Monday, September 8, 2008

What is wrong with freelancing?

You have to fucking good at it to even get a call back saying that they won't pick up your article.

As you may or may not know, I've been enrolled in a unit called Freelance Journalism. Which is cool because there are no classes and we basically set our own work schedule. Anyhow, the first assignment is to write a profile article.

But who do I write a profile article on? That's basically the starting point for any piece, so I started looking at the webirverse to see if there were any up and coming or established authors or artists coming to town. Perth being the backwater hick town it is, nobody of note was coming here.

So then I started to do a search for stand-up comedians, and I noticed that Claire Hooper was coming to town soon for a show. Bingo.

Here's a person who's originally from Perth, has a good profile (she's the chick from Good News Week) and the more research I did on her, the more interesting her story became.

She started out in Perth doing theatre work, and was a bit of a jack of all trades. She wrote, directed, acted, designed costumes but what struck me about her background is that she did experimental re-working of Shakespeare. You know, stuff like reducing Hamlet to 90 minutes and 3 cast members.

So how does someone go from Hamlet to hamming it up?

I had my angle on a Perth girl and she was coming to town soon. This profile pretty much wrote itself, and I was sure I had a story I could sell.

So I got down to the business of arranging an interview, so I contacted her management via email. I got nothing back for a couple of days, until the woman who was arranging the comedy show that Hooper was in town for got in touch with me.

Now, what she told me was very interesting. She told me that she'd already pitched the story to editors of The West and Sunday Times, and they were nibbling at it. That is to say they were undecided on the story.

Now, being a freelance journo who was ready right then to conduct an interview and write a story, I managed to grab the interview.

So I'm now on the phone to Claire Hooper who's in Melbourne, and it's a pretty easy interview. It's one of those interviews that I can just stay silent for, and she'll answer two or three of my questions with one long-winded answer. She's very chatty, and I managed to get some great anecdotes out of her about her youth and how she got into comedy.

I have my research, I've transcribed the audio and I'm sitting with a blank page ready to write.

The words flow like fine wine, and within two days I have a 2000 word profile article that probably not going to win me a Walkley, but is a good yarn all the same. So now all I have to do it sell it.

I pitch it at two newspapers, two websites and two magazines. Only one got a definite answer back to me. What I did was this; I sent the story along with two hi-res images of Claire and a pitch to each of these places. I left my phone number and email address on the pitch.

Two days have gone, and I decide it's been sitting long enough, and I start to do a ring-around to the places I pitched at. I get the old, 'she's not in her office at the moment...' line, and there's nothing too much you can do about it.

The West though, to their credit actually got back to me when I rung them with a very nicely worded rejection letter that wished me all the best. When I rang PerthNow, the editor informed me that he had been on leave and was just catching up on his emails. Fair enough, he said he'd back to me at the end of the day.

I took him at his word and he didn't get back to me. Okay, so I called him again twice in two days and 'he was in a meeting'. FUCK!

So anyhow, I didn't end up selling the story to anybody, which sucks because I need the money for my new website I'm planning.

The moral of the story here is that you have to be a complete and utter nuisance to editors to even get a rejection letter back. This is doubly true if your relatively new and they have no idea who you are.

Next time on The Jaded Prime, the art of the market wrap.


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