Category Archives: Freelance Friday

Freelance Friday: The Future

I’ve been a full-time freelancer for one year and I’m still alive. It’s been a year of opportunities and challenges. It’s also been a year since I started Freelance Friday. The aim was to get some freelancers together for a drink after work once a month. It started informally, in my first week as a full-time freelancer. I wanted to help create community with people who are living and working a little differently.

What I Loved About Freelance Friday 

I loved meeting new people and getting to know them better. I’d often have emails from newbies saying how much they enjoyed themselves and what a lovely bunch of people they’d met. I loved that people were having a good time together.

Shell and Sirin brought their new baby along – it was their first night out after having little Melodi – it was brilliant to meet her and to know they wanted to share her with us.

We had a couple of regular attendees take redundancy to become full-time freelancers – I think meeting so many people who were making a go of it may have helped them with their decisions.

As a freelancer I find not knowing what’s next in terms of work unsettling and sometimes frightening. I was encouraged to meet others who have been doing the freelance thing for years. I started interviewing freelancers, I wanted to share their inspirational stories, here’ one of the interviews with Jaimie.

Plus the chat every month was great – interesting topics being debated and lots of banter!

The Challenge of Feeling Alone

After many months though, I was struggling. The night that was about helping freelancers to feel less alone seemed to be making me feel a bit, well… alone! That probably sounds ridiculous but I found it hard organising things by myself. I wanted it to be a team effort but I wasn’t sure how to make that happen. I found committing every month difficult – sometimes I was working in Glasgow so getting back in time was practically impossible. It was really important to me to welcome new people but often they all arrived at different times so I felt like I had to be there the entire evening which I usually wanted to be but often I’d miss other things. The problem was I wanted to be an attendee not an organiser.

One month I asked Milo McLaughlin to host because I was in Glasgow – he did a brilliant job and it was so nice to come along later on that evening when I got back.

Leaving It

The month after we had a small attendance, just seven. It was still a good night but I missed my friend’s leaving party to be there and I suddenly thought why am I doing this? Maybe people didn’t really want to come along, so many had said they were coming that week and hadn’t turned up. Maybe I was just annoying people by sending them reminders. So I decided to leave it – the following month I’d been invited to a cocktail making session and I went to that instead.

Then people started asking me when Freelance Friday was back. I explained I’d decided to leave it. People said what a shame that was, that they wanted to meet up. I kept getting tweets about it. Lilly Hunter, one of the brilliant regulars was quite persistent so I asked her if she could help to organise things. You might know her from twitter as @LillyLyle. She said yes and that was wonderful. So Lilly booked our regular room at Sofi Bar and invited people. I did my usual thing of sending everyone on the twitter list of Edinburgh Freelancers a reminder or two. It felt like a team effort, I didn’t feel alone and we all had a lovely night. Over twenty people turned up.

The Plan for the Future

That night I started telling people I was finding it difficult to organise things every month and I asked if people might consider hosting for one month of the year. For their month they would book the venue, invite people along, promote it in any way they wanted and be there on the night. They could host in pairs. It could be informal, small scale or big. That way the ownership and responsibility would be shared and we’d still get to meet up and welcome new people. Everyone seemed to think it was a good idea. We took a break for August and tonight we’re back.


This time we’re at the lovely Hemma Bar at 6pm, Sofi’s big brother down by the parliament at Holyrood.

We have a free buffet, I talked with the manager and they were happy to provide some food, hurrah! Hopefully now people will arrive at a similar time rather than half arriving before teatime and half arriving after. Lilly has been helping with organising things again – she’s been amazing!

So that’s the story of Freelance Friday and that’s the plan for the future.

Join Us

If you just want to come along you’re most welcome. It’s at 6pm this evening at Hemma Bar at the bottom of Holyrood Road, opposite the Scotsman building. We’ve reserved the bit with the couches.

If you would like to host one month that would be grand – please do let me know. I’ll chat to people tonight about it too and I’ll add future dates to the bottom of this blog.

