“The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”
Artists are strange cats.
The challenge of a freelance designer is finding people who want designs. That means you have to start and keep working until your name gets out there. Lucky for me, I never needed to pay the rent from freelancing, I had a solid job.
The best thing about freelancing is that you find yourself doing some very odd things. Traditional theaters are the most typical, by far, but you might do something they romantically call “site specific” work. This means no theater type things to help you out, like electricity and sometimes bathrooms.
Site Specific work stands out to me as memories because they had the highest arc of problem-solving. Museums, warehouses, alley ways, parking lots, homes, hallways, studios, galleries, tennis courts, gyms and even an elevator.
Once you are known, you begin to get invites. This follows traditions, as you might expect. “Let me buy you a beer” or “lets get a slice of pizza” or “come on over to my place for lunch”. These are all signals that you are wanted. And you put on your careful reserve to not over-commit to something that is, uh, crazy. I wanted to say “yes” to everything!
Over time, you will design for the old friends. People that you had worked with over the years, often many times. One time this choreographer asked me to join him for a beer. He is a good guy and super smart, he taught at Juilliard and choreographed on the Limón company in NYC. We liked working together and he usually had the budget to pay me.
We go out for a beer at the mall, an outside restaurant near a movie theater. I am carefully reserved, wondering what the pitch will be this time. I only drink one beer slowly.
He says, “Who are these people?” gesturing to the couples and families exiting the movie theater. “Why are they? What do they want?” and “Do you know these people? Are they happy?”
Ha! He wanted my good company! He was pumping me for perspective on families, couples, humanity and the human condition. Ever the artist, he was still working even over a beer.
I ordered another beer and some chips.