Square Mile Magazine

Freelance Journalist

Journalism is in your blood. Your father was a journalist, his father was a journalist, and his father before that was a pimp. But that doesn't matter.

Two generations of journo genetics, a way with words and a creeping city ennui, and you can't wait to turn the nursery into a study and pen endless touchy-feely features about becoming a father for the first time.

Before you ditch your 7-5 life, a word of warning: being a freelancer is a scary business. Pitching ideas to editors is akin to standing in the middle of bleak Scottish moorland and screaming at the top of your lungs. No one is listening. Without savings you could be dead within three weeks. Or worse, proofreading. This is why it helps to have contacts. Write a list of people who might be useful to you. Grew up next door to Richard Littlejohn? Drop him an email! Ran over Rebekka Wade's cat during a driving lesson? Call her up! If you don't have contacts, it's time to make new ones: join the same gym as Polly Toynbee, visit AA Gill's masseuse, frequent the same gay bars as Jeremy Clarkson. Do whatever it takes. They'll respect you for it.

There's something else: as a freelancer you have no boss - but no comeback either. Your only boss is yourself - which is great if you're good at remembering things like, 'get up', 'write' and 'no more biscuits'. You need to discipline yourself. Not in the Max Moseley fashion (now there's a scoop), just make sure you get up at least once a day. Most freelance journalists specialise in the 'getting up on the count of 20' routine. Often they'll doze off at 16 and wake again at three in the afternoon - which can be frustrating but it does coincide perfectly with Murder, She Wrote.

© copyright 2008 Saul Wordsworth
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