I recently became a full-time freelancer. With lots to learn about my new lifestyle I’ve decided to interview the people who make freelancing work. Some hints and tips from the masters, that kind of thing. Welcome to the third in the series, meet Jonathan Melville.
I first met Jon in March at an award ceremony. Jon interviewed me and totally put me at ease despite the camera. The subject was volunteering and I recall saying “see a need, meet a need”. Afterwards Jon asked if I’d come up with it, “No” I confessed “it’s from the Disney film Robots”. I proceeded to tell him how brilliant Robots was since he hadn’t seen in. It was only after that I discovered Jon was actually Scotland’s premiere film expert, there I’d been with a lot of enthusiasm and a less than eloquent description of a children’s film.
Since then I’ve got to know Jon at various Edinburgh events and through social media. I’m always impressed by the number of projects Jon works on. He’s well known in Edinburgh and in social media, a big person with a big personality (and I didn’t steal that from Disney).
Although Edinburgh-based Jonathan Melville graduated from Napier University with a Publishing degree firmly rooted in the world of books and magazines, it’s online that he has made his career over the last decade.
Jon managed websites for organisations such as VisitScotland and Standard Life Bank. He then worked for an Edinburgh-based digital agency for three years before fully embracing freelance life as a digital editor and copywriter in 2011.
Now entering his fourth year as film columnist for the Edinburgh Evening News, Jonathan works with Creative Scotland on a number of film-related online projects and runs film website, www.reelscotland.com, voted 10th Best Scottish Website by The List in 2011.
How did you get started?
I started back in 2008 writing arts reviews for the Edinburgh Evening News while working full time as a website editor for various public and private sector companies. I started to get more serious about the idea of going full time freelance in 2010 after a university course I was accepted on fell through. I was finally pushed into taking the plunge in 2011 when two things happened: I was offered a substantial contract with Creative Scotland to manage a number of online projects and my full time employment ended when I was made redundant. I signed the Creative Scotland contract the day after I received my redundancy letter so thought that perhaps it was a sign that freelance life was worth committing to.
If you could go back to when you started what advice would you give yourself?
If I’d known in 2010 the way things would go I would certainly have saved more money at the start of the year, and I think that’s something that’s worth doing even if you’re aren’t planning to go freelance right now. I wasn’t expecting to made redundant and it can, as we see on the news every day, happen any time. Cheery thought.
What do you like best about being a freelancer?
It’s great to be able to take some chances on projects I’d have no way to be part of if I was working 9 to 5 for someone else. I’m still constrained in that I have to make enough to pay the bills each month but this past year has been the most creative and downright fun I’ve ever had. I like that I can’t afford to be complacent about things.
What do you find most challenging about being a freelancer?
Although I always thought that working from home must be the best way to work, I do sometimes miss being in an office with a team. I’ve been working in an office at Edinburgh Napier University for the last few months which means adjusting to a new routine for a few days a week while working from home the rest of the time. There’s a lot to be said about maintaining a regular 9 to 5 day, even if you’re not working on a paid for piece of work.
I suppose the biggest challenge is putting in the effort of finding new work and not knowing what you’ll be doing in a few months time. If you start to think about that too much it can be daunting.
How do you know when to stop working?
I try to stick to the regular 9 to 5 I mentioned before, but if something needs to be finished outside of those hours then I’ll do that. As well as the work I’m contracted for I run ReelScotland in my evenings and weekends, so it’s never quiet around here.
What do you do in your breaks?
Because my days vary, so do the breaks. I try and get away from the computer screen at least once an hour and take a walk outside during lunch.
Are you being paid to do what you love or do you do something else to finance what you love?
That’s a tricky one. The Creative Scotland project has found me promoting Scottish cinema and filmmakers via various websites and has allowed me to travel around the country meeting fascinating people in the process. Meanwhile, ReelScotland finds me doing the same but it doesn’t earn me a penny. So I’m doing what I love which also pays me to do what I love. Does that answer the question?!
What are your top money saving tips?
Make your own lunch. Walk instead of getting the bus. Don’t buy too many DVDs.
What new projects are in the pipeline?
There are a few more film related projects that I’ve had meetings about as well as some regular content writing jobs. I’m also developing some new ideas for ReelScotland.
If you’re an Edinburgh Freelancer why not join the next Edinburgh Freelance Friday on 13th January, 5.30pm at Sofi’s, Leith, more here.
If you enjoyed this interview you might like to read the following interviews with Edinburgh Freelancers, Jolene Cargill: Opted out because she cares and Alan McIntosh: Man of Mystery Behind The Broughton Spurtle.