In business terms, to freelance is to work on one’s own for a number of companies, as opposed to your typical, run-of-the-mill desk job in a single spot for a single company. Until my internship at ATOMIC20, I wasn’t entirely sure what “freelancing” entailed — but I knew the word had this sort of wild nature to it, like a free spirit, or a roaming, constantly-moving, multi-faceted being with a boundless work ethic.
Whatever job contains these words in its description, I want it. In fact, we can find the origin of the word “freelance” in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe in 1819, with a different kind of work than that of the hip freelancers typing away in ATOMIC20’s creative workspace:
“I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them — I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.”
A “man of action” (or a woman of action) is, in this case, a medieval mercenary soldier offering services to a lord or king. Still, a man or a woman of action is a freelancer. What must it be like to be one of action? To be moving, free, wild, boundless. What a brave and admirable task, indeed.
Delving even deeper into the origin of “freelance,” we find its first format to be two words instead of one: to offer “the service of my Free Lances,” as written in Ivanhoe. What is a lance, then?
Lance/lans/noun: lance; plural: lances
1. A long weapon having a wooden shaft and a pointed steel head, formerly used by a horseman in charging.
This is when we have a better understanding of Sir Walter Scott’s idea of a freelancer: One of action, carrying a lance, offering to defend and protect lords and kings. Now, I imagine knights in full armor and helmets strolling and clanging around ATOMIC20 and the streets of Boulder — and perhaps our clients in purple robes — as workers and defenders and supporters of a great company, with a Mac laptop and Adobe applications instead of a lance.
And yet, the image isn’t so far-fetched. The opportunities are endless. How noble and brag-worthy must it be to freely roam the land of agencies and companies like ATOMIC20, to aim yourself and your abilities toward infinity?