Hopefully see you there.

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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Events, Freelance Friday


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Fin Wycherley: Freelance Ghost

With lots to learn about my new freelance 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 fifth in the series, meet Fin Wycherley.

I first met Fin at a monthly get together for Edinburgh Freelancers, Freelance Friday. It’s been great getting to know her over the last few months, she’s one of the most social media savvy woman around. I always learn something new in a chat with Fin and recommend listening to her debating in the wee small hours. She’s entertaining, encouraging and interestingly…. she’s a ghost writer:

Fin has a background in law, direct marketing, speech writing, journalism, usability and business radio. She recently started her own business working as a Content Marketer helping companies increase their Google rankings and clients. She builds their social media network by producing content that is shareable, engaging, targeted, regular and branded. So if a business or entrepreneur is completely befuddled by the whole social media thang, Fin can take it off their hands completely (Fin doesn’t recommended this unless absolutely essential) or devise a cunning content marketing strategy and train them up on all the tools and platforms (Fin says this is much more sustainable and authentic).

How did you get started?
I kind of fell into it really. I had a pretty successful blog on arts and culture that had good circulation and local businesses were increasingly asking me for a hand or for tips and tricks for developing quality content. Eventually, when the advertising agencies came a-knocking, I realised my business had just landed in my lap.

The problem for the ad agencies was that they would set up their clients with the whole online merchandising, Twitter and Facebook infrastructure, with training and then the happy business would set off on their social media journey all enthusiastically.

Of course, within 3 weeks they’d run out of stuff to say. They quickly realised you can’t really ‘sell’ on social networking sites, so they were stumped as to what to say, without talking about breakfast and the weather and all that garbage.

That’s where the business name came from, Supersize Blogging. It’s all about taking the business blogs and social media and really supersizing them with cracking content including great photography, videos, design, keywords, etc.

If you could go back to when you started what advice would you give yourself?
Whoah, I’ve only been doing this for around 6 months or so, so it’s still early days. But I suppose I’d say, “Get a move on” cos even though the content marketing industry is pretty new, it’s growing very rapidly and clients are needing more and more support as they begin to see the benefits.

What do you like best about being a freelancer?
I work at the David Lloyd gym mostly and when I need a break, I go off and do a Tai Chi, Body Pump or Zumba class. Or on Fridays, I’ll just have a cheeky wee sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. These days, it’s getting even better cos the outdoor pool is now open and it’s such a thrill.

I don’t understand why more freelancers don’t come and work here. You can break out for a chat with others and there’s free wifi. Very sympa and half the price of working in an office.

What do you find most challenging about being a freelancer?
At first, it was managing my time, but that’s improving. Then there’s the billing and invoicing and accountancy bit which I’m working through. Plus I didn’t really have time to set up a business plan. Still don’t.

I guess that’s what you’d call a lean set up – bootstrapping and working out the kinks as you go along. Waaaaaay better than getting bogged down in funding, banks and public support.

How do you know when to stop working?
My family start shouting at me. My five kids get merciless when it’s diner time so I’ve just gotta be there. Luckily most of them are self-sufficient but they still like Mummy being around.

What do you do in your breaks?
Swim, etc as above.

Are you being paid to do what you love or do you do something else to finance what you love?
Oh yeah, totally loving this. It feels like I’ve always been developing targeted content at specific audiences that informs, educates and entertains. Plus I’m working alongside some very talented folk in video, web design, photography and graphic design, so it’s a real honour to learn from them and be inspired by them.

What are your top money saving tips?
Set up your office at David Lloyd (I’m not an affiliate). Fun, cheap, friendly and gets you fit.

What new projects are in the pipeline?
I’m working on a big contract with one of Scotland’s top law firms. I’m being flown down to London to deliver a one-hour inspirational speech with 20 mins Q&A. Yikes, but it will be immense. Plenty of clients moving down the sales funnel, and I’m looking to take on an extra pair of eyes / hands / brain over summer. Good times.

