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Freelance journalists - how's it for you at the moment?

(40 Posts)
MollyCherry Fri 31-Oct-08 11:27:40

Was working for local paper (in a production rather than journalistic role, although am qualified journo) until made redundant end of June.

Have spent the last few months sorting out domestic stuff that's been laying dormant while I've been a working mum, but need to get my finger out now and am hoping to freelance rather than get a 'proper' job (had a couple of things published in 'glossies' before having DD, but was v. ill after having her and couldn't keep up the momentum, so went back to day job).

Really, was just wanting the heads up on how things are in the world of freelance with the credit crunch. Are you finding publications are using more freelancers rather than being tied to all the extras they need to fork out for permanent staff, or flogging their permanent staff rather than paying out for freelance commissions?

Any views much appreciated...

PeachesMac Fri 31-Oct-08 13:50:52

Hi there. Just saw your message. Am also a freelance journo, I write stuff for the women's weeklies. Find it works well around my DD. I haven't found it harder to find work since the credit crunch. I think that publications probably would prefer to use freelancers than have to pay staff an annual salary. The women's weeklies pay quite well too (better than glossies, although the kudos for getting in a glossy is much better!!)

midnightexpress Fri 31-Oct-08 14:01:06

I don't work in journalism, but in reference publishing, and have work lined up well into the New Year, so no problems on that score here - would you be able to consider that sort of work (editorial)?

MollyCherry Sat 01-Nov-08 10:50:14

Thanks peaches - that's worth a try - hadn't really thought abour weeklies tbh.

Have got a few parenting features in various stages, that I started while still working but never had time to finish, so am going to to try and get those sorted. Also thought about trying craft mags as am really into card making so seems an obvious one.

Midnight - I'd try anything in the field really, but not sure I have enough experience. Did post-grad diploma in magazine journalism, and have been working in production on a group of property newspapers for the last 5 years (so more design & layout type stuff). Subbing was one of my strong points so thought proof reading might be worth a try, but not really sure where to start.

MollyCherry Sat 01-Nov-08 10:50:53

'about weeklies' - subbing skills obviously need a brush up grin

KateQPR Tue 04-Nov-08 18:59:51

Molly

let me know how you get on. I'm in a similar position (have journalism background and qualifications) but have been working in tv for the last few years.

Have been having a very difficult pregnancy and been on bed rest for weeks now. Was thinking of using my nightmare pregnancy as a starting point for an article, so will probably start contacting the weeklies / monthlies and see what the response is. Can't do Television work anymore as it's such long hours and strenuous physically, and i'm having to be on my back all day. I need to get my brain working and throw myself into the deep end, me thinks!

Hope it goes well for you. Do keep me posted on your progress.

Kate

bumbling Thu 06-Nov-08 18:16:26

V intersting thread. I did 8 years in trades and then the last ten in TV current affairs and docs. Total nightmare really being a parent and working in TV, not least because I'm not very senior. At the bottom of the pile tv wants your body and soul 24/7, white male middle class etc blah etc. I liked doing the hackery/donkey work but now I'm competing against childless wannabes and I'm in my late 30s end have to get home for the childminder which with most people goes down like a cold cup of vomit ... Don't think there's a future for me in TV anymore. have managed to work for last three and half years, on a four day week, do a lot of development, ie pitching to th ebroadcasters for independent production companies. So I sympathise with all, keep thinking I should go back into print which i only gave up five years ago finally, but not sure how to go about it. K

ate suspect you and I are suffering similar problems along the same scale that is the nightmare of TV. It's just totally incompatible with children unless youre right at the top of the pile, execing or commissioning.

Would love to do women's weeklies and have always wanted to but would love to know Peaches, do they ever use hacks they don't already know? Would a speculative email be laughed at? And are things not getting tougher in current climate?

Midnight Express your work sounds intersting, what does it involve?

Chrysanthamum Sun 09-Nov-08 14:21:54

I was just wondering how you might get started with woman's weeklies. Any ideas?

MollyCherry Sun 09-Nov-08 16:51:52

Don't know specifically about weeklies, but I did one after getting married aimed at wedding glossies.

