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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

 

Any Suggestions On How To Freelance?

Ever since I departed full-time newsroom life four years ago, I get this question with increasing frequency from my friends and former colleagues.

"Any suggestions on how to freelance?" they ask.

I'm always happy to share what I've learned, but they always seem to want me to skip past the sermon about paying extra special attention to those contracts, and jump right to the part where they get paid. What so many of my full-time brethren seem to misunderstand is that they might not get paid if they don't pay attention to their contracts.

Even with a contract, there will be times you have to fight for your money.

Witness this rare public disclosure by Edward Champion at Reluctant Habits.

In the piece, Champion writes of what he went through after learning recently of the fateful folding of a publication that still owed him money for a story, 02138. Of course, just like any of us, upon hearing the news, Champion immediately set about getting paid. He looked at his contract, which stipulated that he was to be compensated upon acceptance, but acceptance had already occurred and still no dough. He phoned the publication to inquire about his pay check and was told, of course, that this wasn't a matter that could be handled by the people he knew. No newsroom types could solve this. No sir. This was a matter for the business side, the COO, and that's when things appear to have gotten nasty. He says he was told the check was in the mail, and to not to come down to the office in search of his check. The company attorney even got involved.

Guess what happened when Champion went ahead and made that visit to the publication's office anyway:
"I left this morning, entered the building, handed my ID over to the security guard, and told him I was going up to the Manhattan Media office. My name had been placed on the building’s “Watch List #1.” I told this friendly guard, who laughed over the cautionary subwindow on his screen, that I had not been placed on any watch list before, but that he could watch me as long as he liked, particularly if he remained suspicious of my intentions. Perhaps in watching, he might see something that I hadn’t observed in the mirror. Or perhaps, I also argued, I could watch him and put him on my own private “Watch List #2.” Perhaps we could generate thousands of Watch Lists and share the results of all this watching with interested parties. I stood around for a while, and he then let me go up."

It's a good read, and an important one for any full-time journalists who remain of the opinion that freelancing is for lightweights. Brothers and sisters, you have no idea.

— TJ Sullivan
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