In three years of freelancing, I’ve prided myself on being able to utilise some of the things I learned from over eight years of agency life – managing clients and editors and the various people who commission me; evaluating my fees based on a combination of hours, market rate and profitability; worrying over productivity and putting my hours to effective use as years of timesheets have drilled into me.
Over and above all this, I’ve also been fairly diligent about getting a complete brief before I agree to a job but I was completely blind-sided by a recent project where I got so fixated with the urgency of the deadline that I neglected to ask for more details – all I had were a series of topics with deadlines and a couple of online articles and news clippings as reference.
In retrospect it’s sadly clear to me that I fell prey to a common freelancer mistake – I was overly eager to take a job just because things had been slow for a while.
Diving right into the job, I realised belatedly that a topic alone wasn’t very helpful. How was I supposed to approach it? What was the desired objective? A host of questions scrolled through my mind as I struggled through the first two articles but I felt quite pleased with myself after meeting the first in a series of deadlines so I launched into the next articles with some measure of confidence, meeting the next two deadlines with gusto.
That blissful feeling lasted as long as it took for the client’s colleague from the regulatory department to review the articles, which were sent back to me marked up with comments as lengthy as the article itself.
Honestly, that’s the worst thing for me to deal with as a writer.
I expect people to come back to me with feedback and requests for revisions but in my experience it’s usually nothing extensive, something along the lines of 10-15%. In fact, for editorial pieces my work is usually accepted with only minor editing for space and clarity. To have every paragraph marked – in some instances, more than once! – nearly sent me through the roof.
Barring the fact that the client clearly hadn’t thought things through nor provided sufficient evidence, I (very) grudgingly admit that I bear a significant part of the blame. Once that fact sank in, this phrase magically appeared in my mind: there’s more to a job than the topic, word count and deadline!
Not very eloquent I suppose but something I need to keep in front of me at all times, together with questions about target audiences, take-home messages, must-have information etc. All these and more need be at the tip of my tongue (or my fingertips) the next time a job comes my way.