Ah-ha! I subject I can speak with a modicum of authority on – for it is I, Saul, freelance journalist extraordinaire. Do you mind if I record this conversation?
Despite what my friends think, freelance journalism actually consists of getting up at 11, lying around in your pants watching The Apprentice on BBC iPlayer, having a snooze between 2 and 4, then making sure you’re up, washed and dressed before your flatmate comes home. Often this means working into the night to make ends meet – freelance journalism is akin to a dating agency for the terminally shy, struggling to introduce said ends who are reluctant to attach.
As a freelancer you have no boss – but no comeback either. Your only boss is yourself – which is great if you’re good at remembering things like, ‘get up’, ‘write’ and ‘no more biscuits’. Most freelance journos specialise in the ‘getting up on the count of 20’ routine. Often they’ll doze off at 16 and wake again at 3 in the afternoon – which can be frustrating but coincides perfectly with Murder, She Wrote. Still, when duty calls, freelancers will snap out of their reverie, leap into action and divide their time between passing off press releases as original material (“churnalism”), chasing unpaid invoices (along streets and down cul-de-sacs), and transcribing interviews conducted with thickly accented Russian car designers based out of Mumbai all on speaker phone and recorded onto a tape recorder that hasn’t been cleaned since 1992. Or maybe that’s just me.
Most journos are extremely dexterous. This enables them to deftly cut corners, to Scoop! up stories and to Hold the Front Page! between thumb and forefinger. Then there’s the touch typing. Speaking for myself, I’m getting better and better, though it’s a constant struggle to find the letter ‘K’ (that just took me 43 seconds – it’s a little bugger).
It’s a freelancer’s duty to find a favourite café. I’m currently writing this from mine – a dusty little place in North London that allows one to nurse the same cup of Earl Grey for up to 72 hours. Now I hope you won’t think me rude but you’ll have to excuse me: if I miss the deadline for this piece about breastfeeding for the Bakewell Derbyshire Mercury, I’m staring into the abyss of a month of tea without milk again.