Lessons Learnt (so far)

It’s been a year and some days since I left my secure journalism job with one of India’s leading newspapers. There have been great months, a few not so good months, and the horrible patches here and there. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by family members and others who don’t understand a career unless it’s in an office and with bosses and perks – thankfully, because they wouldn’t understand my struggles even if I tried to explain things to them. Thus, I can immediately stop ranting because I never start. On the bright side, many people in India are opting for the freelance life. I’ve received some e-mails from freshers and have had the pleasure of meeting many others who’ve decided to take a chance like me. Writers, graphic designers, editors, engineers – freelancing isn’t such a crazy thing anymore. Not crazy, but definitely not easy. Here are some lessons that I picked up over the last 12 months.

1) Do not agree to work without a contract or at least an e-mail stating project terms including payment: I’ve even come across prospective clients who expected me to begin a project without any approval in place. I felt impolite at first, but there is no way that a professional should do work that he or she may not be paid for.

2) Do not agree to writing several samples when you’re applying for a job: One company got me to write about 5 articles as ‘samples’ of my work when I had considerable experience already. My mentors told me that one or two would’ve been normal, but 5 (with demands for more) wasn’t the norm. Fortunately, some companies are professional enough to pay for samples that they use.

3) Always read at least 5 editions of any publication that you want to write for – from cover to cover: In the beginning, I made the mistake of pitching story ideas without getting the feel of a magazine. I was stupid enough to think that reading one or two articles in one issue would be enough.

4) Use Linkedin: I’ve found most of my freelance jobs through this fantastic networking tool. Along with keeping my profile updated and putting up status updates with every published work, I build working relationships with editors. You can even ask your more experienced writer friends to refer you to their Linkedin connections.

Hope this post helps ๐Ÿ™‚

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17 thoughts on “Lessons Learnt (so far)

  1. Sue, a really great post. New folks thinking about breaking into freelance work will benefit from some of the nitty-gritty details that you mention here. I’d say a few more posts like this in the coming months will prove to be a handy resource. I know I would DEFINITELY have a hard time with #1 and the tendency to ‘feel impolite’ but know the value of being firm to avoid bad scenarios which can be a natural by-product stemming from lack of clarity. Well done!

  2. Working on your own isn’t easy but lets you do what you want to do rather than what someone else wants you to do. In the end it’s much more satisfying, you just have to be strong with supportive friends to make the breakthrough. I’m sure you’ll succeed. You’ve learnt valuable lessons already. Good luck.

  3. Having rules to work by is important. We are told to follow our hearts but in order to sell your work you must keep a close eye on the business side of writing. Thanks for sharing your advice, Sue, and thanks for visiting my blog and liking my work. It’s much appreciated.

  4. Informative and so concisely written! I’ve worked part-time and have had to tackle several of the issues you’ve listed. Thanks for visiting my Blog ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll definitely be visiting yours again!

  5. Hi there What you just written here surely have me interested up to the last word, and I must say to you I rarely read the entire post of any blog as I usually get bored and tired of the gibberish that is presented to me on a daily basis and just end up checking out the pictures and the headlines etc. But your tag-line and the first paragraphs were exceptional and it instantly got me hooked. Commending you on a great a job well done in here. Thanks “

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