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Lessons learnt while freelancing

Nine months have passed since I took the plunge and left my full-time job. I didn't expect freelancing to be easy, but along with the challenges I foresaw, there have been some interesting conundrums I did not anticipate. So I thought it was worthwhile to share some of the issues I've had to face. Who knows, it may even help someone else:

Aletta Harrison interviewing Ian Merrington as part of a television segment for TRT World.

Figuring out pricing is HARD

Just when you think you know what you're worth, a different sort of job will crop up which throws your pricing structure out the window. Being a multi-skilled professional makes this particularly tricky since I've done writing-only jobs, to others where I script, film, present and edit a television news package. Then there's the whole editorial vs commercial conundrum...

It doesn't help that as a journalist we're prone to undervaluing ourselves because of the state the industry is in. In addition there's a cohort of newbies willing to work for next to nothing, driving prices down.

You doubt yourself ALL THE TIME

It takes a significant amount of self-belief to fly the nest. But as soon as you're out of your comfort zone - without bosses who know what to expect of you and with a whole new set of different clients - things can be quite scary. Being a perfectionist doesn't help because with every different job you just hope and pray that you're meeting the client's standards. I've come to realise I'm going to have to accept this as part of the territory - and besides - it's not bad caring about the standard of work you deliver!

Pitching is often a chicken-and-egg-scenario

This one has had me scratching my head. Being a permanent member of staff all my journalistic life, I have never really considered this issue; When do you approach someone with a pitch - when it's just an idea or when it's already set up? Which is supposed to come first and what happens if you can't deliver on an idea that you pitched? I've come to accept that this is a tightrope that is not going to go away - and if I really believe in a story I may be required to go out and do it, while worrying about the platform later. The drawback is that you have very little leverage once it's already been produced. Perhaps this tactic is best saved for passion projects when you can afford to pawn off your work for more modest amounts!

Admin sucks (and it's very time-consuming)

​Getting to grips with the financial admin of running your own business has definitely been one of the downsides to being self-employed. I know I'm not alone in this and that many in my profession will admit figures and finance jargon aren't their strong suits... but geez. Luckily for me I have a personal financial adviser (aka patient husband with business experience) otherwise I would have been leagues behind in this regard...

My first television package as a freelancer, produced for TRT World's business programme Money Talks.

While it is true that there have been a wide array of challenges, I must also mention the real positives I've discovered:

  1. There IS money out there (despite what negative press about the state of the media would have you believe)

  2. You can nap in the middle of the day (and work in your bathrobe)

  3. You can plan as many long weekends as you like without asking your boss (if you can manage to switch off that is)

  4. Interesting possibilities crop up ALL THE TIME (just the other day I was asked out of the blue if I was available to travel to Uganda for an assignment)

  5. You realise how valuable your networks are (people are awesome and by and large freelancers love to help and support one another)

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