Be Ready When Someone Asks, “What Do You Do?” [Freelance Switch] – Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people what it is you really do. Many people hear the word ‘freelancer’ and don’t quite understand what it means, other than you probably work from home in your pajamas.
12 Must-Read Freelancing Predictions for 2012 [Freelance Folder] – Don’t you wish you could see into the future of freelancing? If you could, you’d know what freelancing trends are coming up and what niches to concentrate on. You’d be ahead of the game on social media too.
And, just to finish things off, here are a few of the stories I’ve had published recently.
Hitting deadlines can be challenging when the client doesn’t help.
Some clients expect you to be able hit short deadlines even though they delay sending you important information and are clearly out of their depth when it comes to managing time and organising a project. But time wasting clients cost you money.
Many freelancers complain about the global economy and new media. Guest writer Keeta Nova provides some guidance through the maze.
New media offers new opportunities for journalists and freelance writers. Technology has changed the world, and allows us to think and communicate in different ways. For journalists, this means keeping up with new communication methods and, without compromising your professional integrity, adapting to new and spontaneous media forms, like blogging and social media.
Traditional print media has a history of protocols and expectations that ensures the communication of quality and reliable information, and journalists can easily sink into comfortable patterns that have been proven with time. New media and the Internet can often be overwhelming to established journalists, as it requires them to adapt and forgive some of those well respected practises they took so long to develop.
But new doesn’t mean poor quality. New doesn’t mean transient, and it certainly doesn’t mean a lowering of professional standards or respect. Sure there are countless websites filled with irrelevant dribble, some just to stand attractive to search engines, and some only holding a vague resemblance to the English language. But as a journalist or professional writer, you don’t need to join them. Hold your own standards high, because there are plenty of online outlets who will take you on, and give you opportunities to explore your areas of specialty in new and innovative ways – without sacrificing the quality of your work.
Radio is a time-proven traditional media format that promotes intimate communication, and podcasts take on the same objectives. The only difference is that they are broadcast on the Internet and can target niche audiences. If you have recently worked on a project through traditional media, transfer the same message into audio format. Minimal technical equipment is required, and using basic research skills you can find a podcast publisher that attains both high levels of traffic and a reputation for quality broadcasts.
The debate over a blogger being a journalist won’t die out soon, however what do you call a journalist who blogs? Does a journalist instantly lose their integrity when they publish online and explore the issues that interest them both personally and professionally?
Thousands of high-profile journalists around the world keep their own blogs for a variety of reasons, including self-expression, a break from constrictive corporate rules, or simply to get down and dirty with the raw issues that are of importance to them.
While professional blogging certainly doesn’t pay the high rates of printed media, it often won’t take you as long. You can also keep your own blog and use this as a networking tool to interact with other professionals, and score new and diverse projects online.
Corporate work allows for journalists to transfer their skills into the production of annual reports, internal magazines for clients and colleagues, online web systems and innovative promotional products.
Corporate doesn’t always mean big, ugly and corrupt. You can also check out charities you are passionate about, the publications they produce in print and online, and also work with other professionals in creative areas like graphic design, film and animation.
Small and boutique creative studios are producing impressive and alternative products like wall calendars, coffee table books, and information wall art. These jobs probably weren’t around 40 years ago, but they certainly are now. They just aren’t advertised. You need to open your mind, talk to people outside your industry and work out ways to integrate and expose your skills.
People are still learning how to use social media. There are plenty of public mistakes, and plenty of anti-social profiles that seem to forget the essence of social media, is actually interacting. As a freelancer, you can make your own rules, but just don’t forget the basic factors of communication and publishing. Know your audience, write for them, check your facts and invite a response.
If you are an established journalist you will naturally attract enthusiastic followers who will be eager for some insight and entertainment. Just take some time to work out your own objectives, and what you’d like to achieve through social media. You have the power, because this time you are the publisher, and your publications are instant.
Get creative. Think ahead.
Ultimately, a journalist is responsible for the accurate and timely communication of news, facts and relevant information. Keep these objectives in mind, but also open your mind, to consider the emerging platforms available to your profession.
