This is the question I’m asking myself at the moment. I’m taking stock of the media landscape and the world of freelance writing and editing after 10 years as a staff journalist.
Freelance writing is not unfamiliar to me. I’ve spent almost 20 years working in the media and during that time I’ve worked freelance on and off. I worked full-time in magazine publishing in Sydney for nearly 10 years and also worked freelance on the side to get some bylines in newspapers and magazines.
After leaving one of the big publishing houses in Sydney, Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) now owned by the German publishing house Bauer, I worked for the Australian Consumers Association. It publishes the well-respected CHOICE magazine and www.choice.com.au website. I worked part-time and freelanced on and off during my stint.
2018 and the move to freelance writing
Anyway fast forward to February 2018 and it was time for a big move, and a big change career-wise, so it was back to freelance writing. I made the move from Sydney to the UK, near London, to stay for a couple of years with my family. I left my comfortable and familiar job as a technology journalist at CHOICE for the world of full-time freelancing.
Shifting to the other side of the world has its challenges. Admin anyone? I think in the space of three months I filled out more forms and applied for my bits of ID than at any other time in my life. I also had to get back into freelance writing and it’s got its challenges. And I decided to do it in a new country where I’m virtually unknown, just to make the move that little bit more, shall we say, interesting.
I’ve watched the word rates go down, and down, over the years. In freelance writers groups, I’ve seen the steady stream of complaints about poor paying jobs, magazine and website closures, requests to write for free and non-paying clients. And I’ve experienced my fair share of this, but with a part-time job I’ve been shielded from the full brunt of freelancing. It’s like the best of both worlds, having a part-time job. You get to see on a weekly basis the pros and cons of both staff in-office jobs and being a work-from-home solopreneur.
Where to start going back to freelance?
So I’m currently redesign my website and doing what most hacks do when they go back to freelance writing. Drink coffee, panic, waste time on Instagram and question every decision they’ve ever made, and drink coffee again. Okay there’s a bit of this but also quite a bit of pitching, researching outlets, brainstorming story ideas, doing some training in social media marketing and SEO to plump up the freelance services.
From freelance to solopreneur
I think one of the biggest changes I’m making is in my mindset and how I see myself now I’m back to freelance writing. It’s important not to feel disempowered by the freelance gig. But honestly waiting to hear back from editors, rounds of no thanks, waiting for stories to be published and paid, can eat away at your enjoyment and leave you feeling at the mercy of external forces. Try to avoid being dependant on a single source of, which if it goes, can take your finances with it.
My advice to myself and anyone else going the path of freelance writing is this:
- Avoid the content mills.
- Say ‘no thanks’ to the request to write for ‘exposure’.
- Think about multiple incomes streams.
- Market your skills as professional services.
- Do some training to add to your skill offering.
To survive, and thrive, freelancer writers and other creatives need to see themselves as solopreneurs who run professional businesses with a range of valuable skills that should be paid professional rates.