I won something

As the wise philosopher Yoda once said: “Do. Or do not. There is no try” – which pretty much sums up the life of a freelance writer.

You’re either doing it or you’re not, and when your livelihood depends on it there is no room for simply trying. If you get sick, there’s no one to pick up your work if you take the day off, and it’s the same if you want to go on holiday. But then with no holiday pay, why would you do that either. And if you don’t meet your deadlines, or do a rubbish job, then editors probably won’t use you again, and they needn’t lose any sleep over that as there are plenty of other writers out there who’d be more than happy to pick up your slack.

Not that I’m saying it’s all pedal-to-the-metal, nail-biting, stressful pandemonium. It’s not – or else I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep doing it for as long as I have. I love working for different journals and organisations, writing in a variety of tones of voice for all kinds of audiences, pitching out ideas to see what sticks, and of course setting my own working hours and having loads of flexibility about where in the world I am while I’m actually writing. Oh, and not having to go to meetings – which is one of the best bits.

On the other hand, I miss being part of a team and the ability that gives you to bounce ideas around and really get stuck into long, involved pieces of writing and research that you simply can’t do when you’re a ‘lone wolf’ scribe who gets paid by volume of work delivered rather than time spent in its creation.

I love what I do, but it’s no secret that – like a lot of freelancers – I fell into this way of working by chance rather than choice, which makes it all the sweeter that I just won an award for my endeavours. Thanks to the editors who nominated me – not to mention commissioning me to write for them in the first place – plus the judging panel who obviously saw something that they liked in my output, last week I won the inaugural ‘Freelancer of the Year’ award at the 10th annual Avicenna Media Awards, held at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London.

There are so many amazingly talented and knowledgeable freelancers working in the same field as me that I nearly didn’t enter, but then I realised that you’ve got to back yourself first if you want others to see you as someone worth backing too. I never expected to win, but there can be just as much doubt in doing as there is in trying, so you may as well just get on and ‘do’ anyway. And if you decide to ‘do’ then good luck, and may the Force be with you.

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