by Leo Wiles
27 July 2018
Working from home can be destabilising. Not just for the lack of office banter and Friday night drinks, but the reality that you are, quite rightly, expendable. Taking things too personally as a freelancer can become all too easy – and suddenly you’re doubting your abilities and starting to think working in a fast food chain may be more rewarding.
The solution, I think, comes down to learning how to nip those insecurities in the bud – especially if you really want a freelance career with longevity (and decent mental health to boot).
It’s also about realising that while you have expectations of how people in business should behave, yours aren’t being met for a multitude of unseen unspoken reasons. Maybe instead of the seasoned hack you used to write for, your editor is now a cut-price twenty-something who rarely answers emails or gives any direction. Or perhaps your in-house contact is on a training day, stuck in meetings, at home with a sick child or simply spinning so many plates that you’re not on their radar right now.
In reality their busy-ness is the reason your business exists, because they’re too busy to craft the piece themselves.
So say it with me: Thou Shall Not Take it Personally when…
Pitch rejection is part of being a freelance writer. Perhaps they ran a similar story recently, don’t have the budget or simply they’ve had a change of staff and therefore the title’s voice or section has changed. The disappointment is real, but instead of spiralling, take a break: a walk in the fresh air, a gym workout or a drink with a friend can all help restore your equilibrium.
Blocking social media devices and letting voicemail pick up is one of the few ways we have to protect our time (as freelancers or employers!). Let’s face it: if we answered every email or call immediately, we’d never get anything done – so why do we expect in-house people to act differently? They are just as entitled to maximise their output as we are.
Sure, it would be lovely if a commissioning editor rang and waxed lyrical about the wonderful syntax or incredible depth you plumbed out of your interviewee. Or if a client sent through a banging testimonial about your sparkling copy. But in all likelihood though they simply do not have the time so (harsh as it sounds), grow up and move on.
Responding fast is paramount for freelancers answering a quote request or editorial changes. However, for the client you are working on their dime and therefore their time. While this is frustrating, it’s important to step back and ask yourself if you’re being realistic. Sure, you may be snowed with those four articles due – but if your commissioning ed has 26 hard copy pages to fill each week and is in charge of multiple social media platforms, it’s hardly surprising that your missive has taken a backseat.
In an ideal world, every piece we ever penned would appear as we wrote. And it sucks seeing your final story appear in print or online with cringeworthy changes. I’d warrant most freelancers have been there. The reality, though, is that once you have delivered the feature it no longer belongs to you. Your piece may go through various editors itching to put their own stamp on it. It may be checked and changed by a client or PR. Or slashed due to sudden space restrictions. Hard as it is, once you press send on your copy, you’ve got to let it go (and if you’re really mad, ask that your byline is taken off it).
Are you guilty of taking things too personally as a freelancer? How do you guard against going down that rabbit hole?