Posts Tagged ‘freelance’

Being torrented, that whooshing sound, and other matters

March 12, 2012 2 comments

The story of the last week can be encapsulated in two quotes. 

The first is one that comes up on the front page of a freelance website I use: ‘The first 90% of a project takes up 90% of the time you allocated for it; the last 10% of it takes up the remaining 90% of the time.’

The second one is a quote from Douglas Adams. I already knew it but found it again accidentally when I clicked into a story about him: ‘I love deadlines. I love that whooshing sound they make as they go by’ (OK, it may not be an exact quote but you get the idea). So as far as I’m concerned I’m currently on last Monday’s work, it’s going slowly, and my own writing projects are similarly backed up.

The thing is this: if you’re writing distance learning courses you need to remember two things, really. One is that courses need to be regularly updated with old material replaced by fresher examples and all the dead links exchanged for comparable ones that actually work. And the second is that unlike a lecture situation, if you write something that glosses over a point you assume students know and they don’t know it, unlike a lecture there’s no row of blank faces in front of you to warn you that you might need to backtrack a little. It has to be right and it has to be properly documented, first time. And getting these things right does indeed take around 180% of whatever time you set for the job.

In other news – I’m apparently being torrented. I got a heads-up on this from a bit of spam I caught that was a link to So the short stories and bits of flash fiction I put on here are being made available as pirated versions. 

This is the first time it’s happened (that I know of), and I’m not altogether pleased. At one level it means the stuff I’ve posted will be more widely read, which is the aim of most writers – especially those who are relatively speaking unknown. However, it means people are reading my stuff without coming back to to find me, and possibly don’t even know I wrote it or that it’s freely available on So writing stories may entertain more people but it’s not exactly going to work as publicity for me.

Moreover, while those pieces are short, free giveaways and I make no money from them, they’re clearly now a part of the ‘digital economy’ though I confess I don’t see how the torrent site makes its money. It appears to have no adverts and no membership fees, though it is affiliated to a trafficholder site that allows people to buy and sell clickthroughs. So at some level they’re making someone money apart from, presumably, WordPress whose business is hosting free content and which has probably made a tiny fraction of a cent off my content by now… 

While I’m on that topic, incidentally, I also checked out Pirate Bay – something I last did about two years ago – and I notice they no longer have adverts from big-name banks, insurance companies and supermarkets as they did back then. When I first saw those ads I was very tempted to shop in the local supermarket and announce at the checkout that I was taking that week’s shopping as part-payment for my intellectual property rights… These days they seem to be taking ads from D-list dating sites, which suggests they’re experiencing hard times.

I’m also clearly now going to have to police Amazon, Smashwords and other places to see if other people have been ripping off my stories. So if you’re reading this blog as part of a torrent, just bear in mind you can subscribe to and get exactly the same content by Jon Vagg for free. If you’ve been trying to pass yourself off as the author of any of my stories, expect to get some grief about it quite soon.

And in future, while I’ll be posting ruminations of different kinds on here, and I’ll still post the occasional story, the stories will be in a format that won’t be quite so easily pirateable – not because you won’t be able to get the plain text, but because there will other things bundled with the stories that you’ll be missing out on if you don’t come to to find out about. Call it a proof of concept if you like, it’s a set of ideas I started working on for multimedia stories and while I haven’t had time to develop it properly, once I’m done with the current round of distance learning course revisions I’ll be able to spend a little bit of time bringing a year-old idea to fruition.


On being creative and discovering resources

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

If you’ve seen some of my older posts about finance and creative work, you’ll be interested in this: Art of Hustle’s post ‘Baller on a Budget: Turning Resources into Riches’, which expands on and exemplifies themes similar to the ones I’ve been preoccupied with for some time.

Headline details: as a creative person you sit on a number of resources – ones that are yours (skill, networks, imagination etc.) and ones that are part of your network (places you go, things you do, people you know). You may not even recognise those things as ‘resources’, but that’s what they are. Equally, ‘folks aiming to equally give and receive can build lasting partnerships, expanded patronage, and repeat business’. So there’s a creative business model there, and the post is a detailed working through and example of how to put it in motion.


Pitching for TV – a call for advice!

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

For once I have a question, not an observation or argument.

I have a treatment for a possible TV documentary and want to pitch it to production companies (I’m based in the UK). Apart from the treatment itself I see my role as possibly comprising being involved in the pre-production planning (I have relevant knowledge and contacts), maybe some script writing, but that’s about it.

I have no prior history of or knowledge about working for TV.

I’m reasonably adept at networking and have contacts with possible independent producers. The one thing I can’t ask them, since I’ll be on the other side of the table from thiem, is this: were a company to take up the idea and get it commissioned by a TV channel, what sort of range of payment might I be likely to expect? Is this something they pay a flat fee for, or a percentage royalty?

Comments below, please, or if you want to stay private, mail me via the ‘contact’ link on the blog!


Edit: one answer I had (I’ve asked this question in several places) was 5% of production costs plus a royalty on broadcast and any other exploitation but on mainstream TV production costs that sounds huge, as in tens of thousands of pounds. Another answer was a flat fee of a few hundred pounds, though that was for radio for a one-off documentary. That’s a pretty wide margin…

Freelance, creative, blogging and successful?

December 2, 2010 3 comments

If you’re a freelance ‘creative’ – writer, musician, artist, sound engineer, or any of a thousand other skills – your income is going to depend on being able to generate business. I’ve been fortunate enough to generate some large projects and continuing relationships with a few big organisations that continue to commission me, but the world doesn’t stand still and neither can I – or you.

