Ruth Slavid talks architecture

The first half hour is free – freelance post 11

Posted in Uncategorized by ruthslavid on January 23, 2013

I can’t remember where I picked up this mantra, but it is certainly a useful one. I am not suggesting that you sit with a stopwatch on your desk, and tell your potential clients when their time is up. Instead I think of it as a general mantra.

Be happy to give a little of your time away, and it may reap dividends.

Of course, it is really flattering to be consulted, so having a conversation, or looking things up, is a pleasurable way to pass time (and what freelance isn’t addicted to wasting time? I’m doing it now). If you are prepared to be helpful, people will remember that, and come back to you in the future. Not all of them, and probably not the ones you expect.

On the other hand you shouldn’t be taken for a ride. Have a mental limit on what you will do. One client who paid me fairly but not excessively for the work I actually did, started asking so many detailed questions that eventually I suggested going to their office for a day’s consultancy work. I would have been willing to do it, but not surprisingly that was never followed up.

Be generous but don’t be a mug.

There may however be times when you want to work for nothing. I’ll tackle that in another post.

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Work with people you like – freelance post 4

Posted in Uncategorized by ruthslavid on January 1, 2013

It may sound hopelessly idealistic to say that you should work with people you like, but it certainly makes life easier. So this is my rule number 4:

Work with people you like – or try to like the people you work with.

I’m not being ridiculously Pollyana- ish about this. I suppose you have to start by liking people in general. If you are a real misanthrope then perhaps freelance journalism is not for you. There is certainly one editor I work for who always commissions by email. On the odd occasions I call her (because there is something too complex to deal with by email) she sounds vaguely affronted that she has to speak. And it’s not just me – a friend who has worked for her has had the same experience. Perhaps it’s good she isn’t a freelance.

There are a couple of reasons why getting on with the people who commission you is a good idea. You are likely to be happier. And after all, if the main work of freelancing involves sitting staring at a computer, then your social contact is limited to the people who commission you and the people you interview (plus the all important people you meet as you market yourself – I’ll deal with that later). So you will be much happier if you like them.

If they like you, then they are more likely to give you work – faced with commissioning two people with equal skills/ knowledge, who wouldn’t rather deal with somebody they like? And the better you get on, the more constructive conversations you are likely to have. These conversations are really important to you when you are freelance, as you no longer get the feedback that is available in an office, or the general banter about the issues of the day which can kick off ideas or produce the nub of a feature. The general conversations also allow you to discover who has which contacts, which may be useful at a later time.

If this all sounds very calculated, it isn’t meant to be. Getting on with people, and finding mutual interests, is one of the most enriching things in life. And if you can be helpful to them or they to you (swapping information, leads etc.), then the relationship feels even better.

And after all, getting on with people is easier when you work for yourself. You aren’t stuck in an office with people who can grow to annoy you. You probably don’t have to deal with people at the time of day you most dislike (I will never forget the non-morning person who, when greeted with a cheery ‘how are you’ responded ‘Why are you asking?’). However successful you are, you will not get the volume of calls that come into a busy editorial office, and will avoid most of the really irritating ‘have you received my press release’ calls. Putting up with cold calls for mis-sold insurance and spurious accident claims is a small thing, and I am not suggesting that you like those people.

But we can’t like everybody, can we? No, but I suggest that concentrating on just disliking one or two people (and let yourself really hate them if you wish), should free you up to be generally nicer to the rest of the world. 

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Like what you do – freelance post 3

Posted in Uncategorized by ruthslavid on December 30, 2012

Yvonne Courtney took me to task on twitter yesterday for saying that freelancing was all about money. She was quite right, I probably didn’t phrase it very well. What I should have stressed is that there is a straightforward contract in which the freelance exchanges their services for money, and that this simplifies what you do immensely. But it certainly makes life a lot easier. So here is my next rule:

You cannot always do what you like, but make sure that you like what you do.

I don’t quite know how to get to this point, except that if you are thrown into the world of freelance you should certainly make sure that you have chosen an area of work that gives you pleasure. If you liked your work already, carry on. If not, find something different. 

For me, the great pleasure of freelancing has been the opportunity to write so much more. When you are in a pressurised staff job, you have to be sensible and farm out the work that could be done by others – and all too often that is the writing. Now, writing is one of the things that people pay me to do, one of the skills that I can offer (or sell if you prefer). 

When I was first made redundant, I wondered if I should embark on a course of study. But in fact the range of things that I have researched has felt like an ongoing CPD process, an intensive educational process which has meant that, for the moment at least, I do not feel the need to study formally. 

So yes the satisfaction comes from the job itself, from the intellectual stimulation and from the knowledge that you are doing the best you can. And of course from the people. But I will write about that another time.