Friday, October 05, 2012

The Freelance Rules #15 - Stay on top of your game

I'm not sure whether this entry counts as a warm-up to the writing I need to complete today or just a displacement activity. I'll tell myself it's the former but it's probably the latter. In fact, my last 90 minutes since I turned on the PC has largely been displacement. I've chased a couple of late payments (when am I not chasing money?); I've set up a meeting in London on Monday to make my day there more valuable and I've done some pretty basic but necessary admin. And all the time, what I should really be doing remains looming on the side of the desk - a 16 page brief for training materials that need  to be completed today.

Think about that: a 16-page brief (with five supporting documents) for an e-learning script that will probably come out around 2000 words.

Much of my time, I'm really engaged by the projects I get involved in. Working to discover the barriers to youth employment has been fascinating; a series of recent case studies around sustainable cultivation in Asia and Africa has opened my eyes to the issues facing small farmers in the developing world; and even helping two very different organisations relaunch their intranets on the SharePoint 2010 platform has been something I've been really able to get my teeth into.


But one of the first things any half-decent freelancer must become acutely aware of is that not every piece of work will be quite so fascinating. Some will present no challenge; others may be on the edges of your skill-set and you might wonder why some other projects have come your way at all. But, as long as the piece of work is within your capability to deliver, you will succeed as a freelancer only if you pay the same care and attention to the piece as something you're passionate about.

You will only get the repeat business that's the lifeblood of freelancing, and only see your name spread positively beyond your direct clients if you bring the same professionalism to the most mundane and boring project as you do to those that really make your heart sing.

I spent much of Wednesday on my particular elephant in the room. My client knows I was reluctant to take it on (I consider creating e-learning materials a very particular skill and it's an area I don't usually get involved in.). But she convinced me that this particular scripting piece within a far bigger project was actually both within my skillset and that she considered me the best person for the job. Flattery really can work.

So, on Wednesday I got my head around the brief and read through all the source material. While I'm fairly neutral on the subject matter, it was frankly hard to get enthused by a series of dry, academic, analytical reports that provide my base material.

Still, I got my material in order, started prioritising what my client sees as the key points and began constructing my argument - essentially my script narrative. I'm about two fifths in now and the job so far is competent, workmanlike and solid. It hasn't yet come to life.


At some point today, drafting the remaining script sections I hope it will come to life. I hope that something clicks and I suddenly get the inspiration that will draw this together as a cohesive whole rather than a series of separate sub-arguments. I can feel the links bubbling just under the surface, but that sustaining narrative hasn't yet percolated to the front of my mind. Often when I'm writing, be it a plan or a script or a piece of editorial, that idea will be there from the start - that makes the end product so much quicker and easier to produce. But sometimes, as with this piece, it's a bit of a grind. It may well be that in three or four hours when I have all the components assembled, I'll look at it and see what I've missed so far.

What I do know is that I have to get a piece that I'm proud of over to my client by end of play today. Anything less lets me down, lets her down and will not fulfil the brief for her internal clients. This may not be my favourite piece of work this month, but it has to stand tall alongside everything else I'm involved in.

I've actually written myself into a better mood for completing the assignment. Now to ensure that the mood lifts a dry subject into a cohesive script - better still if I find that spark that will make it compelling.

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