Monday, 24 March 2014

What Do I Actually Do for a Living?!

I keep telling you all and people I know in person, when they ask me, that I’m a freelance writer. Specifically I’m a freelance ghost writer. I tell people this because it is what I do, not because I want to sound all fancy and artsy fartsy but really I’m a crazy cat lady who watches Disney films all day (even though I kind of am that too). I’m not aspiring any more, I’m not trying any more. I’m officially a freelance writer. I have to do my own tax returns and keep invoices and everything. I actually get paid actual money to write stuff. Scary! When I tell people that I’m a freelance ghost writer I always end up having a conversation about it that goes along these lines.
Other Person: “Oh that sounds so cool.”
Me: “Thanks, it is and I really enjoy doing it”
Other Person: “Oh that’s good.... what does it involve?”
Me: *internally* Oh god, oh god, why do they always ask?!
(I really don’t like talking about myself much in person. I get worried I’m talking about myself too much. Durr!)

And then once I’ve calmed down enough to speak and lost the deer in a headlights look I go into a slightly lengthy conversation where I explain, in somewhat broad terms what being a freelance writer involves. Sometimes they still don’t quite understand though. It can be tricky, especially if they’re not overly familiar with the creative ‘world’ as it were, to get them to understand what being a freelance writer involves. Then it’s even trickier when I need to explain what a ghost writer actually does. Usually I only get to that point when the person is genuinely interested though. I don’t want to bore people with overly detailed lectures about my job, because let’s face it, no one likes listening to that person and no one really wants to be that person. But I’m going to try and explain to you today because I said I would. What’s more, I’m going to try and explain with my slightly longer explanation for the people who actually ask more about it all because if you didn’t want to know you would have stopped reading by now. So here's my usual spiel;

Basically I am contacted by people who want their story written, whether it’s fiction or autobiographical, but for reasons only known to themselves can’t do it themselves. Sometimes they don’t have time due to their own commitments, sometimes they don’t have the skill to write it at all, sometimes they just can’t seem to make it come out how they want it. I don’t mind why they don’t write their own stories because otherwise I’d be out of a job.

I talk to them about their story, try to understand what it is they want it to say and the tone. I also ask for a very broad outline within the messages we exchange, just so I can tell whether or not it’s for me or not. It’s about this point, once I’m happy to work with them that I will probably begin to send them a contract or they send me one to sign. Most ghost writers have a contract that they use for each client, just a set template that has details edited to fit each job. I don’t have one right now but I’m beginning to think I need to create one too, simply to protect myself from not getting paid or similar freelancing related problems. It also sets out very clearly what the expectations are on me and the client and what we both expect to receive in turn. Once that’s all sorted I’ll send a proposal and receive a deposit or they’ll pay my fee straight up, putting it into what is essentially a holding account until the job is complete. Then I’ll get either a bigger outline or begin to work on my own. Which it is depends on the story and the kind of client I’m working with. Now and then I might message them, depending on how complicated the story is or whether I need some points clarifying or want to check if a route I’m taking with the writing is alright with them. Again it depends on the story I’m writing and how much creative input the clients are happy for me to make. Once the story is finished I send it the client and draw up an invoice. The client pays me and then I no longer have any claim to the writing whatsoever. The story is totally theirs to do with as they wish.

Sometimes they’ll want to hire me for more work, or to continue working on the story I’ve been working on. I work in 5,000 word blocks. It’s a decent length to tell a short story in and it’s not too big to go back and edit if the client wants to make some changes before moving onto the next block of words. Some clients hire me again and again, wanting to work with me on several short stories or several longer pieces because they know and like my writing and because they know how I work and that I can meet their expectations.
From time to time I have had to turn clients down, which is never easy, but usually they’re very understanding and can see that what they’ve asked for is outside of my abilities. Now and then they ask me to write something that I am very uncomfortable writing but that is very rare.

And that, my friends, is the short version of what I do. When I first started writing this post I had intended to make it longer. Then it got too long and I realised that it actually might be more useful to write the lengthier, more in-depth explanation of freelancing and ghost writing as a series of posts. Yep, I came up with another one. But this one is already partially written so it should actually get finished and put up. Besides, it’s good practice and as you’ll find out in a later post, practice is never a bad thing. There’re more reasons for turning this into a series of posts than just me wanting to share this longer version with you because I’ve written it and don’t want to delete all those words though. The biggest of these is that someone could find it helpful. I’m still new to the freelancing world, probably like many other people are, and I’ve been fortunate enough to find a lot of resources and guidance from many different areas. I’ve also been making a lot of it up as I’ve gone along. We can always learn from other people’s experiences and I’m hoping that my experience, what little there is, can help someone else learn. Especially if it helps them realise that freelancing isn’t always sitting at home in your pajamas eating ice cream and watching tv. Because I’m going to admit... that’s what I initially thought it was.

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