I’ve been working full-time as a freelancer for more than three years now, so when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and confined us all to our homes, the experience of having to work from home wasn’t all that different. But there are certainly differences.
While the working-from-home aspect of freelancing hasn’t really changed too much during the lockdown, the inability to get a change of scenery makes a huge difference. Usually, I’d jump on my moped and ride out to a coffee shop at least a couple of times a week to get a few hours away from the house (and load up on good coffee) while working in a different spot. It’s only a small thing, but it makes more of a difference than I’d first realised. Cabin fever is real, especially when you have to be cooped up in a box room/office while the rest of the family are charging around the rest of the house.
The other inescapable issue of the lockdown has been a reduced demand for work. People with regular 9-5 jobs have been furloughed or laid off in droves, and it’s no different for freelancers. Some get furloughed, some get huge (and please, God, temporary) pay reductions, and some are simply cut adrift as easy budget savings. So, as a freelancer, things feel pretty precarious.
It’s been doubly concerning in my field as a sports writer, given the fact that there’s been virtually no live sport taking place as a result of the lockdown. Thankfully, the UFC’s willingness to be the first sports league to pop their heads above the parapet and hold live events means they have started a move to bring sports back onto our screens once again. As someone whose coverage of MMA represents the lion’s share of his freelance work, this has been brilliant news.
But the reintroduction of the sport hasn’t prevented some colleagues of mine from other outlets being laid off. It’s cruel, it’s unfair on those who were dropped – it always is when it’s not performance-related – and it’s badly timed. But it’s the world we operate in. I just hope the gradual global sporting comeback will see everyone back in gainful employment again as quickly as possible.
As things stand, I’ve no idea how long it will take before I can hit the road and safely cover sporting events again, but however long it takes, I’m looking forward to that day, and will appreciate it even more than I did before. Being a sportswriter/reporter is the best gig in the world, and I can’t wait to get back to the full version of the job in the (hopefully near) future.