SPECS IN THE CITY: This January marked my 20th anniversary as a full-time freelance writer. Its been an interesting two decades as a writer/businessman-the definition of a freelance writer-and I wish I could say things are getting better for the profession I have been a part of all these years but quite frankly I don't think that is the case.
To begin with, writers have much more responsibility now than when I started. In the early and mid 1990's, all you were responsible for was writing , reporting and researching your articles and turning them in for publication then waiting for the check.
Now, a freelancer has to do all of above and promote and market themselves as individuals as well as their work. You need to be on all the major social media networks and outlets. In my case, this also means being interviewed on radio shows, podcasts, webcasts, cable access TV shows and blogs.
Then there is the nature of acquiring freelance work. Back in the 90's, I did what was called "cold calling"-calling publications to inquire as to whether they used freelancers-and then "mail-outs"-xeroxing my clips and sending copies in addressed manila envelopes to magazines and newspapers.
Thank goodness, I don't have to do that anymore. Freelancers can simply e-mail their samples and resumes these days.
However as a veteran freelancer or as I like to call myself, an old fart in the business, I have concerns about the current state of freelancing today.
To begin with, I m not comfortable with content mills. Granted, I have never written for any nor am I an expert on such mills but what I have heard of such outlets indicates low pay and unsatisfactory results. I cant say outright that such mills are exploitative but I wouldn't be surprised.
I also don't care for bidding for work. I don't do it. I have no problem with negotiating with potential writing clients and publications but simply bidding for freelance work as if I m the owner of some contracting firm doesn't interest me and doesn't seem like an effective way of being a productive freelancer.
I also have never had a blog and never have had my own website. Blogs in and of itself are not bad but my view if that people should get crucial freelance experience in magazines and newspapers before setting up a blog. The fact you have credits will establish instant credibility compared to just being a person who is trying to be a writer by setting up a blog. As for websites, I have never needed one in order to work although setting up a site for yourself is perfectly fine so long as one doesn't think it will increase your workload or garner more business.
I know this sounds like a middle aged guy spouting off about how the old days were better than the present but there are new developments and institutions these days that I simply don't care for.
I have always believed that the best way to be a working freelancer is to DIY- Do It Yourself. Contact the editors, send your resume and sample e-mails and market and promote the hell out of yourself primarily through media interviews. Don't leave it in the hands of other people, institutions or outlets.
Yes, I am-and I hate this phrase-Old School but Id rather be old school than a dropout or expelled.