Things you hear as a freelance writer

We all have grand visions of one day being our own bosses. It’s a fantastic thing and something I’ve been fortunate enough to experience myself. But it can also be hell, especially in the case of anyone who counts being a freelance writer among their list of talents. Here’s why.

‘Can you do it for the exposure?’

Last time I checked, exposure isn’t an accepted form of currency anywhere in the world. And yet this is a line that I’ve had from people asking me to do some writing for them. And they were getting paid by a client for it. I naively, right at the beginning of my life as a moonlighting freelancer, accepted one of these proposals.

‘It’s an emergency. We’ve been let down badly by X and we’re pretty screwed. Can you help?,’ a PR contact once wrote to me. He sweetened the deal by promising me a steady stream of work in the coming months as they’d ‘just taken on an exciting client and were looking for help’. I obliged. Big mistake.

The promised work never materialised. I had the last laugh though. A few months down the line the same PR person had the nerve to give me a call and try the same sales pitch on me. This time I was wiser. Entertaining the phone call – it was obviously a real emergency this time – I listened to the pitch. This time though, the kicker was that it was 2 000 words and was needed by Friday. My response? “No, find someone else”. Much to the disbelief of the person on the other end of the phone.

I mean how could I turn down the prospect of work, right? Sorry, but the bank doesn’t take exposure and possibility when it comes to paying the bond.

‘Our policy is 30/60/90 days’

If your invoices manage to make it to the desk of the people in the finance department then you will get to experience the thrill of one of the number crunchers informing you that the company’s policy is to settle invoices within 30,60 or 90 days.

Ok. But this was not outlined when I accepted the brief that you forgot about and hastily sent through at the last minute. You know, the one where you gave me a few day’s notice to get the copy written and the work done. So it’s only fair, in my humble opinion, that you at least arrange with your finance guys to settle the money owed. Because life requires money to survive it.

‘Can you just edit these things quickly’

This is where the graphic designers will agree. I can only imagine how painful it must be for them hear these words. As a writer, you know when the work you’ve done isn’t up to scratch. There are days when it just doesn’t happen for you. Days when distractions, sometimes even chores, take priority. Shit happens.

But when you finally send through whatever copy you’ve written and the person on the other end turns into Anna Wintour and takes it upon themselves to suggest major edits, that’s when bashing your head on the desk seems like a fantastic idea.

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