Thursday, May 7, 2009

When Freelancers Flake Out We All Suffer

I need to cultivate a list of talented freelance writers for two of the publications I edit. Finding freelancers who think they can do the job, usually no matter their background or writing experience, is easy. Finding real writers who understand the freelancing world is more challenging.

Last week for probably the 10th time since I started editing these pubs I had a writer disappear off the face of the planet. She got an assignment from me, confirmed it worked for her and the deadline wasn’t too tight. I marked it on the white board as an article in the works and forgot about it till the deadline date.

But the day came and went. I gave the writer the benefit of the doubt, waited a day and shot her an e-mail asking about the status of the article. In response I got NOTHING. I waited another week, prodded again stressing the need to get the article as it was supposed to go in the mag that will print in a couple weeks. Still not a thing.

Now you might say why not call her, badger the writer until I get a response and the article? But it’s not worth it. I’ll fill the space with something else I’ve got sitting around and assign the story out to someone else. I’m not going to waste my time tracking down a freelancer.

But now that this has happened several times it got me thinking about freelancers. There are many of us who are serious, hard-working individuals. We pitch ideas, stick to deadlines and work our tails off to meet an editors requirements. Then there are others who give all of us a bad name. Sure, my work ethic proves that I’m a damn good writer/editor. But once a pub has been burned by a freelancer they will automatically be hesitant in using another freelancer.

And to those freelancers who are either too embarrassed to say they didn’t get the story finished or they didn’t want it in the first place - you are just messing up your own writing career. Maybe you don’t think ignoring me is a big deal. And I’m not that big of a deal to think so. But I do write and edit for a number of publications. I control who writes what for three publications. So now that is three publications you won’t be able to write for in the future. And since journalism really is such a small industry, my fellow editors in the industry may also know your name too, from my concerned rants about missing copy. You’re burning bridges before you can even finish building them.


  1. What a sad story, KT. No wonder we freelance writers get a bad rap. It's so frustrating that I had to watch the new Star Trek movie just to forget about it:

  2. It's hard enough to get a gig in the first place! I just don't understand those writers who don't meet deadlines or hand in sloppy work.

  3. I don't get it either, I think some people just can't get motivated as freelancers. I had a friend once who spent time pitching a story to Salon and then when they bit, she totally flaked and never wrote it or even told them she wasn't going to. Yet she always got her work done when she was a full-time reporter.

  4. You make good points about why you won't hunt the disappearing writer down. Good for you. In my days as a construction magazine editor, I've had to hunt down writers who were missing the deadline. It wasn't fun, and it didn't make me want to work with them again. All I needed was a phone call to let me know what was going on. How hard is that? And today, it's e-mail. Even easier than the phone call.

    Anyway, good for you. Too bad for them.

  5. You know, I hear stories like this and it just blows my mind. What is with people? I just don't get it. Why even bother to try to find the work if you aren't going to do it?

    It would never even occur to me to not follow through with an assignment. Like one commenter said, it's hard enough to get work as it is.

    You've got lots of great info on your blog. I'll be checking back periodically to read more.

    Your fellow blogathon-er,
    Sarah E. Ludwig

  6. It's nice to hear the editor side of the situation. How extremely frustrating! (And no wonder "freelancer" carries some bad connotations)

    What's too bad is that their reputation often preceeds the rest of us.

    Jenny (AKA a fellow blogathoner)