Friday, 13 July 2012

10 Tips for Freelance Writers (with children)

This week marks the first week of my transition from part-time real-life job to being a freelance arse-scratching writer who looks down the back of the fridge for coins. And what a week it's been!

I know that freelance working mothers everywhere have the same mantra. 'It's so hard juggling childcare with watching Loose Women.' And it is. For some reason kids don't want to stare at dessicated daytime TV cadavers held together by Touche Elcat and this season's Simply Be catalogue, making yawnsome 'observations' about women's 'issues'! They want to watch 80 back to back episodes of Pingu and eat a metre long packet of Maoam chews, and then demand to be taken to a far flung park in the pissing rain.

I thought getting back into the freelance game would be easy. Before children, I miraculously got writing jobs, went for lunch a lot and pretended to be Julie Burchill. Oh, the fabulousness. Sometimes, I could even afford cheese! But since I opened my legs and got up the duff, life has been a complex tangle of logistics that would make Prof Brian 'Big' Cox reach for a paper and pen and scribble down calculations with his tongue sticking out in concentration. Things just don't work out how you'd hoped. If Dorothy Parker was around now and had had kids, she would have been slumped in front of Ben 10, suffering from stultifying writer's block, phoning the editor of the New Yorker to say that her deadline needs to be put forward because Parker Junior (let's call him Ray) needs some new school trousers from BHS.

So it's the usual mad scramble to do anything, punctuated by long periods of nothing. One week in, I've done a bit of work, a lot of childcare, and shitloads of housework. There is no work lined up for next week. AND I AM STILL NOT AS FAMOUS AS KIM KARDASHIAN. So to make my life easier, and to reach out to freelance parents who are more successful than me and might lend me a fiver, I'm giving you some survival tips. Please feel free to suggest your own.

10 Tips For Successful Freelancing (and parenting)

1. God invented the DS for a reason, and that's so you can quickly knock out 500 words on John Terry being a nasty man for Bumhole magazine. To subdue your child further you can also use telly, the CBeebies website, or a crusty old bottle of Medised.

2. Your ideas are your currency, but how do you have them when you're knee deep in a ball pool in Fruity McGumbo's Soft Play Palace? Instead, work with what you've got, and phone the editor of the Independent with the words: 'Could you use a funny thinkpiece about ball pools?'

3. If your child is at school or nursery, focus your wandering mind by reading the Mail Online showbiz sidebar and incessantly tweeting about it.

4. Even though you're writing on a table covered in Moshi Monsters magazines, Bakugans and snot, remember that you are supposed to be a professional. Do not have a brain fart and accidentally attach a photo of Nicolas Cage to your job application, like this woman.

5. Don't bring your work home with you. Your 2 year old doesn't give a fuck what your take is on 50 Shades of Grey.

6. Dreaming of that regular freelance gig? Ha! You idiot. Even so, keep yourself hungry for it by growling at Grace Dent's Twitter avatar and saying 'THAT COULD BE ME - IF I WAS BETTER AT WRITING'

7. Sometimes it's hard to keep up all that aimless internet searching, fruitless pitching and self loathing. Step away from your empty inbox and take a break by climbing on the roof of a multi-storey car park and threatening suicide.

8. Kids love to help! If your child is a rudimentary reader, ask him or her to skim through The Sun in case there are any features you can re-write in a wry, post modern way and sell to the broadsheets.

9. Building up contacts is a tough job. Always be polite when contacting someone called Sarah-Jane/Emilia/Jacinta who went to Oxford (Polytechnic) and accidentally ended up in the media/publishing industry because of something to do with her rich dad. If you're super lovely maybe they'll remember you and give you a job one day! (They won't).

10. Get a proper job. It makes life so much easier, even if it is cleaning the bogs at Nandos. And you can steal some piri-piri sauce from the kitchen so your children won't starve.

Lucy Sweet is a freelance writer for hire. She has contributed to the Sunday Express, The Guardian, Glamour, London Look, Nickmom, Brides, Radio Times, FHM, Sabotage Times and the Daily Record, and is the author of 2 novels published by Black Swan. She's available for work on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday when she's not shouting at her child to stop climbing all over her and elbowing her in the boob.