are a talented few who have that 30 hour a week job, but also fill another 20-30 hours working with a variety of people. If I knew how to pull this off I’d be there in a second!
I guess it depends on what you see yourself doing in the future, but I thrive in an environment that is constantly changing and requiring my brain to think in different ways, more than I do in a place designed to work you at one single job over and over again the whole year round. Good below-the-line people are probably best trained in repetition, but creative leaders need to be versatile and well rounded.