Fin started freelancing when he was 17, roughly two years before starting University. Arguably, this is more than the average teenager would be doing at that age. ‘I knew I wanted to study journalism and in order to get onto my course, I had to gain experience,’ he told me, ‘I interned at a newspaper and a television studio, and I then decided to write music reviews on a freelance basis. Freelancing also kept me writing regularly, something which I feel is important in journalism in order to stay fresh.’ He most certainly took the proactive approach to ensure he got where he wanted to be, which many budding freelancers can probably relate to.
Freelancing to me always seemed a bit of a daunting prospect. When I first tackled it, I didn’t quite know where to start, however, Fin’s experience differs from mine tremendously. ‘I first started by reaching out to a music journalist who had recently set up a new website based on daily Scottish music news and reviews, he was keen for me help him out and I started interviewing and reviewing bands,’ he said, ‘all I really did was send an email, it was as easy as that. ‘
When I asked about freelance platforms such as Elance and Upwork, I was surprised to have been met with a puzzled response. Fin told me that it was the first time he’d heard of such sites and felt they looked ‘promising for people who are interested in one-off jobs.’ That to me suggests they lack sustainability in the long run. ‘ I think I’d rather develop professional relationships with contacts I’ve made in “the real world” whether at networking events or through covering stories,’ he said. ‘For a longer term future in freelancing I believe that would be key.’
Wholeheartedly, I agree with him and this is echoed by the others I have spoken to. Real life connections, social media and biting the bullet and sending emails are seeming to be the way to attract a client. Fin’s first connection with a journalist was over Twitter and he told me that he set up many meetings with little bands thanks to a tweet or direct message. Funnily enough, this is how I managed to speak to Fin; through a mutual friend on Twitter. But for his specialism, social media is ‘particularly important because people are always talking about who they’re listening to.’
Despite freelancing, Fin’s career path is changing. His aim is to start a career in communications and he is currently interning at Renishaw in their communications department. He hasn’t ruled out returning to freelancing, however. ‘Perhaps if I get the itch to start writing again I would consider freelancing, but it wouldn’t be a financial thing. One of the key problems with freelancing in music journalism is that there is less and less money,’ he said, ‘I get the odd offer from people asking if I’ll cover a gig or review an album, and when you ask how much it pays they’ll reply with, “we’ll put you on the guest list / give you an advanced copy / give you a by-line”, which just isn’t good enough.’ I get the impression that the engagement and appreciation between client and freelancer in his specialism has not yet evolved. He shares my concerns over freelancing and thinks there is ‘no guarantee of a steady income through freelancing’ and the security of a 9-5 is much more attractive.
Could we say that freelancing is sustainable from what Fin has said? Probably not. However, I think the idea of being a freelancer for the music industry is pretty tough going. All us freelancers need is drive, tough skin and luck. Lots of it as well.
Many thanks to Fin for taking the time to speak to me. His info can be found at https://finlaymatheson.wordpress.com or drop him a tweet on @thisisfin.