Someone calling themselves 'Inky Blackstuff' posted this the other day in the comments section. But it's a wonderful piece of writing, that I think deserves a wider audience, and a permanent place in the roll-call of Tips.

How To Freelance, by Inky Blackstuff

Thanks to the wonderful credit crunch, many of you are about to become freelancers (ie fired). I have freelanced before (and am likely to be doing so again) so allow me to enlighten you as to what to expect.

1) When you invoice, don't expect to be paid. Ever. Freelancers are different to normal people and they do not need to eat, pay their mortgages or buy trousers, thus no need to pay them.

2) You are like novice Spitfire pilots ie it is unlikely that you'll last long so no one will bother to get to know you or even acknowledge you in the corridor.

3) Freelancers are unlike normal people and will automatically know where the printer is. Though, of course, your computer won't be networked to it. It will take IT three days to attach you to a printer named after a celebrity. Freelancers are unlike normal people, they don't need to print anything.

5) If you bring your own laptop it will be impossible to get it to attach to the agency's network. Even though three IT bods are at your desk staring at it and saying "server" a lot. They will however admire it because, for tax reasons, you can buy a bloody nice one. IT will explain how to print something in colour but the method will be so fiendishly complicated and the IT bod will explain it so quickly you will give up, download your colour printing onto a USB drive and print the fuckers up at home.

5(b) The briefs you are given are often the most difficult ones in the agency. They will have been attempted, multiple times, over an entire year by every creative/planner/desperate account man in the building and will have remained resolutely uncracked, the creative director will have given up on them and you will be reviewing with the head planner (who, by this stage, has been driven quite, quite mad), you will be informed that the client will leave if you don't crack it in the next three days. Despite these hurdles, you won't be given a computer until the last day and you will be given seat in the coffee bar area. Freelancers are different to normal people. The more obstacles to creativity you can give them on really difficult projects, the easier they find it.

6) Other people think you are paid a fortune. Ostensibly you are paid quite well but of course rule 1) applies. They don't actually give you money until you threaten to firebomb the finance department. And even then they don't pay you, they just don the asbestos suits they keep under their desks. They automatically lose your first invoice. This goes without saying (I always used to send a second invoice two weeks after the first). You send it again, then they ask you what you were working on. Then they'll be on holiday or leave for another job, finally after 6 months you'll get your money but inflation will by now have made it worthless.

7) If you ask a PA for a pad or a pencil they will look at you as if you are mad. Don't know why. The stationary cupboard (in reality a drawer in a knackerd cupboard, covered in little magic marker marks, that refuses to open) will not have any pads (bar thousands of the tracing paper ones that no one ever uses) and you will have to steal a pen from the creative director's PA's desk when she's at lunch.

8) No one will tell you about the security system and you will get trapped in a stairwell. For some reason people assume freelancers are different from normal people and every security number in every agency is etched into their DNA or they have already received their security passes by magic or something.

9) When you get there on your first day, the person who got you in will have carefully omitted to tell anyone about your impending arrival. He will also be out at a meeting all morning so that you will have lost an entire half day of the three you have been allotted to crack this uncrackable brief.

10) You won't crack the brief. Frankly by the time you are involved the client is going to walk whether you give him a solution or not.

11) People will be utterly gobsmacked if you do anything good. Freelancers are not like normal people, they're shit at advertising.

12) There will be glorious weekdays when you are not at work, the sun is out and you have nothing to do and all day to do it in. You will learn what kind of people inhabit the world while normal people are at work. They're freaks and nutters.

13) The biggest cheese in the agency will pay you a visit and be very friendly. He is desperate for you to crack this brief and keep this client's income. His bonus depends on you.

14) All agencies are the same only the clients' creative judgement (or lack of) makes the difference.

15) You will occasionally work at some agencies that treat freelancers like normal people. Some good (though with their own...errrm how can I put it...peculiarities) ones are BBH, DDB, WCRS etc. Politeness, a public school education and sheer naked greed (and perhaps the need of employment in the future) forbids me mentioning other, though wonderful, less enlightened places.


Does this tally with your experience of freelancing? Let us know.

Craft: How To Know If You've Had An Idea; How To Use Social Media; What Would John Webster Do?; What Would Paul & Nigel Do?; The Hidden Flaw; How To Write Copy; Be Funny All The Way Through; How To Do Virals; How To Write Headlines; How To Do Direct; How To Do Radio; How To Do Press; How To Do TV; How To Do Digital; How To Do Posters; Read Iain's Tips; Be Very; Never-Seen-Before Footage; Dicketts' Finger; Two Blokes In The Pub; Play Family Fortunes; Don't Overpolish

Guile: Beat The Finger; How To Get The Best Out Of Directors; Don't Write Ads, Write Strategies; How To Choose Where To Work; Working Outside London; How To Negotiate Your Salary; How To Get A Pay Rise; Be Wary Of Punding; Challenge The Brief; Tell The Truth; Playing To Lose; Look At Weird Shit; Why You Shouldn't Present To The Client; How To Present To Clients If You Have To; Presenting To The Team; Presenting To The Creative Director; How To Deal With Rejection; Look Creative; Don't Be Afraid To Ask; Your Idea Has To Be 120%; Don't Behave; How To Discuss Ideas; Read Hugh's Tips; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part IV - How To Turn A Placement Into A Job; How To Turn A Placement Into A Job (Ed Morris view); How To Get A Job In Advertising Part III - How To Approach Agencies (re-print of Tip No. 7); How To Get A Job In Advertising Part II - How To Put A Book Together; How To Get A Job In Advertising Part I - FAQ; Make Friends With Traffic; Get Reference; Don't Stop Too Soon; Breaking Up; Working Well With Your Partner; Finding The Right Partner; How To Approach Agencies; Should You Take A Bad Job?

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