Freelance – the term for a Knight of honour that is not pledged to a Lord. Modern Use: person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to an employer ((Wikipedia))
On the contest field, each Knight would pledge his lance to the Lord who owns his fealty. A Knight with no such pledge was Free Lance. Free as in freedom to choose his contest and the nature of the fight.
A Free Lance Knight lived by winning contests and being paid by the nobility to destroy robber bands and other policing activities or by participating in battles. Since the cost of armour, horse and weapons was the prohibitive for ordinary folk, they were typically minor nobility without prospects or survivors of failure of some noble house.
No doubt it was dangerous, since an injury would mean an end to his career. Thus, only the mightiest or best warriors would voluntarily choose to be a Free Lance. Many would look for new Lords to take their oath once they had proven themselves on the contest field or in battle.
Which, sounds very similar to modern day freelancing doesn’t it ? Including the health issues, once you are sick you are on your own.
<blockquote>I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them ó 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.
Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, 1819. Free, of course, means ìunboundî, not ìwithout costî.</blockquote>