The perils of the freelancer

Posted on April 9, 2010

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There are times when being a freelance absolutely blows chunks.

I was ‘commissioned’ to write a piece on a particular subject for a journal, by its Assistant Editor. I had submitted an example piece of my work to them and suggested a number of topics. It was that member of their editorial staff who selected one of those topics, asked me to write an a piece on it to a specific word count and source appropriate images. This was a historical piece. I had to do quite a bit of research that included quite a few dollars expended on photocopying particular sources for further research. I did extensive fact checking to make darned sure that I had not blundered anywhere. I also did an exhaustive search for historical images to support the piece. Finally, I delivered the finished product early.

This afternoon I received the unexpected advice from the same editorial assistant that the editorial board decided that the article is ‘outside the scope’ of their journal? Excuse me? You ask me to write a piece for you on that subject then tell me that it is not what you want? And ask me to in future send them material that is more in scope with your requirements? What a bloody cheek!

Having the piece ultimately rejected because they do not like the finished product is one thing. But when a publication’s editorial staff request you to do a piece on a specific subject, within specific constraints and you deliver, only to have them can it for being ‘out of scope’ is another thing entirely. So I have wasted time, effort and money. Oh, and no kill fee either.

In fairness, said editorial person suggested two alternative markets which I have investigated. One would require a rewrite to extend the piece by another 800 words and is a non-paying market anyway. The other is for academic, refereed pieces and nothing like a market for the piece in question. So that advice was frankly rather useless anyway. And I am stuck with a white elephant.

As a freelancer, you lack the power to do anything about stunts like that. I am pretty damned sure that they would not like to be working for nothing.

Not happy, Jan. Not frigging happy at all.

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