The Bin Collecting Theory of Getting Freelance Work

Posted on September 4, 2011

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It’s been a while since I last updated the blog – mainly because I’ve been swamped with work for other places. None of it has been prestige work; you won’t find my byline anywhere, but it has kept the writing fingers and neurons ticking over and kept a steady stream of income coming into the bank account.

Sometimes, as a freelancer, you have to do this sort of work. It’s not necessarily grunt work – as I explained in an earlier post, one of the new bits of work that I have is writing blog posts for a “humor” (sic – it’s American) website under a psuedonym. You churn out good but fairly soulless copy, and it’s perversely fun.

You can’t be picky about what you do as a freelancer – not unless you’re at the very top of the profession (which, if you’re reading this, you almost certainly aren’t). Sometimes you have to go after the menial blogging/press release jobs advertised on Craigslist which pay you significantly less than your normal hourly rate. It’s money coming in. It’s not good money, but it’s money coming in nonetheless.

Those smaller jobs also can end up in unexpected places. As an example, I wrote a couple of articles for free about my travels a few years ago for an online magazine run by a personable editor. That guy then joined a massive PR recruitment agency in London, and decided to take a chance on me writing copy for them. It worked (until he left), but I’d built up other relationships in the company so when they have work I have the chance to try for it.

By taking the less glamorous jobs, you sometimes open doors to better ones. That’s why I ghostwrote a book with a tiny advance on the basis that I’d recoup my money by taking part of the sales revenue. The book is tanking – thanks to a lack of promotion, above anything else (I hope). It’s disappointing (50,000+ words work basically down the drain is a disheartening experience for anyone) but I can now say that I can ghostwrite as well as write under my own name, and if anyone in that industry wants a ghostwriter I can also say I have hands-on experience.

Don’t be too precious. You can’t afford to be – especially not in these times. Take the unglamorous work. Someone has to do the freelance equivalent of emptying the bins. And from the most menial jobs come the best opportunities, becuase people recognise you’re willing to get your hands dirty.

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