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Mad to start freelancing in the recession? Don’t panic!

February 25th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Freelance, Journalism

Needless to say, my New Year’s freelance resolutions didn’t last long, especially not the one about not procrastinating (I mean, have you seen the talking cats on YouTube?). Maybe I should get into viral marketing… Anyway, since we last met I have come up with a belated addition to that little list – thou shalt not take on too much at once.

This current climate is one in which budgets and staff are being cut – forcing new freelancers to enter the market place, and as as an existing freelancer out on your own it’s easy to panic about commissions. Will there be enough to get by? Will it look bad if I say no? Will they pay me if I say yes? Are my rates too high or too low?

It’s understandable, in light of this, that you might jump at any work that comes your way – but one thing that I’ve learned over the past, very hectic three weeks – is to know your limits (unless you want to spend a string of weekends burning the proverbial candle). Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining about having work during a recession, in fact, I’m a big fan of it, but I really have realised that it’s important to stop panicking.

The nature of freelancing is sporadic, manic even, in some ways – there will be quiet times when modestly-paid web stories or blog posts will be a godsend – but when you’ve got a few big commissions on the go it’s important to leave time to be thorough, rework things and have contingency time in the case of family crisis (and don’t they always happen at the wrong time?).

Maintaining the definition between work-time and home-time is crucial, otherwise you’ll find yourself living in a constant state of guilt – fretting about looming deadlines when you’re eating bread and jam, and taking your copy to read on the loo. That’s no way to live my friends, no way at all.

On another note, I issued my first threat to a rogue payer. After dozens of phonecalls, subsequent rebuffs, ignored emails and left voicemails (for some work I’d done in November), it was time to get heavy. Finally, after stating my case and assuring them that I would be getting my solicitor involved if they failed to pay me in due course, I got put through to the accountant.

“There’s no need to threaten us with court action Miss Birkett,” said the accountant. Oh, but there is – especially when you’re freelancing in a recession.

Rosie Birkett is a freelance journalist and sub-editor who specialises in food, hospitality and travel. She can be contacted on rosiebirkett1 at hotmail.com. She also blogs at thelondonword.com and at fiftyfourfoodmiles.wordpress.com. You can follow the series ‘Mad to start freelancing in the recession?’ series here here.

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