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Richard Morgan on the life of the freelance journalist

October 25, 2010

Tags: freelance, journalism

"Freelancing is basically just courtship, but the freelancer-editor relationship is nothing more than friends with benefits," writes Richard Morgan in Seven Years as a Freelance Writer, or, How To Make Vitamin Soup (The Awl, 8-2-10). "The editor likes you because you remind the editor of when they had enthusiasm and appetite and vision and so you make the editor feel powerful in the way that nostalgia empowers people. But the editor will never choose you over the publication to which they are married." (Copy editors: put away your pencils. It's published already.)

By his account, Morgan has been successful as a freelancer because he has chutzpah, attitude, balls. He's not doing how-to or as-told-to stories, or science journalism, or, so far as I could see, straight reporting. He's an adventure journalist with a gift for getting the interview nobody else could get. Which makes it sound like fun. But be sure to read the parts about where it's hard to scrape together enough money to live, or eat. A frank and lively look at freelance journalism at a time when the pay is worse than ever. (And some important pubs stole the stories he pitched.)

This story ran in The Awl, which I found through David Carr's story, Against Odds, Web Site Finds Niche, in the NY Times (10-24-10). It's a strange new world for writers. And readers.