Monday, 30 January 2012

Freelance Writing: What Is It Exactly?

Freelance writer. Has a ring to it, doesn't it? Freelance loops around the tongue and finishes in a high-kick hi-ya! But what exactly is a freelance writer many people would ask? 

So here goes. An explanation as much for myself as anyone else. If freelance writing were an element, it'd be air. If it were a colour, it'd be steely pencil grey, sometimes dull, sometimes shimmering silver. It's the complete opposite of a static fixed routine job. It has no boundaries, no timetables, no bosses. It's all on you, the freelancer, the free launcher, sometimes freeloader, the free minded to go out and make your (inked) mark on the world. 

Vaulting. That's the first word that comes to mind to describe the process of freelancing. Pole vaulting to be exact. (Yes, pole vaulting.) Being a freelance writer is like being a pole vaulter. A highly skilled profession that requires poise, balance, strength and timing, skill, showmanship and flair. Just like the practical jump, there's the leap of faith involved too. You must believe to succeed. 

Arch yourself to the work required, bend and flex and tilt and turn and swivel, all in the aim of finishing triumphantly, achieving what others deem as the impossible. Indeed, getting work is like going through the motions of a pole vault; it requires all kinds of strenuous skilled manoeuvres, application and much whizzing through air until you're over the hurdle of publication and into print. As a freelancer, you must be flexible and willing to push yourself forward; forward with clenched muscles and a whole grinding of spirit. In other words, it's all up to you. 

Pole-vaulters, like all athletes, are dedicated, as are freelancers. There's a thin line between a  freelancer slacker and a failure.  Also, you need to have vaulting ambition to do this. Shakespeare enthusiasts might recall Macbeth's tragic flaw of 'vaulting ambition', an ambition that threw him so hard up and over the lines of rank, he fell into murderous ways. You need to be made of stern stuff to take every knock on the chin, every rejection in your path and move on over it. You need to be able to spur yourself on, to want to get over that bar, that fixed mark. To harness your desire and turn imagining into momentum. And especially, to not let others, those on the ground, hold you back, knock your stride, throw you off.

What is at the heart of freelancing? Striking out on your own of course. With a pole -pen  -as your only prop, support, supplies. You must make the most of what you have to offer. Vault yourself out there onto the heaving writer's market, the podium where everyone is watching, reading. You must rely on yourself only, no one else, especially readers, critics, comments.  You must spur yourself on. Self-motivate. The equivalent to lifting your whole upper body weight up and over that pole.  Freelancers are lone, solitary creatures with the strength of their own convictions, honed to an almost invincible level. Their self is their only asset.

Also, it's quite like being a knight in a way (from 'lance' .... stay with me!) A knight jousting with words. A knight on an honourable quest for not just fame and glory, but more importantly, truth and beauty, great sweeping banners of it.  To forgo everything for freelancing is indeed a chivalric attempt to uphold the honour of words, the status of them, to do great things with them. To inform, to entertain, to enlighten. A pioneer of some sort, going out into the unfathomable jungle of the written world, with only your own skill as a talisman.

Being a freelancer is also about taking chances. Taking chances on yourself, on your trade, on your skill. And being curious enought to take these chances. Chancing your arm, your heart, your rent, your bank account, your social life... All for the triumphant glow of seeing your words in print. Taking a free jump into sky with no scaffolding below. Enjoying the ride. Not knowing what's around the corner, but leaving things to good old Chance. Like a vetted gambler who respects Luck, but aslo knows their own hand  well and how to use it. Freelancer: re the chancer, the risk-taker, the gambler, the vaulter into the unknown. 

Maybe the most seductive element of it is the freedom. Essentially, it's about being free. No rules, no timetables, rotas, restrictions. Free to do things your own way. A flair of independent bohemian bon-homie. Making it on your own, on the back of your ideas and thoughts. In other words, being 'free' to do what you've always wanted to do, free in the sense of doing your own thing, flinging wide open the doors of yourself and shouting: 'here I am world!' Going at it (the big bad world) by one's self is scary; but the prospect of tackling it head-on in a high-jump, o solo mio, is irrestible to a free-spirited freelancer (one and the same, most often).

And where would we be without the thrills? The high-jinks. The roller-coaster up-and-down spiral your life becomes. The frenzy it induces when things are going good, when you're swinging from one branch to the next, singing merrily, at one with yourself and the universe and everything.  The energy, the excitement of it all. Not knowing where you're going to land, what job is next. Then the inevitable crashes, the lulls, the falls, which lead to the getting-back-ups, which in the long-run define who you are. Outline your strengths in black ink and mark you as strong.

For the final note, the successes. When you succeed, at a freelance endeavour,  how it's like reality is bending to you, with you, not the other way around. You're soaring, sailing through sky, back-flipping gracefully over that bar, knowing when you land you''ll be on your feet and the applause will be deafening. The success of getting a foot-in in the frenetic fast world of freelancing, with all those fantastic creatives and chancers and the feeling of taking that bow, announcing to yourself, to the world, 'Ta-da! Look what I can do!' There is no other satisfaction like it. No other high-faluting job to equal it, or wage to surpass it or career to outdo it. You live for the inner pride and glory, not the money. The reward of real achievement, not the high-ranking offices of other ordinary pursuits.

This is what you were born for. The high-jump, the touching of sky, the freefalling into flashing lights and the stage-show of your words, your creations, manifested for the whole world to see.

Thank you & Goodnight! (Bow)

~ Siobhán.


  1. When reading this I had such great visions of you as a word warrior standing successfully at the top of a pile of books, your face to the wind with a smile! Well done, Siobhan. Write on! :-)

    1. Haha, thank you very much Mary! Same to you, write on - onwards and upwards!

  2. What a brillant and breathtaking description of living. Applause - deafening.Thanks Siobhan,



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