Lessons from a professional adaptor

surreal illustration of a person wiping a glass screen with blanket over their head

Could it be that creative freelancers have all the tools they need to ace this pandemic? Founder of BEAT magazine, Hanna Hanra, discusses

By Hanna Hanra    Illustrations by Andrey Kasay    Wednesday 29 April, 2020   Short read

I don’t know about you, but I feel like lockdown has lasted for 15 years. Maybe it feels like that because that’s how long I have actually worked from home; I’ve only had one job since I left art college and that involved pouring booze for other art students, so I’m not sure it counts. I am quite used to living inside a batter of feeling a little lost and panicked about what the future holds. But what should I be doing to get there? Do I need to glam up my website? Can I make a home studio under the stairs? The answer is yes, of course. All of it. And why not? Time is on our side, after all. 

Freelance: what can I say – the choice to walk this road was made under a ‘I’m enjoying myself too much to get a proper job’ mindset. The idea of being a career nomad appealed to my subconscious. So, I’ve worked from home, I’ve had makeshift studios, I’ve said ‘yes’ joyfully to things and then swiftly followed up with ‘never, ever again’, as all people do who are in charge of where their next paycheque is coming from. I’ve had panics and then forgotten about them, because something unexpected has brought me happiness. During this lockdown, it’s that feeling I’m grappling for. The sudden illumination of ‘this is genius’, the glowing thrill of something as simple as rearranging the living room, or an idea that can’t go unwritten. 

It feels like – as a self-sufficient freelance creative, magazine founder, music specialist, DJ and a million other niche specialities therein that I’ve had to learn – I’ve been in training for what we are now all realising is the master of success: reinvention, or, less dramatically speaking, adaption. If anything, adaption born of this current moment in time will actually improve certain aspects of our lives.
A colourful illustration of a pair of slippers with metal nails through the toes.
Thanks to my familiarity with the laws of working from home (wear shoes, don’t have too many coffees, leave the house at least once a week), the idea of rethinking how I live to suit a pandemic doesn’t seem so shocking to me. It is a thrill, though, that I can now remain prone at my desk (which occasionally doubles as a spare bed) and not feel guilty about taking meetings with two pillows shoved behind my head.  Plus, I’m desperately happy that ‘could be an email’ meetings have been weeded out and become just that: an email. 

Allowing myself to recalibrate to what is important in my life and what brings me joy has meant that I actively now seek it out. This enforced adaption – albeit only to those who never before had to carve out a living as a full-time freelancer – is also, in some ways, improving our personal lives. I miss seeing friends, of course I do; physically feeling their presence and reading the micro emotions on their faces as they tell me the latest goings-on in their lives. But now new friends receive diarised Zoom and wine nights that, unlike before, won’t be cancelled last minute because, well, pandemic. While old friends, who maybe needed less attention IRL, now get long phone calls that start in bed, wait while I dress, come with me while I walk the dog and then linger in the background as I kick the coffee machine into action, drunk with gossip and ideas. 

It is easy to feel pessimistic at this time, uncertain of what’s next. Especially if you’re not used to isolation (self or otherwise). And while that feeling is totally valid, what I’ve learnt as a professional adaptor – with side hustles and DIY projects galore – is to allow myself some liberation. What does come next? What do I want the next part of my life to look like? I’ve allowed myself to question what is important and what isn’t – as we all should at this time.