I’ve been a jobbing freelance theatre maker since 2010. I’ve worked for free, I’ve taken on jobs just to get my foot through the door, I’ve worked 13 hour days, 7 day weeks, 120 mile round trips to run workshops and been in a cyclical headspace of say ‘yes’ to every job in the hope it would lead to that golden opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also had some of the most incredibly uplifting and fulfilling opportunities carved out through this process (and that’s what keeps me going!), but for the purposes of this post I want to take into account the freelancer’s feelings that come with the former points I have listed.


Over the past year I have come into contact with many freelancers who have voiced their struggles to me; felt alone, lost, exhausted, belittled, undermined and neglected. These feelings have resonated with me in different guises. In the ‘I don’t know what to do, should I just give up on this’ moments I have learned some incredibly valuable lessons, ones which I am sharing now. These aren’t aiming to come across revolutionary, in fact they are things that deep down I already knew, but it took someone else telling me for me to be able to embody them. So hopefully for those needing that extra little boost as they read this they will find something in my words. 


  1. Find a Real Mentor

Working as a freelancer in theatre can be quite professionally isolating; you are your own manager, you are the ideas-person, the initiator, the deliverer, the evaluator…you are the team. You have to be able to rely on yourself and there’s only so much excavation of oneself you can do, before you find yourself empty. So find a real mentor – someone who’s work you respect and who respects yours, who wants you to do well and not because it will benefit them either. This is much more than the ‘how are things going?’ text or passing in the street.

About two years ago I started going for a catch up (with cheese scones, soup, tea and cake) with a fellow practitioner. We had moved in similar circles, been aware of each other's work, informally followed each other’s practice and we were aware that we had parallel interests, skillsets, values and aspirations. We decided to be each other’s peer mentors as we were each at career crossroads and running the risk of not moving. We started out by meeting for about an hour and a half every month, taking it in turns not only to swap tips on workshops, but to work through difficult situations we had found ourselves in and to tell each other of plans we were trying to action. This latter point became so important to us in our mentor relationship – we were making ourselves accountable. Those plans that you want to put in place, but are only in your head are easy to excuse if you don’t do them, but when you know that in a months’ time somebody is going to ask for updates, there’s an added impetus to keep going. I cannot tell you how vital having this setup has helped me to develop. Parts of my career have been appraised, challenged and strengthened beyond my own capabilities.

  1. That Thing…Start It!

Within our mentoring, we both discovered that we had been sitting on projects we were too apprehensive just to do. However, by talking it through with someone who understood our practice, gaining suggestions, navigating tricky points and having our ideas validated meant we had no excuse but to try our newness out. I cannot recommend it enough! Being so used to making work for somebody else or that worked within another organisation’s agenda, meant that my own personal artistic work was being side-lined by my own admissions of ‘when I get time’ or similar. Plays I’ve wanted to write, projects I’ve wanted to start…started; small, manageable, but fulfilling. What I had excavated from myself previously was being replenished. Its so easy to chase that contract, realise someone else’s vision and forget the reason you got into this thing called theatre in the first place…the thing that made you tick. Which leads me on to my next point.

  1. Who Will You Be Surrounded By?

I will never forget what a very good friend of mine said to me when I was really unhappy in a particular work scenario. I was desperately trying to get my work seen, recognised, appreciated and valued, making excuses for the way that people were treating me because I was so desperate to forge a longstanding relationship. It was making me really unhappy – I felt very unstable in my own capabilities. My friend stopped me and said that she was making her career choices based, not on where the role was or how it could develop in the future, but on the people it would surround her with. Her priority was making sure that her energy was being spent with people who supported her, believed in her, respected her, trusted her…and with that, all the other things then fell into place. It made me consider all the contracts I had at the time – and the ones I felt most confident in, fulfilled by and proud of, were maybe not the most dynamic or prolific projects, but the ones where those around me aided in, and celebrated, my success as though it were theirs too and vice versa.

  1. Know Your Worth

This has been a hard one for me. Being able to negotiate my owns terms, being able to turn work down or feeling strong enough to walk away from something doesn’t come easy to the people-pleaser inside of me. But recently I’ve had to do that quite a bit…and by worth I don’t mean money, I mean integrity: what does this mean to me as an artist if I go along with biased terms, say yes to work that doesn’t align itself correctly with what I do, or stay with something out of a depleted sense of loyalty or guilt? If you leave with your integrity intact, you know your worth.

  1. Ask For Feedback

End of project and goodbye freelancer. The organisation has got what it wanted from you, but have you from it? Sometimes we never find out how we did….I mean we know how we did in that workshop or rehearsals or from that performance we just put on, but how did that organisation find working with us? Ask for feedback. Don’t be scared to find out what others see as your strengths and weaknesses – it can push you forward into new ventures you haven’t considered or heal/fortify current working relationships. You don’t know if you don’t ask. 

  1. Your Health is More Important

This is the last one because it is the most important. Working as a freelancer takes its toll on you, both physically and mentally and although sometimes we need to feel invincible, the strongest thing we can do is stop, rest, recalibrate, re-evaluate and breathe. I know this first hand, because I’ve tended not to do it and I make myself worse…no use to anyone. You can’t follow your dreams if you’re already run into the ground. Be gentle on yourself.


Hopefully some of what I have shared resonates or can help. Please share it with those who may need that extra boost. And from one to another – you’re doing better than you think you are.