Sent an outline of feature and a letter giving a bit of background about me, and it worked first time.

Didn't end up building on it though as soon after was pregnant with DD and had a lousy time, so combining that with part-time work was enough.

Now I'm home since being made redundant end of June and really don't want to go back 'out' to work. There's not much media stuff where I live, I don't want to go back to admin, and quite honestly I'd rather be my own boss. Just need a rocket up my bum in the motivation and confidence department.

Am going to try some craft mags in the next month or so, and start nailing down the research on the 2 or 3 more serious features I've got jotted down, so will keep you posted.

It's nice to know there are other people out there in a similar position and having some success, as I don't know anyone else in journalism locally.

lacarte Mon 10-Nov-08 15:45:00

Interesting stuff. I'm wondering about this too - considering taking plunge and going freelance but not at all sure about how much work is going to be about. But it's a bit different as I'd be leaving (or maybe taking voluntary redundancy) so feels v dangerous. My freelance friends seem to be doing OK and it's true that publications rely on freelancers instead of taking on staff.

bumbling Tue 11-Nov-08 18:27:33

The thing is with freelance is that you need features eds that trut you and hand out the features. I could potentialy go back to doing that in the trade sector I worked in before, but really, relaly don't want to. Specialisms and contacts are the key. Lacarte if you've got the contacts it's def worth considering. Could you leave with a freelance contract to produce xx features a month or week to give you some stability. KNow loads of people who've done that and it works really well. Have been researching women's weeklies this week and it looks like unless they know you, or you have stunning Cv you need to go to them with "real life" feature ideas where you have the access etc sorted. Hooray, competing with every nationals/weeklies wannabe on the regionals plus millions of experienced hacks who are now at agencies. Think it'll take thick skin and some cracking stories to get in there. Not sure I can be arsed, still barclaycard bill is looming with all my early xmas buys, which should prove an incentive. I@ll be back in TV in the new year, doing the same old same old ...

LadyGlencoraPalliser Wed 12-Nov-08 14:47:47

DH has been freelance for many years and has noticed no deterioration yet. Our experience is that you need a fairly wide client base to survive a downturn - we reckon on having ten regular outlets. Commissioning editors come and go, blow hot and cold for no apparant reason and freelance budgets get cut on a whim, only to be reinstated months down the line when the staff job cuts kick in. Trusted freelances will always have work though - my experience as a commissioning editor has led me to the conclusion that there is a minority of freelances who can fulfill the three key criteria:
Stick to your deadline
Stick to your brief
Find your own contacts and case studies - if the commissioning editor is going to faff around doing that for you they might as well write the feature themselves.

AdAstra Thu 13-Nov-08 20:44:51

this is really informative and a bit scary to read, as someone currently doing a postgrad NCTJ short news course. I just had a piece published in a national's weekend mag but I'm a bit daunted - how quickly should I go back to that commissioning ed with another idea? Or should I be aiming to have several ideas in the pipeline? Trying to survive on the strength of my next idea sounds quite frightening to me at this point; but I just don't think I'm going to fit into the 'trainee reporter on a local paper' slot, esp as Im a single mum!

bumbling Tue 18-Nov-08 18:30:09

Will try and post again AdAstra but you def need to get as miuch published as possible, Don't bait the person who's already commissioned you too much, but def bait them again with a good idea soon. Work on others, you need a good portfolio of cuttings so volume and quality of outlets would be your key at this stage depending on what you want to do. Interested you're doing the news course, not the features course, do you want to be a newsie bnnie? Spent 8 years in print doing news before moving into TV and news is a totally different beast to features. Worth baring inmind at least.

chipmunkswhereareyou Wed 19-Nov-08 12:52:24

LadyGlen talks sense. If you don't build up a base of regular eds you end up spending a lot of time chasing commissions and pitching. Pitches routinely get ignored even if an ed knows you (unless you are on their very hot list).

You then also end up struggling to manage your workload effectively and can get too much 'dead time' between commissions.

I'd say 10 clients would be needed to work full time but obviously less if you are just dabbling for some extra cash and looking after your dcs the rest of the time.

There is stacks of competition out there - a lot of people chasing the same editors round.