Follow Fin’s on twitter @FinWycherley, read her blog on and she’s also on FB, LinkedIn and all the usual social venues, including Pinterest, her new addiction!

If you’re an Edinburgh Freelancer why not join the next Edinburgh Freelance Friday on the second Friday of the month, 5.30pm at Sofi’s, Leith. More here

Lastly, if you enjoyed this interview, you might like to read the following interviews with Edinburgh Freelancers;

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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Freelance Friday


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Jaimie MacDonald: Three Sided Freelancer

With lots to learn about my new freelance 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 fourth in the series: meet Jaimie MacDonald.

I first met Jaimie at a music and poetry gig in September last year. I was the poetry act for the evening and secretly, I was feeling awful. It was my first week as a full-time freelancer and that day my shower, phone and computer had broken. I was ready to give up and run away but I sat next to Jaimie and as we chatted she told me how she had become a freelancer after a redundancy and it had been the best thing that had ever happened to her. She was running workshops, designing recycled jewellery, life coaching and thoroughly enjoying life. Jaimie was the best person I could have sat next to, she was totally inspiring. I invited her to the first Edinburgh Freelance Friday, which happened to be the very next day. The following evening I headed to my bus stop and there she was, it turned out we were neighbours too! It’s been great getting to know Jaimie over the last few months and we’re now collaborating on recycled craft and storytelling workshops. Here’s Jaimie’s inspirational story… 

Originally from a village in the Highlands called Strathpeffer, Jaimie moved to Edinburgh in 2001 to study Jewellery and Silversmithing from Edinburgh College of Art. She continued making jewellery whilst working for Edinburgh’s Scrapstore ‘Bits and Bobs’. She wrote a book entitled ‘Jewellery from Recycled Materials’ and began running adult education workshops for Bits and Bobs. She now works as a freelancer jeweller, educator and life coach.

How did you get started?

Well, I really have had a gradual process of creating my freelance life. I started in part time self-employment as a jeweller in 2005 when freshly graduated with a degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing from Edinburgh College of Art.

Then, it was in a moment of charity funding turmoil that I reflected on the fact that I’d never wanted to be just one thing in life and I had other aspects of me that I wanted to explore. With the exciting possibility of full-time  freelance being the reality, I started a Certificate course in Personal Coaching in early 2010. Three months later my coaching course was complete and I had my final day as an employee. I filed my redundancy letter away and started looking forward to what came next as a full time freelancer.

Almost 2 years later I’m still practicing as a freelance jeweller, arts educator  and life coach! Yippee!

If you could go back to when you started what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to stop listening to my inner critic and push on past the fear of not feeling good enough, you really need to take care of yourself and don’t get burnt out and demotivated. I would also tell myself how important it is to have supportive and successful people around that are doing the freelance thing too, and for goodness sake don’t be afraid to ask for help, you can’t do it all by yourself!

What do you like best about being a freelancer?

One of the biggest differences that I have enjoyed since being freelance full-time is the freedom to explore this lovely and vibrant city I live in whenever I feel the need to let the world pass me by or get engaged in something new.  I also enjoy the fact that I can get to play with the flow of my creative work, learning the rhythms of the different aspects of what I do and importantly I can choose how to fit them together.  Still working on it!

What do you find most challenging about being a freelancer?

Putting the effort in to find new work and creating new projects even if you don’t know if they are going to work. Also, moments of procrastination, though I’m trying out some techniques to deal with this…planned procrastination anyone?

How do you know when to stop working?

I try to keep to a general time structure of what kinds of work I do when. 9-5 doesn’t usually happen when it’s a busy spell with my jewellery for example, especially on the run up to Christmas when I can have 3-4 exhibitions to design and make a variety work for. I can generally tell it’s time to stop if I get a fuzzy head and sore neck.

What do you do in your breaks?

