Why I do very little freelance writing these days

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Freelance Misery

So, I filed some copy the best part of seven weeks ago. I don’t do much traditional journalism freelance any more – and pretty much all the work I do choose to do is as an expert commenter, or where I’m give pretty much free reign. This one set of writing I did because I liked the editor, they respected my knowledge base and allowed me plenty of freedom to act as, largely, the expert contributor with a journalistic bent.

Today, after presenting my invoice, having heard nothing since filing, I’m told it wasn’t used, will need rewriting before it is used, and will be pushed back in publication by four months. And I won’t be paid until then.

Now, there’s been a large change in management at this organisation, and the editor has swapped over, too. Things fall through the gaps, and I understand that. But really? To do that without apology is just damn rude.

Shoddy and Unprofessional

Rewrites are par for the course. I have no problem with that. I’ve often sent features back to contributors for a rewrite. But I’ve always done it within days or hours of filing, not months. To do otherwise shows no respect at all for the journalist’s time. They’ll be heavily disconnected from the feature by the time they come to rewrite it, and so you’ve actually significantly increased their workload by delaying for so long.

Imagine if I’d got in contact with the team seven weeks after the deadline, told them that it’d be another three months before it arrived and that I’d be charging them more for it – they’d quiet rightly tell me to go stick it. And yet, in effect, that’s exactly what they’re doing to me.

Is it any wonder so many journalists are choosing to build their own online businesses rather than contribute to traditional media?


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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.