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NICKY MARR: Freelancing is great, until the unexpected happens

By Nicky Marr

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Freelancing is great, until the unexpected happens
Freelancing is great, until the unexpected happens

I make no secret of it, I like being in control. It’s one of the reasons I find a freelance career suits me so well – I get to choose the type of work I do, choose the clients I work with (and those who my gut tells me I should avoid) and I can choose my working hours.

Of course, I need to work to my clients’ agendas and timetables; that’s part of the deal. If an event I’m hosting starts at 6pm on a Friday evening, then I’ll be there, fully prepared, looking the part, and in the right frame of mind to perform to the best of my abilities.

But the counter to that is that if I have a deadline of a Wednesday morning and it’s sunny on Tuesday, I can haul my bike out of the shed, head for the hills, and maybe squeeze in a sneaky swim while I’m at it.

I’ll return to my laptop full of endorphins and in a much better frame of mind to work late into the night, if that’s what it takes.

I’ve had my fun, enjoyed the best of the day, and – as often happens – my mind will have worked out exactly how to solve the problem. It’s a win-win.

If you’ve had the flexibility of working from home these past couple of years, you might get where I’m coming from.

Freelance work has been my life for the past 20-plus years, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sure, it has its downsides. While I have clients who I’ve become close to over the years, I’m always conscious that they are still clients, and our working relationship depends on me continuing to deliver. I miss not having an IT or finance department. And – crucially – I don’t have back-up if something goes wrong.

Things hardly ever go wrong, but they did last week, and I have rarely felt more guilty and helpless than when calling to let someone down.

I woke up last Thursday unable to move through back pain. More than just painful, it was embarrassing. Thankfully a friend ably stepped in on my behalf. But even that didn’t alleviate my guilt.

Instead of a weekend spent working on Friday, then cycling, gardening and out with friends on Saturday and Sunday, I was counting the hours till I could take my next drugs. The cocktail of pills took the edge off my pain, but left me feeling drowsy, nauseous and in all honestly, teary, and pathetic.

This isn’t just a pity post, it’s an apology too. My pain – worse than childbirth – will be temporary, I hope.

But if you have ever complained to me of your own back pain and received a less than sincerely sympathetic response, I wholeheartedly apologise. I just didn’t get it. I hear you now.

Just now, I am grateful. For understanding clients, good friends, and strong painkillers.

And with deadlines delayed, I’m back off to bed.

Nicky Marr: coach, writer, and broadcaster. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Nicky Marr: coach, writer, and broadcaster. Picture: Callum Mackay.

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