A Freelance Writing Dilemma

I’ve been meaning to post about writing for a while, partly because I know there are a certain number of people out there who are aware of how my enjoyment in writing this blog eventually turned into a career. (I feel it’s important to note, by the way, that this blog is supposed to be a casual thing for friend and family. I understand, of course, that nothing’s really private on the Internet, but if you want a true measure of my writing ability I’d appreciate it if you’d head over here instead of judging the words on this site). Equally, since becoming a full time freelancer, it’s become a massive part of my life, and it seems wrong to write a blog about ‘life’ without incorporating it.

I’m at a stage now where I’m just about – and I really mean just about (I’m avoiding buying anything even remotely expensive, and tending to do things that I get for free through the writing) – starting to make ends meet. My newfound career has, however, bought with it something of a dilemma.

The way things are at the moment, I basically have two branches to my writing. These are the one that brings in the money, and the one that builds my reputation and make me viable to be hired in the first place. Most of the time, the two are (at least to an extent) mutually exclusive. Obviously that’s something I’m looking to change as soon as possible (if anyone wants to pay me to write exciting articles about travel or music and put my name on them give me a shout!).

I’ve ended up with something of a blend, which works in the sense that it gives me an income, but there’s always a part of me itching to throw away the non-attributed web content stuff and go all out for the really big stories and the reputation that goes with them. Of course, there’s no guarantee I’d even get the stories printed, and I’d be even more broke.

I’m going to be very open about things, hoping that the people who read this are not looking to grab work from me or anything nasty like that. Here’s how it stand at the moment:

Stuff I do primarily for income: It should be noted that even the work I do primarily for money is stuff I do enjoy; it’s just not my ideal type of work. I wouldn’t, for example, start writing about sewing for an income, it’s just counterproductive. I try to keep it in the right general area, and cover things that are interesting enough for me to both keep my sanity and feel like it’s better than heading to an office.

At the moment that work consists of short music introductions for Xingtone.com, as well as a blog on mobile phones and ringtones, travel introductions for TravBuddy.com (spanning a total of about 360 countries and cities), and educational articles for FindACourse.ie (courtesy of my housemate Sean).

The rare ‘in the middle’ stuff (best of both worlds): Occasionally that dream gig that will both enhance my writing resume substantially and earn a worthwhile income at the same time. So far these have included:

Seoul Government Tourism Office articles; ASEAN Tourism articles; Lonely Planet work with the Seoul Government; Museyon Music and Travel Guides. That’s pretty much it: an elite and far from expansive list.

Stuff I do primarily for ‘visibility’ (a form of marketing, I guess): I love this stuff. It’s articles I really want to do, for people I like, and it often gains me exciting stuff like free CDs, free gig tickets, interviews with big stars and, occasionally, small amounts of pay, though nothing like enough to live off. There’s one in particular I do because the editor gave me a real start in writing, and I’ll always owe him. These are:

State.ie; Eloquence Magazine (South Korea); Irish Independent music articles; Korea Herald community section articles; PureGrainAudio.com; RomarTraveler.com; Museyon Guidebook blog entries.

So that’s basically how things stand now. I’d estimate about 30-40% of my time’s spent doing things that are not paid, but have other benefits, while the rest is basically not beneficial (apart from in terms of experience), but gets me an income., which I obviously need.

If anyone has any thoughts on the dilemma – how do you go all out trying to make a name for yourself in freelance writing, and still make a living? – I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, until some day in the distant future when I’ve slogged my way a few more rungs up a ladder I feel like I’ve finally got a decent grip on, this blend is the way it’s going to stay.

Back to the articles!

James x

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