Nine Things I Love About Being A Freelance Journalist

There is a part of me that can’t believe this. A big part. Last week I wrote, ‘Don’t worry, “9 Things I Love About Being A Freelance Journalist” will follow next week.’ And look: here it is. Now that never happens, that’s a first. Whenever I’ve promised to do something on here before I’ve never done it. Until now. Perhaps I’m turning a corner. Well, not turning a corner, but certainly building a corner that I can turn into at a later date. Turn into? Turn down? What do you do when you get to a corner? This is tough: I’m writing this in a bar where there’s the shrillest, cackliest Christmas party ever going on, so you’ll have to bear with me. Anyway:

1. Telling People What I Do For A Living. People immediately perk up when you tell them that you write words for a living. If I ever find myself talking to a woman in a bar, or in a park, or on a premium £1.80 per minute phone sex line – and I often do find myself in precisely those situations – just prior to chronically, hilariously, boring them to death, I’ll casually drop in what I do and they’ll seem bowled over for a bit. I say casually, although it’s anything but. The whole conversation will be carefully engineered by me into revealing what I do. Pathetic, really. And slightly brilliant. In fact, my whole life revolves around trying to tell people what I do. That, and occasionally doing it.

2. Double Pay. A few years ago I wrote 1,200 words for The Guardian for which they paid me £500. On the morning it ran, someone from the syndication department rang me up and said something like:

“The Daily Mail are interested in buying this piece.”

“I’m sorry, but having my work published in the Daily Mail goes completely against my principles. Tell them I’m not interested.” I said.

“They’ve offered £1,700 for it.”

“I don’t have any principles. Tell them I am interested. Tell them I’m interested in everything.”

About two weeks after that a magazine accidentally paid me £1,000 instead of £500 for a feature. Shortly after that someone else double-paid me for a feature and I went through a brief, heady period of being syndicated like fuck. If you’ve never been syndicated like fuck before, you really should try it. Since that time, I haven’t been syndicated like fuck. In fact, I haven’t been syndicated at all.

3. Seeing the Images That They (Whoever They Are) Have Chosen or Created to Illustrate Your Copy. I still get incredibly excited by this, and about seeing my work in print generally. I wish I could write more about this, but I’m wondering why I don’t get syndicated like fuck anymore. Have the gods turned against me? Do I need to start making sacrifices to them again? Gods, please let me know.

4. Getting Commissioned. It can be thrilling, still. It’s most thrilling when you’re commissioned by a publication you’ve always wanted to write for. These thrills can quickly evaporate if you really, really try to make the feature sing and it ends up doing no such thing. Still, this is a positive entry – perhaps only my fourth ever positive entry – so let’s not dwell on this point. (Don’t ever try too hard though – that’s my one piece of advice)

5. Editors, some. Some editors are a treat to deal with. They respond promptly to pitches, are polite, helpful, commanding, and say lovely things about your work. Dealing with editors like this makes your professional life a lot easier and more pleasant. I would name names, but don’t want to be accused of sucking up to anyone in order to get more work (Mike Rampton’s fucking brilliant).

6. The Freedom. It’s four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. After finishing this, I could carry on working until midnight (I won’t), take myself off to the cinema (I won’t), stay in this bar and drink until I’m drunk (I might) or even stand on a roundabout masturbating at passing traffic (I definitely will). See? How many other jobs offer such freedom and opportunity?

A roundabout, earlier.

7. It’s Brave. Not as brave as being a fireman or a dictator, perhaps, but working for yourself takes guts. And sticking to something – and I’m talking about Pitching the World here – that has proven to be the downfall of your health, career, marriage, hairline, etc. etc. is even braver. No, not stupider. Braver.

8. You Can Spend the Whole Day Messing Around and Call It Work. When I was married I would spend all day watching Curb Your Enthusiasm and pretend it was work. “I may have to interview Larry David one day,” I would tell my wife. Or I would just stare out of the window. “I’m thinking of writing something about windows. Or about staring out of windows,” I would yawn. Once, I spent a whole afternoon seeing how many kick-ups I could with a tennis ball. Again, work.

A window (and some other stuff), earlier.

9. The Work. Freelance journalists do important and heroic work. Some of them. Sometimes.


17 responses to “Nine Things I Love About Being A Freelance Journalist

  1. As a freelancer myself I know how tough it can be dealing with idiot editors and the undeserving public; reading about someone else who is experiencing it too makes me feel less lonely.

    Mind you, it beats working for a living, doesn’t it?

  2. Loved this post. Thanks for making me smile broadly, for the first time in ages! Hope your next big syndication success story is just around the corner 🙂

  3. You’re on a roll. Start college dog immediately.

    Sorry to be a harper.

  4. Indeed, Bob. Glad to have helped.
    Thank you Katie Portman. Let’s hope so. Please chant for me.
    Run: Firstly: Ha. Secondly, I (seriously) sketched out College Dog (Bear) this morning. I love a harper – keep it up.

  5. Wow. Katie Portman is gorgeous. And married.
    You too Pitchy. (Well, not married. Sorry.)

  6. Pingback: TGIFreelance: My own list | Kate Robertson

  7. They should put this in the curriculum at journalism courses. The bit on syndication was sublime.

  8. A splendid name and a splendid comment thanks Koukouvaya. It’s made my day, that.
    Tronk: As much as you would like it to, I don’t want this comments section turning into the Katie Portman Appreciation Society (I do really). Also: thanks.

  9. Koukouvulva – I think your name is splendid also. You should be on the curriculcum for those that love angry mullets, Pitchy – Imagine those panicked women – tyres screaching around the roundabout, pastry stuck to thier forehead, bra strap slipping from shoulder, new expensive lip gloss tumbling down under the drivers seat, no idea where the chewing gum has gone – maybe swallowed? handbreak still on, burnin’ rubba, kids screamin’, low and behold there is some writer jerking orf at the friggen roundabout…you and mullet need to get 2getha.

  10. “…masturbating at passing traffic…” Beautiful use of the word “at”. I bow.

  11. Hey Pitchy,
    You still alive?
    CB x

  12. Happy new year everyone

  13. Thanks everyone, especially you Murph. Yes, I’m still alive. Broken, slightly, but alive. X

  14. Thanks Marge – I think me and mullet are friends forever. It’s not angry though. Just very serene.

    You should turn this article into a series on freelancing. Each article makes a reference to masturbating “at” passing traffic. You’ll get all sorts of search engine hits for it. A win win for everyone, including said traffic.

  15. Koukouvaya – there is simply nothing I love more than a serene mullet, when I see one, my driving and my heartbeat become very erratic. Wishing you and all PTW folk a wonderful 2012. Thank goodness Pitchy is still alive x

  16. Happy New Year Pitchy! 2012 is THE year for masturbating at traffic. I already have 2 rond points and a flyover on the M6 notched up. Yay for me!
    Looking forward to more Pitchy-genius and onanism in the coming (!) year.

    Mya x

  17. Thanks everyone. Does anyone else have any masturbating at traffic stories to rival Mya’s cheery exploits? Do tell.

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