Wanna write? Learn to right

No matter how you cut it, in a world where he is largely unemployable (and he would make an abysmal employee in any case, being wilful, too independently minded, far too opinionated and comprehensively incapable of playing ‘the corporate game’…oh, yeah, and he also possesses a sense of humour), being a ‘freelance’, writes Iain Robertson, can occasionally be a real joy.

Wanna write? Learn to right…

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If receiving editorial commissions that are seldom backed-up, if delivering work that is never paid for (because the client is insufficiently-funded), if awaiting invoice settlements (for bloody months), if becoming a part-time accountant, if having to display remarkable levels of resourcefulness, if being a ‘jack of all trades’ (but master of very few), if having to deal with forty managers rather than just a solitary boss, all constitute the daily routine, then it would be fair to state that freelancedom has its upsides and downsides.

From being forced to deal with some of the most magnificent fraudsters known to man (mostly from the publishing scene), to contending with colleagues (most of whom are deadly rivals), the freelance task is predominantly thankless, friendless and devoid of any sense of balance. Take the purported rates of remuneration as an example. They have hardly altered in 20 years. The freelancer claiming expenses is more frowned upon than a back bench Member of Parliament, with the exception that the latter might have an easier ride in obtaining them.

Most commissioners seldom look beyond the superficial talent of the freelancer being engaged, which means that they frequently miss out on the array of skills prevalent. Most clients fail to comprehend the descriptive expression ‘value for money’ and they will stretch the relationship to breaking point, without batting an eyelid. Dealing with the fallaciousness of public relations, managing the late-delivery of information, or materials, requested many months earlier and devising intriguing new means by which to eke out some form of profitability, where none exists, while working 25-hour days, 8-day weeks, 5-week months and 55-week years, is intrinsic to the freelance remit.

Would I swap it? No. Not really. Would I like to see improvements? Good God yes! Am I more cynical these days? You had better believe it that I am. Would I recommend it to others? Unequivocally, I would. However, to anyone wishing to seek a world of change, having 20:20 vision and a fascination for mildly stimulating masochism would help, without doubt. Am I a better person for the experience? After doing this for almost forty years, I think I am just about learning the ropes…

Top Ten Freelance Tips:

Expect nothing – By all means have high but attainable goals but never expect that you will win from the outset, because this is a competitive market and you are a minnow swimming with sharks.

Never stop learning – While you might think that you know enough, somebody will always out-gun you, so absorb information like the biggest sponge imaginable and file it for future use.

Confirm everything – No matter how you get your first and subsequent freelance jobs, always confirm the agreements on either side and keep them in a safe place, as you will need to refer to them frequently.

Believe in your competence – Oh Jesus! If you do not know now, then I might propose you look elsewhere, because, if your client gets a whiff of uncertainty from you, you will not get another chance.

Believe in your subject matter – Knowledge is the key here and being able to impart your experience empathetically and skilfully has to form the core of your remit.

Avoid clock-watching – Time is your greatest ally and worst enemy, plus you cannot afford not to meet deadlines, especially when they impact on the efficacy of what you are delivering for the client’s end game.

Research is golden – Get your facts right and do not skimp on acquiring information, because you will need to achieve balance and definable resources.

Relax – Remember to be you. Do not try to be your hero, or heroine. By all means be influenced but do not be a slave to somebody else’s efforts. Write as you might broadcast, with character, with confidence and charm.

Avoid plagiarism – In these days of Internet accessibility, if tempted to make quotations, make them obvious and credit accordingly but never copy anyone else’s work.

Know that you are right – From compilation to delivery, remove all errors, ensure that your freelance work is irrefutable and grammatically correct, so that, even if questioned, you will provide the correct responses.

What are your top tips for successful freelance writing?  Why not let everyone else know in the comments section below.

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