Image source: Flickr / Pankaj
Image source: Flickr / Pankaj

I’ve spent most of today in the Freelancing for Life Masterclass, an event that’s part of the Emerging Writers’ Festival (which finishes up TOMORROW – can you believe it?!). The day presented a series of panels offering advice from editors, full-time freelancers, and mixed-income writers. I took a huge amount of notes, but here are five little gems you missed which might just save your arse.

1. Don’t have experience? Make your own experience. When publications and job opportunities seem to seek a large amount of experience and skill sets you’re not taught in your uni course, it can seem impossible to find a way in. In the ‘Commercial gigs vs creative freedom’ panel, Sian Campbell stressed that writers need to create their own opportunities. Start a blog to become ‘expert at WordPress’, re-do your mum’s business website to become experienced in copywriting. This was underscored by Erin Riley’s blogging experience. She said, “I don’t think I would’ve ever had to opportunity to write commercially if I hadn’t been writing for free on my blog first”. Work your way up, and teach yourself – that’s how everyone else is doing it.

2. Golden rule: Don’t be a jerk. Panelists right across the day stressed the importance of building relationships with editors, peers, mentors and publications. In ‘The Freelance Life’ panel, Anthony Carew suggested that writers should have ‘a bedrock’ of reliable clients with return business – other jobs, one-offs (which Penny Modra later called ‘mosquito jobs’) can come and go around the edges. These return clients rely on the strength of relationships. Amy Gray, in the final panel of the day, wrapped this line of thought up with the golden rule, “Don’t be a jerk”. Sage nods from fellow panelists.

3. The work is out there. While it’s hard (see: near impossible) to scrape together a living solely from creative endeavours, turning to corporate/commercial writing can be a viable way of cobbling together the time and money to do your creative work. Penny Modra from the Good Copy (who host a team of fantastic copywriters, along with resources for freelancers and writers in general) said that “clients are actually desperate for writers”, it’s just a matter of capable writers putting their hands up for the work. “Don’t look down on commercial work,” she said, “You’ll do it badly if that’s your attitude. Everything you write is the most important thing you’ll write.”

4. You can’t just walk into this thing. More than one panelist suggested that we approach freelancing like any other small business. Starting a small business requires some capital and a buffer for your business to get off the ground. Get some capital behind you before diving in.

5. Work methods! While there’s no single way that every writer should work, I do love good work practice tips. Penny Modra works in Pomodoros (”What I previously thought was an hour’s work is actually just 25 minutes”), while Erin Riley makes time for reading by listening to audio books in her transit time. It’s about working efficiently!