Writing in this month’s Mslexia about how to survive freelance life. There are so many myths about being freelance. Most people think it is a synonym for “having an independent income” and even some editors treat it like that. (A pox upon them.) Perhaps it was true a few years ago that you could spend most of your time eating biscuits in front of Loose Women and just knock off the occasional article for squillions of pounds. Personally I never worked out how to do this.
Now it’s definitely not true. With budgets slashed, advertising revenues plummeting and pagination shrinking, you have to fight for space as a freelancer — with great ideas, sparkling drive, endless motivation and a love for what you do. If you don’t have that? Don’t do it!
Here are my seven essential tips — see Mslexia for the full version
1. Know why you’re freelancing.
2. Be ruthlessly organised.
3. Develop a rhino hide.
4. Be an ideas junkie.
5. Know your pegs and hooks (to hang ideas on).
6. Be cash-aware.
7. Be yourself, be unique.
And seven things to avoid
1. Comparing yourself negatively with others.
2. Telling features editors your life story in long emails.
3. Blaming editors.
4. Exceeding your word count.
5. Taking on too many interesting but badly-paid commisions.
6. Skimping on the essentials of admin, accounting and tech support.
7. Telling people you’re a freelancer. They’ll just think you eat biscuits in front of Loose Women full-time.
Today’s Mail on Sunday column has a go at the new research on drinking in pregnancy. “Now you can’t have a glass of wine – not even a small one. Coming to a laboratory soon: urgent tests on the barmaid’s apron. Heaven forbid mums-to-be get a whiff of that.” One of the best pieces I’ve read on this subject is by Zoe Williams in the Guardian in 2007, the last time extensive new research came out about drinking in pregnancy. Not much has changed.
Also: Rihanna — they must be queuing round the block to duet with you, so why would you choose Chris Brown? Plus: Petraeus, morality and time-wasting. Why third class travel is a third class idea. And the horror that is the knitted beard cosy. Although if it stops foul liquor getting into their mouths, maybe we should issue them to all pregnant women. Just in case.
Writing in Suzanne Moore’s old slot in today’s Mail on Sunday. There has been so much bad news for women this week that it’s hard to know where to start. The cost of childcare is rising so fast that we now pay double what other European countries pay. Thousands of middle-income families are about to lose their child benefit. I don’t mind better-off families picking up some of the slack in recession. But when bankers and high earners are not making sacrifices? It’s wrong.
Worst, the lack of progress on equal pay means that from this week onwards all working women basically work for nothing for the rest of the year. Earning on average 15% less than men means we work 15% of the year for ZERO MONIES. Not sensible or right.
Also: Why Kate Moss isn’t quite like the rest of us. Michelle Obama, give the Mom-in-Chief role a rest. Vigilant children and nut allergies. And a little dig at Goldman Sachs. They deserve it.
On this day a year ago I was writing about Carrie Fisher in the Observer, the woman who likes to say, “George Lucas ruined my life.” Fisher is such a wonderful writer (Postcards from the Edge, Wishful Drinking). As well as a great actress and all-round mega-fascinating Hollywood type, obviously.
The daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, she had a showbiz childhood from which she has perhaps never quite recovered. (Although who ever really recovers from their childhood?) “I thought everybody had stepmothers living in bungalows at the Beverly Hills hotel wearing negligees.” Her father had a passionate affair with Liz Taylor when Carrie was two.
Fave quote? “I just basically have too much personality for one person and not quite enough for two.” Shockaholic, her memoir about her mental health and experiences with electroconvulsive therapy, is next on the reading list.
Carrie Fisher pic by Alan Light. Black and white cover pic: original Leia-coiffed Hungarian actress Franciska Gaal.
Gaga, Lena Dunham, Salma Hayek, Christina Hendricks and a new female aesthetic? Debating with Polly Vernon in today’s Observer about whether we can stop being so “fascist” (sub-editors’ word, not mine) about body shape. Polly says, “We’ve reached a tipping point on women and weight.” I say, “It’s all so much guff when 99.9% of bodies displayed in TV, films and magazines basically conform to a standard.” It would be nice if things really were changing, though, wouldn’t it?
