Freelancing / Inspiration and Editors / Journalism Jobs

Freelancing with Claire Coleman.

Many journalists create a full-time career out of freelancing, having regular publications that they can rely on to contribute for and managing their own work load on a month to month basis. Although in college when I was studying for my NCTJ they tried to focus a lot on freelancing, it never really appealed to me. We were taught a lot about pitching, approaching different publications and tailoring our writing style to that of the publication. We were taught small tricks to make a more successful pitch letter, and tried it ourselves when we were completing our portfolio.

However, I do think having the advantage of a passion for writing, freelancers can be successful in building a career this way if they are committed to their work and motivated and organised in getting everything done to deadlines. Getting a full time staff-paid job can be hard when you’re just beginning your career, but I don’t think journalists should ever rule out freelancing even if they don’t want to do it full-time. It is a way you can earn money by ultimately writing something you have chosen and want to write about. However, as Claire pointed out when I spoke to her, although in theory freelancing means you can write about whatever you like, sometimes you have to compromise. Like any job, you need money to pay the bills so sometimes, you may end up writing not specifically what you wanted too, because it is commissioned by people who you know will pay you. Freelancers aren’t in a position where they can always dictate their work.

Although initially it can be hard to be picked up by publications to take your ideas on board, once you have, they are likely to take you back again if they are impressed with your work. That said, a lot of full-time journalists who have worked their way in-house in publications their whole life, may turn to freelancing afterwards as a full-time profession after gaining knowledge of the industry and the contacts they need to be successful.

Claire Coleman, is a freelance journalist writing from everything from pseudoscience to celebrities and ‘anything in between’ as she says on her website. She is also the local editor for Zagat, contributing to their blog and helping to compile the annual London Restaurant Guide. The list of publications she has written for is almost endless…

“Grazia, Financial Times, Elle, Stylist, Sunday Times Style, Woman & Home, Fabulous, Director, Celebs on Sunday, London Lite (RIP) and many more, but these days you’re most likely to see my work in the Daily Mail.”

Claire describes herself as ‘happiest’ whilst she is working from home in South London. I asked her about her freelancing, and found what she said extremely helpful, something I know would benefit many aspiring journalists out there. Read it for yourself…

claire

The life of a freelancer…

“As a freelance journalist, my working life is nothing if not varied. In the past few years, all in the name of work, I’ve spent an all-expenses paid weekend skiing in Zermatt; interviewed Twiggy, the original supermodel; covered the opening of a Monte Carlo nightclub; tottered around London in thigh-length boots; quizzed an expert in genetics about his groundbreaking work; learned how to box; and bought a bike at auction.I’ve seen my work published in the Daily Mail, Sunday Times Style, London Lite, (one of the capital’s free newspapers), Director (the magazine published by the Institute of Directors) and a handful of other magazines, including Elle and Stylist. More prosaically, but most importantly, I’ve managed to pay my mortgage doing something I love.”

Getting into Journalism…

“I always enjoyed writing, and I’m also irrepressibly nosy, so journalism was an obvious choice. I cut my teeth on the school magazine, but snubbed my teachers’ suggestion of work experience at the Surrey Ad, preferring instead to bombard my favourite magazines with letters. By the time I got to Cambridge to study French & Italian, I’d done stints at the, now defunct, music weekly, MelodyMaker, as well as at teen magazines, 19 and Sugar. Despite this, and my work as editor of The Drain, my college’s satirical gossip rag, of the 40+ job applications I made in my final year, only one bore fruit: two weeks’ work experience on a brand new website – now defunct – called peoplenews.com, edited by a former Tatler editor and backed by media kingpin, Andrew Neil.

It was the foot in the door I needed; I made myself indispensable and they kept me on, first as an editorial assistant and then as a staff writer. I learnt, and wrote, loads, until April 2001 when, like 70% of the staff, I was made redundant.

Willing to do anything to stay in the business, I contacted everyone I knew and ended up juggling a one-day-a-week admin role at the Daily Mail alongside temping for the Guardian and the Observer. After nearly a year, despite endless job applications, and a few published pieces, I was no nearer a permanent role. I bit the bullet and decided to go freelance.”

Freelancing full-time…

“I was lucky enough to get editorial work from the Mail and worked hard to maximise my contacts there. At the same time, I pitched endless ideas to other publications. It was, and still can be, seriously hard work but, despite brief stretches as a section editor at the Mail and offers of jobs on glossy magazines, I’ve resisted the lure of a staff post.

Why? My job security is non-existent, there’s no company pension, no company health insurance, no sick pay, no holiday pay. Sometimes the phone doesn’t stop ringing, I take on far more work than I should and end up working all hours. Other times, I spend days pitching ideas, hounding contacts and not seeing a single commission come rolling in. And those days, when I’m bored of my own company, wondering how I’m going to pay the bills, when my internet connection is on the blink and there’s no IT department to call, I really do wonder, why?

But, ultimately, I do it because of the freedom it gives me. I’m not tied to a desk, just because it’s a weekday between 9 and 6, and I can travel the world with a legitimate reason for asking interesting people awkward questions. Of course there are some things I do that make me cringe but there’s also enough that I’m fiercely proud of to compensate for that.”

Thank you, Claire!

Want to find out more? Visit her…

Portfolio

Website

Twitter

MailOnline articles

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