I might add that one company I work with has been bought and sold twice in the last five years and reorganised in between times. Some years they’ve accounted for about 75% of my income and other years, 25%. I’m pleased I’ve been able to stay with them, though conscious that the world moves on and one needs to keep an eye out for the next possibility.

Hence a blog about blogging strategies for freelance creatives in modern, internet-based times, and trying to attract attention and new business. By way of a disclaimer, I’ll admit I haven’t done all of this stuff myself as diligently as I should have done. But I will, honest…

First of all, here’s a diagram. Below, there’s a discussion that highlights a few of the issues it might raise.

Using blogs for success?

Using blogs for success?

What are you selling? Mostly, for creatives, what you’re selling is you – your vision, style, and expertise. Even if you have equipment, like a PA system, or are a band or performer, what you’re selling is still you and your vision, style and expertise. Your internet presence needs to put those things across. If you blog, the usual advice is to post a number of ‘pillar articles’ that people are likely to want to refer to. Those pillar articles may be informational, or commentary, or useful links, or whatever. Leaven the heavy stuff with lighter, maybe slightly personal (but not too personal) stuff.

How are you selling yourself? Visual stuff attracts attention – for blogs, having a picture or illustration with each blog is good advice (which I should take myself more often).

Who are you selling yourself to? This is potentially a difficult question. Is it obvious who your market is? For example, I’m a writer. I’d like my potential readership to know I exist, but primarily I want the people who are likely to publish my stuff to pay attention – companies in need of training packages, higher education, publishers. But without some clever keywording, the people most likely to read my blog will be others in the same position as me. Areas to think about: do different potential client groups use different social networking sites? I notice for example that one company I work for found me through Freelancers in the UK (which costs me a small subscription each year but has been worth it), though individuals in the company tend to link to people via Linkedin (personally I haven’t yet found it a good source for generating actual income, but maybe I need to get out there more). All that said, my conclusion is: you’re trying to sell yourself to people.

I’ve had the experience, for example, of writing a blog that got read by someone in the US, who commented on it, whose comment appeared in their blog and was in turn seen by someone in the UK who wasn’t in the training field but knew someone who was. And I ended up – about a year later – with a request to do some work. If connections are going to be that random, I’d suggest you just need to accept this and not worry too much about ‘target marketing’. Just be clear in your profiles about who you are and what you do.

Some other thoughts:

1. All the advice on networking blogs is that if at all possible, do one blog per day. This keeps the blog itself fresh. Empirically, people I’ve discussed this with get large numbers of hits on their blog of they do this and don’t if they don’t. I’ve been managing two or three bogs a week, so I need to change my habits!

2. The stuff in the diagram about going out there, finding people and commenting on their blogs – it works.

3. If you use RSS feeds to spread yourself around different social networking sites, remember that tags don’t always get included in the feed. You will need periodically to visit all the sites you feed to and deal with tags manually.

4. If you have the skills or know people who do, YouTube and Vimeo seem to be good ways of getting examples of your work out there. Be creative! And make sure everything you do links back to whichever blog is your ‘hub’.

5. If you don’t instantly get enquiries and business, it may be frustrating but it’s normal. Remember the anecdote above about how putting something out got me some new business a year later…

6. The name of the game these days seems to be community building. If you’re able to build or become part of a community of people with multiple skill sets, you can raise your game hugely through collaborations.

National Freelancers’ Day

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment
National Freelancer's Day

National Freelancers' Day

I won’t be settling down to work properly until a bit later in the day, because I have a couple of jobs I need to get out of the way first like deliver some of Chris Cafferkey’s photos to an exhibition. Call it a celebration of National Freelancers’ Day in that I’ve scheduled my working day the way I need it to be!

I should be working…

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

… and indeed I am, quite hard, which is why I haven’t been posting much.

But I thought I’d share with you the story of how everything goes to hell during a zombie apocalypse just because it’s funny.

There’s also a comic about the pleasures, perils and pitfalls of working from home, the worst of which, as you’ll see, is the degradation of social skills. Not a problem in my case, I never had any to start with…

I didn’t find these my myself – well, I sort of did, but someone in the Speculators writing group sent us all an email link to another bit of the site, a comic about the proper use of the semicolon; apparently it can be used in many ways other than to indicate a wink when sending a text;

Now it’s time for some special high caffeine coffee and back to work. And watch out for that zombie apocalypse…

The 90% rule

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been a day of remembering the 90% rule.

The rule says: in any given project, the first 90% of the work takes up 90% of the time allocated. The remaining 10% of the work takes up the other 90% of the time.

I’d like to add my own twist to this: in developing and updating training materials, 90% of the work is ‘creative’ in the sense that it involves making judgements about whether material is still useful and relevant, adding in updates relating to new publications, etc. The other 90% of the work is the clerical stuff – making sure URLs are still valid and suchlike.

Such is the life of a freelancer.

Hopefully later this evening I’ll squeeze in a bit of time playing with duotrope, since I have a couple of stories written a while back I haven’t submitted anywhere.

Below, for the curious, is a picture of the inside of my brain as I reach the point of having 90% of the work done.

A cactus, highly modified in photoshop

Picture of the inside of my brain

[Pic courtesy of Chris Cafferkey – – see my blogroll for clickable link]

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