Loved the comments and tweets on this. “Enjoyed reading this debate. Wanted it to go on.” “Usually I hate the ‘body image’ hype and debate that surrounds it but this Guardian debate is insightful AND snarky.” “Excellent debate on body trends with women and body image. I see both sides daily with patients.” “Fit is the new sexy.” “When journos do the email debate thing, it’s usually polite. Not quite so for Polly V and Viv G on body size.” I thought we were perfectly polite! I just pointed out that we are separated by five dress sizes. That is just a fact I thought the readers ought to know about…
Gaga picture by Yne Van De Mergel.
“Hello? What’s that you say? We’re over halfway through Series 3 and so it’s time for one of those Guardian Have You Been Watching? blogs? Indeed.” For Downton Abbey, the story so far, click here. Warning: spoilers. Downton is really having a moment since last week’s narrative bombshell. This post is today’s Most Viewed on the Guardian’s TV pages. Last week’s series blog was 5th Most Viewed on the entire Guardian website, had tens of thousands of hits straight after transmission and a record number of 300+ comments (see here). How on earth is Uncle Julian going to keep the momentum going until the end of the series? Isis the Labrador surely holds the key.
I interviewed Sonia Rykiel for a first-person memoir piece for Harper’s Bazaar August issue. The piece was then re-published in the Observer (here) and, this week, in You magazine. She was quite a character. Met her at her apartment in Paris which is all black lacquered walls and open wardrobes filled with fur coats.
She took one look at me and said, “If you are a larger woman, you need to know how to dress well.” I was not sure whether this was a compliment or an insult. Either way, she was cool. On her life with Parkinson’s: “What I don’t like is when they say: “Oh, isn’t she fantastically brave?” I’m not brave, I’m not fantastic. I’m like any other woman. I’m unhappy. I’m difficult. I’m sad. Am I strong, too? Maybe, but not always.”
Covering for Suzanne Moore in today’s Mail on Sunday. Respect is due to France’s First Lady Valerie Trierweiler. Menage a six? Phew. Don’t really care what she has got up to in the past. But if she looks this good on it… I’ll have what she’s having.
Also: why Boris Johnson is the political equivalent of Jedward. Or Rylan. If the voting age is lowered to sixteen Boris has a serious chance of becoming PM. People will vote for him for the same reasons they vote for “joke” reality TV contestants: because they know they shouldn’t. Worrying.
Plus: Pussy Riot – one down, two to go. The GCSE fiasco continues as 45,000 resit their exams next month. And 34DD is apparently the new bra “average”? You wish. No. It’s just the PR people making tits of us again.
Interview with novelist Monica McInerney in today’s Guardian here about the day she was left looking after her 18-month-old niece and the baby almost choked to death. She didn’t tell her sister about the event for five years.
I love what she says about “the knife-edge that we’re always on in life.” “It was the moment I realised how much everything depends on crossroads in life. If something happens, it all goes in one direction. And if an alternative happens, then…” McInerney drew on this experience for the plot of her latest novel The House of Memories (see my Red review here). Recommended.
Standing in for Suzanne Moore at the Mail on Sunday. Click here to read. This week: the charity Rethink Mental Illness says one in five GPs report patients contemplating suicide over the new “fitness to work” assessments. This is just the start of a brutal benefits crackdown. Tory bullies, this is not the time to stick the boot in…
Plus: Nicki Minaj versus Mariah Carey on American Idol. May the best bitch win. Jerry Hall for Strictly champion. Obama’s lacklustre debate performance. And Caroline Thomson, the female BBC Director General that never was. Instead a man got the job and made her redundant. Nice.
From online comments, on the one hand: “Great leader article.” “Time for Cameron to resign.” “Disabled people are easy targets.” “This week we will see just how nasty the Tory party is.” “They are kicking the poorest harder than even Thatcher or Major.” On the other: “What a naive and silly article.” Plus, there is blame for “professional breeders who come from other countries” (!) and “too many people claiming to be depressed or have a bad back or whatever who are simply making it up.”
But the most popular comment (people can vote for and against) comes from a single parent of a mentally disabled adult who risks having his benefits cut. So there is some compassion out there…