A newly minted freelancer reached out to me on the Twitters a little back, asking via DM about an awkward payment dispute they were having with a publisher. Man, do I wish I could provide the details, because the villainy involved was breathtaking. But because it was so singular a piece of douche baggage I can't tell you story without providing clues to the freelancer’s identity, and they would like to keep working.
The best I could do was point them towards this lovely Warren Ellis piece at Medium. He starts with a meditation on the place where he lives and works, "the confluence of the river Thames and the North Sea, with an alluvial island and a range of high, dangerous sandbanks,” segues nicely from that into the high, dangerous shoals of the freelance life.
The sand is always shifting under my feet. The tides are broadly predictable on an ordinary day, but there aren’t many ordinary days. There have been days out here where a storm system has been bouncing around the estuary, travelling out of sight towards the far tip of the Kent coast, and then ricocheting off and dragging the river with it to unexpectedly smash up against our walls. Sometimes a weather system will get stuck and wheel over the town for days. Every now and then, some nightmare storm will brew up in a dark and unseen region of the North Sea and then hammer up the river like the Mongol Horde in full stampede.
Sometimes a producer will get fired before your outline is approved, or, even, while your pen hovers above the contract’s signature line. Sometimes, you’re put in the position of having to rely on someone else’s diligence and skill, and it turns out that they couldn’t give a shit. Sometimes you’re lied to, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. Sometimes you can do everything right, and it still doesn’t work, as if you were a slave to the phases of the moon and the tide just wasn’t high enough to float the boat.
There are times when you’re working all the hours there are, on long projects that won’t see the light of day for months or years, and your reputation sinks under the river mud. You’re invisible, and invisibility is death in this business. There are also times when you can’t get arrested, let alone paid, and yet your acquaintances and representatives tell you that “everyone” is talking about you.
And so it goes. Totes worth a full read. The freelancer told me they found it a balm for their troubles.
It’s a really lovely piece, as bleak as it might seem. I keep it bookmarked and read it on those days when the thunderheads roll in.
You can read and bookmark the whole thing here.