There’s great advice for freelancers in lots of places. Here are a few of the favourite posts I’ve found in my reading this week.
One of the things I’ve not been very good at in the year since I started this blog has been linking to all of the great advice I’ve picked up through reading from a wide variety of experts. So, every week or so, I’ll be posting links to some the articles I’ve found most valuable.
Freelancers need to plan for disasters. Guest writer Mark Juddery explains why from his own, very personal experience.
One thing that freelance writers discover early in their career is that there is no sick leave or holiday pay in this job. In most cases, this doesn’t bother us, or we’d go back to working nine-to-five in an office. You start to miss all these things more, however, when an accident leaves you out of action.
This happened to me just over a year ago, when my car was demolished by a drunk driver at 120 kph. I have no memory of this, but I awoke later in pain, to see the fire department slicing through the roof of my car. I was carried out in a stretcher and spent a night in hospital. Between the pain and the painkillers, I wasn’t at full capacity for the next couple of months. As I was not responsible for the accident, medical expenses were paid by the NRMA (the only choice in the ACT, but fortunately they were fine – provided I didn’t charge them for natural remedies).
While medical expenses were fairly straightforward, another issue was not so simple: loss of income. As I’ve kept in generally good health during my decade as a freelancer, and have previously had the good fortune to avoid any major injuries, the problem was new to me. I have no regular income, save a lowly-paid weekly Fairfax newspaper column, but usually have enough work to keep me busy, sheltered and fed. Happily, apart from my column, I had no deadlines over the next two weeks.
So how could we calculate “loss of income”? If I were a salaried employee, this would have been simple. I previously had loss-of-income insurance with one of my credit cards, but when I discovered that it didn’t encompass the more variable income of a freelancer, I cancelled the insurance.
The accident happened in November, which was bad timing. As a lifestyle and travel writer, the end-of-year “silly season” is a prime time for assignments. Most years, I get plenty of newspaper assignments around that time of year – often the result of several hours’ pitching. Naturally, this income was all speculation. Instead, we had to rely on my relatively modest earnings of the previous quarter, when I had spent more of my professional hours on book promotion. Dividing my quarterly earnings by 13 was an imperfect method of working out my fortnightly income, but it was the best one available to me.
Another problem was with my income protection insurance. I didn’t have any. I had looked this up in the past, but the policies I had investigated were rather expensive. A colleague once had a policy with FAI/Tower (as part of a package), but she cancelled her income insurance after it was costing her some $700 a month. As most freelancers earn less than staff journalists of similar experience and calibre (who, of course, should have no reason to pay income protection insurance), this caused a considerable dent in her earnings.
Had I known, I could have arranged a policy through Media Super, which is far more reasonable than through an insurance company. Media Super’s income protection cover is generally based on 75% of your income. (If your monthly income is $1,000, the maximum cover available to you is $750 per month.) Of course, working out your income is another matter, and you might need to speak to the good folk at Media Super about that.
I had no knowledge of Media Super’s insurance rates, but as it was a motor accident, I relied on the NRMA to provide me with insurance cover. (Happily, I was not responsible for the accident, or I would have shouldered some of the costs.) This meant that I would eventually receive a payout, including pain, suffering… and loss of income. However, as they planned to pay in one large lump-sum payment, I would need to wait until I had mostly recovered. This, I was soberly informed, could take up to three years.
Happily, I was prepared for this. While it might occasionally seem easier said than done, a freelancer should always ensure that they have money stashed away for just such an occasion. Though I am told that I should expect my payout soon (far less than three years from the event), it has taken over a year and counting.
Fortunately, though not fully healed, I was able to work full-time at my desk (and even travel for work) within a couple of months. Had this not been the case, I might have had slightly more trouble paying for food and rent.
That’s one of the less glamorous parts of freelancing. Unless you have a lot of money saved up, you should work out some form of loss-of-income insurance. You never know when you will need it.
Guest blogger Mark Juddery is a writer, author, screenwriter and journalist. He’s a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australian Journalists Association) and the Australian Society of Travel Writers. In addition, he’s also the author of OverRated: The 50 Most Overhyped Things in History. Check out his blog at Mark Juddery.com