Being a ‘freelance’

Hello! I’m a writer, editor and proofreader about to step into the world of full-time freelancing.

But what does ‘freelance’ really mean?

You’re probably thinking of a person working contract to contract, offering their services to whoever needs them, but turn your attention to the Oxford English Dictionary’s first definition of the word and you’ll find something quite strange:

freelance: A (medieval) mercenary.

What’s going on here? Well, just one look at the word will tell you that ‘freelance’ used to be two words: ‘free lance’. The term was used to describe soldiers (in this case, lance-wielding soldiers) who offered their skills in battle to whoever would pay them.

Now, I’m not trying to suggest that modern-day freelancing isn’t fun, but I definitely don’t look as cool sitting at my computer as this guy:

File:Melchior Lorck - A man on horseback holding a lance.jpg
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 1903 the word ‘freelance’ was accepted into the OED and has come to mean anybody who works ‘without permanent commitments … for no fixed employer’.

So if you know any freelancers, why not let them know the truth behind their profession? Tell them that, wherever and however they work, they’re fighting the good fight for the people who need them!

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