Ruth Slavid talks architecture

Hijacking myself to talk about freelance life

Posted in Uncategorized by ruthslavid on December 28, 2012

I know that one of the biggest crimes in blogging is not to keep up to date and, mea culpa, I have not updated this blog since May. One reason is that I have been blogging elsewhere and paid to do it. And it is hard to put architectural thinking (ranting?) on the web in two places at once.

The other reason is that I have been too busy. Busy enough that I thought about doing a series of posts on freelancing on the fourth anniversary of becoming freelance, which was at the start of October, and have only just got round to it. 

We are now in a quieter time, and I thought that I would write the first in a series of posts about what it is really like to freelance in architecture. So, still ‘talking architecture’, since my freelance work is all on architecture and related topics, or maybe more ‘talking talking architecture’.

There are a lot of things that people tell you about how to freelance, some true some less so. And other things that you discover for yourself. So here are some ‘rules’ and my view on them.

RULE ONE Never say no. The thinking about this is that you never know what will be available next. As one friend said ‘The abyss is only ever two weeks away’. My instinct is never to say no. After all, clients can be divided into two groups – the new, who will never come back if you say no, and the established, who may get fed up with you if you say no.

So mostly I say yes. But I have discovered some occasions on which it is right to say no.

* I said no to the job that would be badly paid, of low prestige and no fun. Why take work like that?

* I said no to work that I felt would compromise me. Like most freelances I am happy to write for PR agencies and commercial clients. Sometimes it is clear that I have done this, and sometimes it is hidden, even from the ultimate client. Both are fine. But some people have asked me if I would write a feature for them and then pitch it to magazines. These magazines are my potential clients and would no longer see me as able to write dispassionately for them (wrong of course) if I were also pitching like a PR.

* Say no if you would do a really bad job. This is likely to be because you really can’t cope with the subject (but you should of course be able to write about anything) or more likely that you really don’t have time to do justice to it. It is relatively easy to say no if someone rings and says could you write this by tomorrow, since most clients will understand that it may just not be possible. More difficult if you have simply taken on too much work, and know that you can’t cope. In that case, be upfront, be honest, try to help the client to find someone else and make it clear that you will be available next time – and make sure that you are.

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