My days vary and so do my breaks. Some  days my breaks are on the bus where I read and watch the world go by, If I’m in my studio I will curl up in my chair and snooze or go for a wander.  At the moment I’m liking the idea of creating some kind of ’break in case of… ‘ map or kit  that’ll tell me where my nearest peaceful place/space is so I can escape what I’m doing totally for a little bit before carrying on with my work.

Are you being paid to do what you love or do you do something else to finance what you love?

Oooooh I’m being paid to do what I love! It’s so good to remember that!  I run messy play sessions for parents and children through South Edinburgh Healthy Living Initiative and I have been asked by mums  ‘so is that what you do for a living?’ and I take great pleasure in acknowledging that ‘yes it is!- I get paid to play and be messy a couple of days a week.  Because there are different aspects to what I do they support each other and I can be flexible with where I put my focus depending on time, finances and my need for learning new things .

What are your top money saving tips?

Go to the library for your books and not Amazon if you can help it!

Also I just tend to avoid the shops and when I do go shopping I go for charity shops, craft fairs and ethical fashion sales and of course the wonders of Clothes swapping!

What new projects are in the pipeline?

Jewellery: In the next few months I will be getting on with some of the sketches that have been in my sketchbooks for ages. I’ve wanted to do something more installation/lighting related for a while now and I have the perfect exhibition to work towards in April.

I have been invited to show my work in Norway over the summer and I’m really  looking forward to my first international jaunt with my jewellery!

Arts education and Coaching: I want to try more Collaborative working and working with other creative people with different skills I’m feeling the need to challenge myself to incorporate new aspects or ways of delivering workshops or coaching, for example connecting coaching and creative education more closely. I also have a hankering after getting some outdoor learning experience and inviting my childhood explorer out to play!

Find out more on Jaimie’s website and follow her on twitter @Jaimgem.

If you’re an Edinburgh Freelancer why not join the next Edinburgh Freelance Friday on the second Friday of the month, 5.30pm at Sofi’s, Leith. More here

If you enjoyed this interview, you might like to read the following interviews with Edinburgh Freelancers; Jonathan Melville: Big Person, Big PersonalityJolene Cargill: Opted out because she cares and Alan McIntosh: Man of Mystery Behind The Broughton Spurtle.


Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Freelance Friday


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Jonathan Melville: Big Person, Big Personality

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,, 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.

Find out more about Jonathan at or follow him on Twitter at @jon_melville

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.


Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Freelance Friday, Media


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Jolene Cargill: Opted out because she cares

I recently became a full-time freelancer, for those who are considering it, it’s awful… and brilliant. 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 second in the series, meet Jolene Cargill. 

I first met Jolene five or six years ago in Edinburgh. We lost touch until I met Jolene at the October ‘Freelance Friday’. We realised we already knew each other and laughed about how we’d last seen each other at a corset party, we hadn’t spoken since. It was only later I thought this might sound dodgy. Just to clarify to those who witnessed the conversation, it’s like a Tupperware party but with corsets, there’s a chance to try them on and buy them. They’re elegant and expensive hand-made corsets, anyway. It’s been great to be back in touch with Jolene once again, she’s lovely and her motivations for going freelance are an inspiration…

Media mad Jolene Cargill does all kinds of wholesome communications work with charities, social enterprises and ethically minded businesses. Originally from a tiny village in Lanarkshire and a graduate of Aberdeen University she moved to Edinburgh in 2001 to do a post graduate journalism diploma. During her years as a freelance journalist Jolene funded her writing pursuits with a host of part time jobs from assistant countryside ranger, waitress, dog walker, barmaid, marketing officer for a music venue and call centre worker. More than anything (except maybe The Beatles) she loves finding a good story and telling it to the world.  She now considers Edinburgh her spiritual home but sometimes gets confused by salt and sauce.

