Fact attack: Freelancing is no easy gig.
Another freelance journo friend of mine is currently writing an article on this very sentiment, and asked me for a few comments. One of her questions, ‘Do you feel like you were forced into freelancing, or was it a choice?’ left me um-ing and ah-ing. Obviously, I wasn’t ‘forced’ into against my will. Nobody put a gun to my head and said ‘Sit at this desk day in day out, deprived of human interaction and deal with frequent rejection for next to no money.’ Because if they had I’d have told them to sod off. But unable to find another staff job that fulfilled my strict criteria of a) not being soul-destroying and b) that’s all, I had the choice of giving freelancing a bash, or getting a job wholly unrelated to journalism. And having forked out a considerable whack to train in this field, and y’know, actually quite enjoying journalism, I went with the first option.
But Christ alive it’s hard work. At the moment I’m measuring my success against my ability to earn enough to keep a roof over my head, and right now I’m hugely regretting my decision to move to London, although only because it’s so damn expensive (I think about the rent I was paying in Cardiff – and even Bristol – and I weep).
I’m still a relative journalism newb, having properly gotten into the industry only a few years ago, so I don’t have as many contacts and ports of call as a more established journalist might. Granted, I’ve only been freelancing full-time since January and I’m not naive enough to think I can make a huge success of it overnight – I’m quite aware of the slog involved – but this week has been fairly illustrative of the ups and downs I’ve encountered in these few short months.
Feeling a bit glum about my seriously dwindling finances earlier this week, I sent a pitch to an editor on a women’s glossy and was spectacularly lucky in that it was exactly what she was after, and as such she rang me literally ten minutes after I’d hit ‘send’. Marvellous; a successful pitch among a sea of rejections (and stony silence) and my first women’s printed national (and of course, the fact that I’ll be able to pay my blinkin’ phone bill next month). I was chuffed with myself. Progress!
But then today I got an email from a client I’ve been doing some work for on an ongoing basis. Up until this point this gig had been providing the bulk of my monthly earnings, and I relied pretty heavily on it while I cracked on with more ‘traditional’ commissions. Alas, budget constraints mean that’s been canned, and so despite my good fortune earlier in the week, I’m essentially worse off – financially, at least – than I was this time last week. So frustrating.
Having lamented my situation on a couple of journo forums, a few people have gotten in touch to say that the same thing has happened to them and to offer encouragement, which is hugely helpful. Indeed, perhaps this does mean I can pursue other, better, avenues. But then, as quite a few people admitted, it might not. One woman’s comments hit a particularly raw nerve: “I’ve been doing this for 18 years and it doesn’t get any easier.”