Ideas are everything. With the weeklies if you have a brilliant idea and it's something that you can do better than them or a 'known' freelance, they'll more than likely go for it.

It's not a market I go for as I never have those sorts of ideas but I understand it pays better than the stuff I do (monthlies and also 'broadsheet' parenting stuff).

goldenpeach Fri 27-Mar-09 16:00:09

Found this old thread and I'm wondering how are things now, months later. I find there is very little work and have been diversifying.

LadyGlencoraPalliser Mon 30-Mar-09 00:35:39

DH has had three very bad months in Jan and Feb and March - he has invoiced about 40% of what he usually does. April is looking a bit better - about two-thirds of its usual level.
But all in all it is pretty grim. It's a ccombination of things: people are ocommissioning less, some of the newspaper sections he writes for have lost a lot of space and a couple of his regular commissioning editors have lost their jobs.
I'd be interested to know how anyone else is finding it.

solidgoldbrass Mon 30-Mar-09 00:46:44

Oh arrrrgggh! I am having an awful time of it. THe area I work in is pretty specialised, and though one of my main clients is quite happy to keep on keeping on (I do the column, they pay me, as long as I don't cock up like I did last month sad) but the other publishing house has not only taken over the 3rd client but seems to be taking on about 80% of the whole industry (in this area). And they are shitty to work for as it is almost impossible to get money out of them - they owe me for about 3 months now, complain of cashflow problems yet are still acquiring new titles and commissioning new work from freelances (oh, and dumping the ones who point out the terms of the Late Payment of Commercial Debt (Interest) Act (1988) to them...)

LadyGlencoraPalliser Mon 30-Mar-09 00:55:12

Sounds awful SGB.
I have pretty much dropped out of freelancing to be a fulltime student in the hope of doing a PGCE next year. If DH's work doesn't pick up I'll have to try and reenter the fray, but there is so little work out there - and if DH who is really, really good can't get enough work what hope is there for me?
Can you try and broaden out from your specialism at all or is that not an option?

solidgoldbrass Mon 30-Mar-09 09:49:48

LadyGP: I have tried, but in general I face the same problems as any enthusiastic newbie wanting to write for more mainstream titles: they haven't heard of me (the days of getting the odd article published in the nationals are long, long gone), they have plenty of competent inhouse staff and of course right now there are tons of talented freelances chasing work.
However (fingers crossed) I have a potential New Client who sounds great, am halfway through first commission and about to suggest extra stuff - I am trying not to get too excited just in case the new client turns out to be a shit payer as well.

LadyGlencoraPalliser Mon 30-Mar-09 13:45:40

Yes that's the thing, SGB, we have also found people are much slower to pay - though your clients are particularly rubbish by the sounds of it.

solidgoldbrass Mon 30-Mar-09 22:28:33

In my more bitter ranty moments I do sometimes wonder if the middle-class-ish domination of a lot of the mags (all those bunty cupcake features about downsizing from £500 quid knickers to £55 quid ones/how much more fulfilling it is to pay £6 a loaf for organic hand-knitted bread etc) is because poorer people can't afford to work for fuck all indefinitely, so poorer people only ever appear as the subjects of articles, not the writers of them.
I did read something a few years ago about Oxbridge domination of TV media ie all the entry-level jobs are something like 12-months work experience and no one who hasn't got wealthy parents can possibly take them.

MegBusset Mon 30-Mar-09 22:32:14

DH is a freelance hack and having a terrible time at the moment. Has lost half of his regular income in the last two months and hasn't been paid a single penny since 6 Jan (is owed thousands). It has been confirmed that the publishing companies he works for are deliberately withholding payment. But -- other than stop working -- what can he do? It sucks

solidgoldbrass Tue 31-Mar-09 00:20:41

MegBusset: here. He can charge them a fixed penalty of £40 per unpaid invoice.
Just being nosy, would the publishing house in question have a wide range of smallscale consumer magazines and have a name that begins with T?

MegBusset Tue 31-Mar-09 09:44:52

Thanks SGB, have passed the info on to DH, although of course the trouble is that once you start charging interest etc you risk getting blacklisted as a freelancer...

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