26 January 2009

Media Diet and a dose of reality

I've been in a bubble since 4 January. That was the last date that I actually read the news. Well, I have sort of skimmed the headlines on the BBC website most (but not all) days. But first I moved house and then I've been so busy finishing my book I've not had time for my daily round of at least 3 newspapers. I've not seen The Guardian at all, or The Sun, or much else. That'll change tomorrow as I fully intend for Normal Service to be Resumed!

The Media Diet got a bit neglected towards the end of last year - there was too much going on and, tbh, I started to run out of interesting media things to blog without repeating myself. It'll be back as an occasional feature from now on, along with PR Annoyances.

Anyway, the book MS was finally finished today - after being up till gone midnight last night then rising at 6 this morning to do the last bits - and has been dispatched to the publisher.

From tomorrow, it's back to the regular grindstone - I have 4 articles to write, 68 PDF pages to proofread for a client and a book MS to edit for another.

And now the dose of reality.

I've mentioned a few times lately how colleagues have been made redundant from staff jobs or seen regular freelance work dry up. I was foolish enough to blog about being offered work. Actually, I'm still being offered work. But I digress. Today I discovered I'm probably going to lose my biggest regular client - the one that gives me daily copy-editing work every weekday morning and a monthly cheque that covers my rent every month. Nothing's confirmed yet but it look ominous and I can't help wondering at the timing - I put my rates up for the first time in 4 years at the start of the year and now I expect to be dropped amid mutterings of taking work back in-house. But I can't not put rates up in the current climate, especially when I've carefully explained that clients have not had a rates increase in previous years and that I'm now simply catching up with inflation. So, it looks as though I'm going to be part of the statistics in my shrinking industry.

I might need that bar job after all. But not just yet.

19 January 2009

WT #3

Wordsmith Towers mark 3 is an interesting kettle of fish. Or perhaps I should say squirrels. My street is full of them. It's a full 2 weeks since I moved and I'm still settling in - upstairs remains cluttered with unpacked boxes of clothes, books, CDs and, er, stuff. But downstairs functions.

At the 2 previous incarnations of Wordsmith Towers, my office was at the back looking out onto whatever passed as a garden. That was never going to be an option here for various reasons, mostly technical. My desk is at the front window so I can watch the street. Not much happens - most of my neighbours appear to be OAPs and there's a dead end where the street buffers a railway line. So there's not much traffic and, apart from the postie, not many people either. But there are lots of squirrels racing around, up and down trees and in and out of front gardens (and bins, too, by the look of things). They are an entertaining distraction while I work. There are lots of cats too, which excites my boy. I've not let him out yet as those initial forays need supervising and I've not had the time to nursemaid his exploration of the new neighbourhood.

Unsurprisingly, it's because I am drowning in work. My book MS is 2 weeks late already, I have 3 articles to write and a mountain of PDF proofs to check for a client. I'm behind with the email and have no time to chase up pitches I sent out. Things can only get better...

13 January 2009

Downturn? What downturn?

News about my industry has become increasingly depressing over the last few months and weeks. Staff jobs are being axed everywhere, freelances are being told slots will be covered in-house as budgets get slashed and many of my colleagues are complaining about a lack of work or even considering getting out of the game altogether.

Times are hard, no question.

I've been carefully examining my own prospects. I've been beavering away on my book the last couple of months, while well aware that once the MS has been sent to the publisher, I need to start touting for work again. I still have a few regular copy-editing gigs on the go, all long-running for which I am heartily thankful. I also have some plans to start sending my CV round to certain contacts and am drumming up ideas for pitches too. However, I've also seriously considered doing bar work if things dry up, just to keep the proverbial at bay and cover my overheads.

So today, I was rather gobsmacked to be offered 3 jobs - yes, 3! One client which hired me for a long-running writing project that is now drawn to an end has offered me a huge copy-editing job that is part of the same project. I've also been offered a job ghost-writing a business blog and another potentially long-term slot writing business stories for an online B2B news site. I have no idea if either of these 2 offers will actually amount to anything but it's certainly nice to be asked. I'm crossing my fingers that at least one of these will turn out to be a goer, as regular work is always welcome and I'd rather watch EastEnders at home in the evenings than pull pints, to be honest.

It's certainly reassuring to know that there are still publishers out there putting money into projects and showing willing to hire writers, despite the massive downturn in ad spend across the board.

08 January 2009

New year, new gaff, new start

Happy 2009, dear readers! It's a little late, for which I apologise, but I'm back, I'm blogging again and I'm raring to go.

I rather neglected this blog last year - a number of major personal upheavals meant I had less time (and enthusiasm) for writing regularly. 2008 was not a great year for me in many respects, although workwise it was very good. I did say I'd do a review of 2008 but the appropriate opportunity has passed so I won't. It's time to look forward.

I have just spent a gruelling 4 days with no internet access. I moved house again last Monday, as well as city. I'm now firmly ensconced in the heart of the north-west's media hub. In the process, BT managed not to provide me with a phone line for several days and then also decided to deliver my broadband later than contracted. I had fully expected to be offline for a week and planned my work accordingly. The delay would have meant an extra three days without internet access and it left me in a very awkward position with one of the overseas clients I subedit for who was expecting me to resume duties at 7am sharp on Monday morning. As we work via Skype, you can imagine the hole I was left in.

It was time to go postal. So go postal I did. BT was adamant that it could not supply my broadband on time. I pulled the journo card. Then the disability card. To no avail. And I insisted they deliver me a phone directory within 24 hours so I could start organising my local services and obligations. They offered to fast-track this given my disability. I was happy about this until informed it would take 6 days to get a directory to me. I pointed out that my broadband, even delayed, would be up by then and I'd no longer need a phone book.

Mysteriously, my broadband suddenly kicked in at 4pm today...

So, I have a new home, my office has been reassembled and I'm ready to start earning again. Oh and I still have a manuscript to finish, but that's another story...