The Born Freelancer’s 2013 Holiday Wish List

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.


Of course we’d all like more work; better pay; understanding editors/producers; and enjoyably challenging assignments. It goes without saying. And I wish all of these unto you (and me!) in the year ahead.

What I’ve been musing on lately are some of the things that I use or incorporate or would like to use or incorporate into my freelancing life. Some are serious; others (I hope) obviously much less so. A few are even downright quirky. But all have been on my mind lately. This seems like the ideal opportunity to share. Of course, I hope in return that you will share your freelancing wish list – serious or frivolous – using the comments form at the bottom of this post.

In no particular order…

* Automatic lawsuit insurance coverage for all freelancers. I am appalled at the deplorable state of so many current freelance contracts in which miserly media organizations shift the burden of legal responsibility to the folk least able to afford it, we freelancers. There was a time I worked for a media organization that was undertaking a major project that could easily result in lawsuits. I expressed my concerns to my fellow freelancers and as a nonnegotiable condition of freelance employment we insisted upon being included in that media organization’s insurance coverage. To the best of my knowledge, it didn’t cost them any extra (they had adequate coverage in the first place, of course). I made sure it was put clearly in writing that I was covered under their policy for any lawsuits or legal actions taken against me or any project I was involved with for that organization. It was a win-win situation. My employers made sure they were comfortable with the legalities of everything I contributed. I was comfortable knowing that if my words were modified or used as part of an element in a bigger story I would not be personally (legally) held responsible. Naturally I had used all my professional skills and tried to insure the veracity of everything I contributed in the first place. It was then up to my employer to shoulder the ultimate responsibility. Publishers, broadcasters – man/woman/person up! You make the bulk of the profits, you have the final say in what content is conveyed and so you should therefore assume most or all legal responsibilities.

* Better corporate voicemail. I can’t count the number of times lately I’ve tried to call a producer or editor only to get lost in voicemail hell. I literally spent twenty minutes once attempting to reach a contact only to get to the final hurdle – that person’s own office – when the automated system said the voicemail was full and disconnected me. I say, bring back live operators! I know this may be viewed as cost-prohibitive, but can it really be all that cost-effective to employ a system that discourages both potential cost-saving freelancers as well as possible fee-paying consumers?

* Bank calendars. Whatever happened to readily-available free bank calendars? At a time when skyrocketing bank profits are in the billions it is almost impossible to get my local banks to give me an adequate number of wall calendars any more. Sure it’s decidedly old school but I am a creature of lists (see my previous post on lists). Part of my paper-on-walls list system involves side by side multiple calendars. I put work deadlines on one; another expected income dates; still another meetings etc. At a glance I can see my freelance life visually displayed. I do this for two months at a time so each function requires two calendars to display the current month and next month simultaneously. I know I can always go to a dollar store but it’s the principle that really bugs me. So I’d like the banks to stop their penny pinching ways and get back to offering their customers adequate wall calendars – without any accompanying lame excuses (“I’ve only been given 5 for the whole branch”).

* Cheaper internet and smart phones in Canada. Despite the recent wave of advertising put out by our country’s cell and internet providers, it appears to me that we pay an enormously high price for our internet and smart phones. When I was recently abroad I compared costs with freelancers there and again and again found we in Canada seem to be paying much higher costs for what we get. I had great hopes that costs would become much more competitive when that huge American provider was thought to be entering the Canadian market. Since that turned out to be untrue, our providers have pretty much got things back to the way they want them again. Noncompetitive. I have posted about finding a reasonably priced pay-as-you-go service for limited cell phone use (“Speakout”). I’m happy with it for what it is. But I’d like to step up to a smart phone and frankly they all look way over priced for what is offered. What’s a freelancer on a tight budget to do?

* A more ergonomic pen. I still prefer writing my initial notes and rough ideas out by hand. I also take notes at press conferences or interviews by hand (if I am not recording them.) I find that the tactile nature of actually handwriting notes stimulates my creative senses in unique and helpful ways that keyboarding does not. But my hand rapidly cramps up after short periods of intensive writing. I’ve tried many different types of pens. None so far provide me with the ability to write effortlessly for any period of time. It must be possible to find such a pen. I know it’s out there!

* Contracts that mean what they say. And say what they mean. Anytime a contract contains a clause that I cannot understand I refuse to sign it until it is explained, clarified and rewritten. (Run it by the CMG if you are a member and even if you aren’t!) There is no excuse for sloppy contract writing. Those high paid lawyers are a pretty literate bunch. But usually it is not just sloppy, it is trying to get something past you in writing that you would never agree to if you knew what it meant. I recently refused to sign a contract which had a densely worded vaguely ambiguous clause in it that (as it turned out) would have allowed certain key conditions of the contract to be radically altered without my prior knowledge or consent. Who signs this kind of junk? Apparently a lot of freelancers, either out of fear or ignorance. I was told verbally that that everything would be fine. Remember: A verbal understanding means nothing. A written contract is all that matters. If you are not comfortable with what you are signing no amount of verbal assurances should change your mind until you see the contract redrafted in a satisfactory manner. In this particular case, I walked away from the project. But I do not regret it at all. The terms of the proposed contract demonstrated to me that the other side were not bargaining in good faith. I would have most probably ended up butting heads (legally) with them in the end. I calculated that it simply wasn’t worth the hassle/aggravation/risk.

* Finally, a wish for you! I’d like to thank you for reading my posts throughout the past year here on Story Board. Hope to see you here again next year. Meanwhile, I wish you all the best for the upcoming holiday season and a very happy and healthy 2014!


Posted on December 17, 2013 at 9:05 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

Leave a Reply