The life of most freelance journalists, writers, and photographers (or any freelancer, really) is dominated by a couple of tricky issues. First and foremost there is the challenge of getting paid when you want to get paid, not when the client thinks it is time to come to the table.
While we humble freelance service providers are expected to meet deadlines at all time in order not to be shown the finger, many clients seem to be far more relaxed when it comes to their part of the deal – namely ‘paying out’. A Portuguese newspaper (Publico) took over ONE YEAR to pay me, despite the hundreds of emails I sent! (Last year, I dedicated a blog post to Freelancers’ pet hates).
I have solved this bloody annoying issue without mercy: I simply refuse to work for greedy bastards who take weeks, months and sometimes years to make their promised money transfer. I have indeed culled some clients who clearly do not give a rat’s testicle about whether I am able to pay my rent, electricity bill and groceries. I fired them. Water under the bridge. Weakest link. Blah.
Then there is the issue of managing the number assignments. I am the type of person who starts stressing when there is nothing to do. As a result, I begin to pitch stories like there is no tomorrow. Yes, to ALL my clients. There is however one problem: my story pitches are usually very solid and as a result, my steady clients seldom reject them. I tend to forget that sometimes.
Two weeks ago, after filing all my stories for Business Live (One of my preferred clients, by the way) I found myself staring at the ceiling. Instead of relaxing and taking a breather – I had just done four 14-hour days of reporting on the 2011 Mining Indaba in Cape Town (which was quite hectic) – I allowed the stress to hit me with the impact of a jack hammer on steroids.
You have to understand that a freelancer’s main worry is whether we have enough cash at the end of the month to pay our rent, bills, glass of wine, petrol, and other necessities. In addition, we have been preprogrammed to harvest while we can. Why? When you run your own show, you never know when another good month or assignment comes around.
So two weeks ago I started pitching stories like a headless chicken – forgetting that 90% of my clients would probably say ‘yes’. And so they did. Over the past ten days I wrote:
* A 12-page UNICEF report on the situation Haiti
* A 1200-word story for Leadership Magazine on the necessity of stimulating entrepreneurship in South Africa to fight unemployment
* 700-word story for Radio Netherlands Worldwide on South Africa’s economy (linked to the 2011 Budget speech)
* A 800-word story on South Africa’s budget and a 900-word story on sustainable tourism in South Africa for Het Financieele Dagblad
* A 1700-word story on drinking and driving / road safety for Mobility Magazine.
Currently I am still working on a 1000-word story on Acid Mine Drainage and water management for Energy Forecast. That story needs to be finished today (another 500 words to go) because tomorrow I have to write a report on the Transformation Audit by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation for Business Live. This particular client also wants a story on the Design Indaba.
Raining? RAINING? Pouring? It is more like a bloody monsoon!
I know I should not be complaining, and actually I am not. I love being a freelance writer and love being busy. I just wish I could manage the flow of work a bit better in order not to be grossly overworked like I am at this very moment. Yawn!