The 5-Minute Freelancer Q&A #15 – Adrien Sala

In this regular feature, Story Board asks Canadian writers to share a few details about their work habits and their strategies for navigating the ups and downs of freelance life.



1. Where are you when most of your story ideas come to you?

Usually in conversation with friends. I do a bunch of different stuff, freelancing is just one aspect of my business. But I’ve always got an ear out for different story ideas and whatnot. So it’s usually if I’m sitting down for a coffee or having dinner or having a beer with some friends and somebody tells me something interesting and it piques my interest and then I’ll chase it down that way.


2. What’s the most important thing you’ve done over the years for professional development? 

I think there were two things that I did. One of them, and I know it’s a hard thing to do, but I had been supplementing my income by working at at hospitality job up until about five years ago. I worked a couple of nights a week at a restaurant, which was fine, it was really great, but I finally just decided to take the plunge. And once I took the plunge into doing this full time, people started taking me a little bit more seriously. It very quickly changed the way people approached me or thought about what I was doing. Although the work I was doing wasn’t any different, it was just a perception kind of thing. And then the other thing is I got an office. And I have a little sound studio in my office that I use for different things. Just having a dedicated space to get work done or to have people come in and have meetings or mail things to me or whatever again just legitimized what I was doing. It wasn’t just something that I was doing off the side of my desk or at coffee shops or that kind of thing.

So it suddenly felt like a real business?

Yeah. I mean, my name’s on the door, right? It makes a difference. It’s all perception — it doesn’t mean that I was any better at what I was doing than I was before. But when I was trying to pitch ideas or sell myself to other people, they treated me as though I was more serious about it. Which I was.


3. What’s your biggest distraction and how do you control it when you’ve got a deadline looming?

I’m guilty of a lot of typical stuff. I get distracted by Facebook and social media. I actually use a lot of social media tools for work for a few different projects that I work on, so it’s hard to focus on just those and not get onto Scrabble on Facebook for two hours or something like that. So I would just say the internet is my biggest distraction. It’s one of my biggest facilitators for work, but it’s also one of my biggest distractions.

So I set aside time to just sort of go on and goof around on the internet. I can do it guilt-free and it’s almost like a reward for getting some stuff done. And I’m more efficient that way, I guess. You can’t eliminate it if it’s something that you like doing. I used to beat myself up over it. I used to think “oh, God, I just spent half an hour doing this when I should have been writing this or when I should have been researching that.” But if your brain is not focussed on something, just accept that for the moment and let yourself do something else and don’t feel guilty about it. But then make sure you turn all that off and give yourself a real crack at getting focused later.


4.  How do you find a balance between the work you want to do and the work you need to do? 

It’s a good question. I have a company called The Gentleman’s Kitchen. We have a trademark called Cooking to Get Laid. That’s actually coming along quite nicely, and I think within not too long from now it’ll be a full-time thing for me, which is great. But in order to pay for that, I do a lot of corporate writing. I worked as a ghost writer for a couple people. I write content for different businesses, I help businesses with media strategy and that kind of thing. And to be honest, I’m good at that stuff because of my background and the experiences that I’ve had, but it’s not really a passion for me. But I approach it in the same way as I used to when I worked in a restaurant. I’ve got to do this stuff — I know that’s what butters the bread and pays the bills. And you can get paid pretty well for it, so I just do it and accept it even though I’m not super passionate about it. And once it’s done, I actually really enjoy seeing that work out in the public sphere. But I know that it’s all a means to an end. So I just wrap my head around it that way: it’s all for something that I really want to do. And I know that nothing happens overnight. The Gentleman’s Kitchen has taken a couple of years. We’re just starting to make some decent dough now. So I’ve felt very fortunate to be able to sit down and write a bunch of stuff and do articles and different things like that in order to get it off the ground.

So how do you carve out time for that stuff that you are passionate about?

I build it into my day. You know what freelancing is like. You might work a ten hour day, you might work a six hour day… but I’m a very big advocate for organizing things in lists and part of that is that I’ll write out at the beginning of the week what meetings I have and where I can block in, say, three hours for The Gentleman’s Kitchen stuff.  I just block it in as much as I would block in anything else. I make sure that’s in there and I treat it like it’s actually part of my job. And it is.


• Adrien Sala is a Victoria-based freelance writer. His first book, The Cooking to Get Laid Guide to Whiskey and Wine is due to be released this spring and The Gentleman’s Kitchen has been optioned for a television show in the United States. Sala’s CBC Radio series Small City, Big Business is scheduled to start up again in April. You can follow him on Twitter at @adriensala.

Do you rent office space for your freelance work? Has it changed the way you or your clients perceive your business? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section below. 


Posted on March 5, 2014 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

Leave a Reply