Freelancer is not a dirty word

I am a freelancer. Translated? I juggle editors in the air, careful not to write for one lest the other freeze me out and I end up with unpaid bills and a life on the street.

No, I am not on staff (though my editors receive the benefits of me being on staff, ie  not writing for the competition – see previous paragraph for explanation) and I do not receive holiday pay, sick pay or a regular paid on time income regardless of how many words I write each week.

Phew, glad we got that out of the way. Now, how can I help?

If you work in travel PR or are a tourism operator I can help you, a lot. Freelance travel writing is, for me, a career. I need to make a set amount of money per week to stay alive and cover my overheads. This is where I work in your favour (not to be confused with I work for you, I don’t).

For every day I am out of my office I need to sell at least one story. If I am in your region for three days that’s at least three stories – three more than someone on staff is required to file for being away.

So, let’s do the maths.  If I write a full page story on your hotel, your ski resort, your tourism adventure in a metropolitan newspaper in Sydney it would cost you roughly $32 000 for an equivalent full page in advertising.

But we know that editorial is more powerful than advertising, let’s say roughly three times as powerful. Voila, you’ve just scored yourself $96 000 of advertising value equivalent space.

Either way, $36k or $96k, it’s not bad for the minimum investment required. Two nights in a hotel that is already at sixty percent occupancy really only costs the price of housekeeping and a lift pass at a ski resort is ‘free’ if the lifts are already turning.

Now let’s say I was paid $500 for that editorial (before tax and expenses). It is clear to see who is winning – not that it is a competition – but five figures outweighs three figures, always.

It is also clear to see why I must, as a freelancer, sell as many stories and angles as I can in order to survive.  The famil is not, contrary to some PRs (and journos) belief, a holiday. If it was I’d be lounging in the sun with my boyfriend/husband/bestfriend/mother/sister, not inspecting hotels after the official end of a business day.

The maths says that a good relationship with a freelancer that delivers is as imperative to keeping the travel editor of the number one media outlet in your target market on side.   A good freelance journalist can provide the output of three on staff writers if you provide them with enough editorial angles on a famil.

Yet there are some tourism companies that still have a ‘no freelancer’ policy. Now, I know there are plenty of freelance (and on staff) journalists out there who have promised the world and delivered nothing and made it difficult for the rest of us but all you have to do is Google a freelancer’s name to see if they are legit. No Google results, no support.

You can also ask for their commissions, though as a prolific freelance writer, and former travel editor, explained on Facebook recently – “it is easier to pitch more stories once you’ve been on the famil.” If the journalist is tried and trusted, or if you have invited the freelance journalist on the famil not the other way round then some ‘slack’ may go a long way in securing you future editorial, and lots of it.

But back to the circus. PR professionals juggle too. They juggle the expectations of their clients and the needs of the media on what is at times, no doubt, a precarious tight rope.  Sometimes they match, sometimes they don’t but the PR relationship with the journalist is crucial to future editorial for future clients.

Get a journalist off side and it can mean being stonewalled for life, get a freelancer on side and it can mean triple the editorial for a third of the work output (at your end, not mine).

Think of a good freelancer as your new BFF but remember it’s a two way street.

Author: Rachael Oakes-Ash

Freelancer, David Whitley, also writes about the role of the freelancer in tourism. Have a read of this post for some perspective for small tourism operators.

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3 Comments

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  1. Well said, David. Now, about those free photos that are expected…

  2. Another point. With freelancers, it’ll sometimes pay back over a period of years. I’ll often end up digging out two year old notepads for a piece entirely unrelated to the original commission that the place is a good fit for. Or, even better, full pieces that another editor has been asking around for. “Does anyone know this area?” is a more common cry than you’d think.

  3. As a sometime publisher, editor, freelancer and photographer who has communicated travel for the last 37 years, all I can say is ‘very well put’.
    Michael Osborne The Mature Traveller

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