freelance tips

If you`re new to freelancing you`ll need all the information you can get. And even if you`ve been writing a while it can`t help to keep informed. We`ve compiled some of the best opinions in the business on how to get commissioned, and keep getting published.

Andrew Williams, Editor, William Reed Business Publications:

"What the commissioning editor is looking for is someone who can make his/her life easier. Do some research: look up the features list and suggest ready-made feature ideas, naming the companies/people you`d speak to and offering a novel angle. Do this months in advance of the publication date to stand any chance of muscling in on a magazine`s established freelancers list. Most commissioning editors will have their roster of favourites - freelancers that they`ve used many times before and who they can rely on. But most would be open to trying out new writers.

It sounds obvious, but when you get that first commission, make sure you do a good job with it. If I can see that someone has really thought about and worked hard on a subject, put a bit of slog in and got good quotes from the right people, as well being inventive, original and engaging in their style, then they can quickly establish themselves as a regular. While there are a lot of writers out there, a hefty bulk of them are bad writers, or are at best mediocre! A good writer is something you hang on to for dear life."

Andrew Shanahan, Freelance Editor and Writer for The Guardian and various titles, including men`s wedding magazine

"People will tell you a lot about how freelancing is a very difficult job and that you`ll struggle to earn a living, but it certainly needn`t be if you always follow this one simple piece of advice: have better ideas than everybody else.

That`s it. Simply originate and execute ideas that are better than the ones that everybody else has. If you`re in an editorial meeting and pitching stories - have better ideas than everyone else has. If you`re writing an article and it seems like the most mundane subject on earth - have better ideas about how it could be covered than everyone else has.

If you`ve not worked for six weeks and you`re wondering where you can find an assignment - have better ideas about where to generate work than everyone else has."

Stephen Hoare, Freelance Journalist, The Guardian:

"You are running a business - not a stall in a charity bazaar! Pay absolute attention to cashflow. This means invoice promptly and follow up with a reminder after 30 days. Then a phone reminder to the person in accounts. And then if that fails refer the company to a debt collection agency. People love a successful freelance - not a penniless loser!

Make sure you price realistically to make a profit. Decide your preferred day rate and rate per 1000 words. (I was once told to set myself a target annual income and work back from that! You want to earn 50,000 pounds a year then you need to make 1000 pounds every week or 200-250 pounds every day. Also you won`t be working every single day so price in your down time - ie for travel, holidays, illness etc.) Do not be tempted to price too low as clients may think that the quality of your writing is cheap as well! Best advice is to find out what editors of national newspapers or trade magazines are typically paying. Also who is prepared to pay top dollar? How do you find out? By trial and error and by asking other freelances or by joining the NUJ."

Fiona Gibson, Freelance writer and author,

"One thing I`ve found really helpful is having a writing buddy - a good friend (fellow freelancer) and I email each other every Monday in a sort of life coachy way, sharing contacts, helping each other with ideas and generally motivating and boosting each other. We also set out what we plan to achieve in the coming week, and sharing it in this way makes us feel accountable. And we commiserate when things go wrong and share successes."

Vicky Baker, Travel Editor for Time Out Publications and various other titles,

"Don`t exclusively chase the big names. Just keep your eyes open for smaller publications. The ones that come through your door; ones you pick up in a hotel or on a train; local glossies; specialised, industry publications. Websites too. They may not all have budgets for freelance pieces, but some might and, being less inundated, they may be more receptive - especially if you have some sort of specialism or area of interest that they may not be able to cover in house (Note that this sort of thing is worth developing). In every case, make sure you tailor-make your pitch and show that you`ve read it."

Jeroen Bergman, EasyJet Magazine,

"Personally, I get swamped with emails and this is not always the best way to make first contact, because you`re bunching yourself in with all the PR guff, random queries and spam. I prefer a - short - introductory phone call, followed up by an email with strong feature ideas. Think about timing: If you make contact on a press day when people are under pressure, at best you`re going to get overlooked, at worst you`re going to piss someone off. Look up the publication date and get in touch the day before, when most magazines will have gone to press."

Barbara Rowlands, Journalism Diploma Course Director, City College:

"If you`ve got a few cuttings or web links either from student publications of from work experience send just three You`re giving the impression to the editor that `there`s more where that came from`. And if you have no cuttings, pitch an idea that only you can write.

And if you have no clips at all, pitching an idea which only you can write can get you a commission."

Freelance Tip
"Don`t just rely on the usual tried and tested contacts. Use your own sources, and dig out some really interesting comment. "