Freelancing for Free: banking your first buck
August 26, 2010 11 Comments
Freelancing has an incredible attraction: one day you can be meeting Michael Bastian for a chat on his latest line for GANT (more to come on that!) and then the next you are doing coffee discussing the pitch for a new project.
The next day you get up a little later than usual and sip a tea over a new article, watching the rat race fly by outside in the relentless rain; later on you’ll pour out a vat of vin and copy edit everything you’ve achieved before send off.
I do all of these things; but it’s not because I can afford to.
It may sound like the life of an established freelancer: one who dictates his workflow; one who is always inundated with offers; one who pitches to the big dogs week-in-week-out. Rather, I may be in work but I only scrape a living.
So much so in fact that last month’s rent is a little overdue.
Don’t get me wrong; I am loving life at the moment. I am immersed in events and articles I am incredibly passionate about and look forward to when I get up every morning. I am a style editor, a features writer and a fashion journalist all in one, but I don’t get paid for any of those roles.
Instead I began life freelancing with a few paid contracts and I still honour them today. In fact, the only reason I can support myself in London – and go to fashion interviews and coffee pitches – is because I still honour some of those contracts.
My first foot in the freelance door was working for Food & Drink Magazine. I was a sous chef for six years between 6th form and university holidays and my love for food and writing had made me apply for a freelance copywriter position at the Bristol-based magazine. I got the gig and was paid in dinner, desert and drinks.
Still no money for the Big Smoke.
I then applied for a mass-media freelance company that outsources work to various websites. It is an American business called Demand Studios. It makes me a decent-ish living and supports my other, more glamorous, unpaid freelance work.
They might just help you get your own freelance foot in the door.
Demand Studios gets a lot of stick from a lot of people due to its sell-your-soul, write-for-a-heartless-website attitude. The company is occasionally frowned upon by established freelancers because there’s no room for individuality; you’re a number in a system that produces very straightforward articles.
I don’t see it that way.
I have always wanted to be a lifestyle/fashion/style journalist and eHow gives me that opportunity. Today I wrote 8 articles and they took me a good hour each: that’s a 9 to 5 job and I get paid for it. The articles I wrote were on European men’s fashion, flattering female underwear (picture research was my lunch-break), dating chemistry and celebrity hairstyling.
It was everything I wanted to write about when I graduated. It gives me my GQ-esque lifestyle and not only can I reach millions of people a month with my work (eHow takes 80,000,000 hits per month) but I have a respectable CV entry and portfolio to boot. I also earn enough money to pay my rent and don’t work so hard that I can’t commit to my other contracts.
Freelance journalism and writing is no easy living. There may be glimpses of glamour and I’ve-made-it moments but you are going to have to do a little bit of bottom-ladder writing. Demand Studios is just one of those rungs; and it’s not even the bottom of the ladder.
To hammer home the point, I was recently interviewed for a news-editor role at a high-profile, men’s daily mag. When I was asked and explained about Demand Studios, my interviewer replied: “Wow, that’s fantastic. You’re reaching a lot of people and it looks great on your CV; not too bad!”
In this failing world of journalism, I’ll take that.
You can sign up for Demand Studios yourself; they’re always advertising for writers on journalism.co.uk and other graduate job boards. Visit their website to see if they are recruiting and bank your first buck!