1.How did you get started? 
Doing PR work for the third sector was not planned. It sneaked up on me while I was working as freelance journalist and volunteering for a local media charity. I started helping with events, fundraising and PR. Then I realised I was able to use my skills as a journalist to help organisations get their messages out there. And it made me all warm and fuzzy inside. Most of the charities and voluntary groups who needed support to reach their audiences as part of their fundraising couldn’t afford PR agency rates. So I set up as a freelance PR to help plug the gap. And thanks to the North Edinburgh Business Incubator and funding from PSYBT I took on my first big contract back in 2005 beating competition from some of the top agencies. Now I get to support causes I care about. And when I can I still keep my hand in at feature writing.

2. If you could go back to when you started what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t attempt your own tax returns even if you love messing about with a good spreadsheet. Get a decent accountant that is prepared to badger you to get things in on time. I try to make my books a weekly task but accidentally forget on purpose. What else? For the sake of sanity get a good network of people around you. You will need support from kindred spirits who you can bounce ideas off. And it will motivate you to stop working at home in your PJs and get out and about if you can meet up with a fellow freelancer and share gripes. Preferably over cake.

3. What do you like best about being a freelancer?
The people I meet and the constant sense of possibility. I am driven by this sense that I can be more creative because of the sheer variety of work and the flexibility of not being bound by nine to five office culture. Above all I love constantly being tested and having to learn new skills as I go by just getting on with it. Well, except for the book keeping.

4. What do you find most challenging about being a freelancer?
Three things. Managing time, priorities and people’s expectations. Doing all the delivery, marketing, client management and accounts means I can’t take my eye off the ball on one project if another starts to get busier. If I have too much time on my hands my inner procrastinator takes over so I have learned to thrive on being busy. The adrenalin helps. And serious amounts of caffeine, which also helps when it comes to dealing with unrealistic expectations. I think to build decent relationships you have to develop a thick skin especially when clients say things like ‘What do you mean we can’t have front page in the Herald.’

5. How do you know when to stop working?
When I start twitching and/or eating all the snacks in the house. It’s great to get into the zone but not a good idea to stare at the computer screen too long. I get up every 15 minutes and do some weird stretching. That’s harder in the office as people tend to look at you strangely. It’s harder to switch off in the evenings recently since I gave in to buying a smart phone. The temptation is always there to check emails. I find it helps to arrange fun evening classes. Though if I have a deadline I have to keep going until it’s done even if that means my head spinning into the wee small hours.

6. What do you do in your breaks?
I tend to do a fair bit of pottering. I work part time from an office in Rose Street so I skulk about in town around Princes Street Gardens and St Andrews Square reading the paper and trying to resist over priced coffee. I go for long walks and drives out of the city as often as I can. If I can face sitting at the computer a bit longer of an evening I attempt a bit of creative writing. And at weekends I love to cook for family, have play time with friends or get in a bit of singing. Or more pottering indoors on the guitar.

7. Are you being paid to do what you love or do you do something else to finance what you love?
It’s both. I am being paid to do another thing that I love though it can be a trade off. With the PR work taking up so much of the week I have less time than I would like to write features.

8. What are your top money saving tips?
Avoid expensive coffee outings. If like me you are a caffeine monster make a flask of tea for working at home so you don’t need to boil the kettle a gazillion times a day. Get free business banking and allocate yourself a salary amount each month that you stick to rather than just spending whatever you have.

9. What new projects are in the pipeline?
It’s an exciting time ahead. My business name has always been my own name but with it being so busy I decided it was time to consider expansion. So I am turning over a new leaf. As of early next year I will be launching it with a new brand and website. And as for my other great love. Well, I plan to write a feature or two for Newsnet in the not too distant.

More at or follow Jo on twitter @mediawummin.

If you’re an Edinburgh Freelancer why not meet Jolene and other freelancers at the next Edinburgh Freelance Friday on 16th December, 5.30pm at Sofi’s, Leith, more here

If you enjoyed this interview you might like to read the first interview in this series: Alan McIntosh: Man of Mystery Behind The Broughton Spurtle.


Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Freelance Friday, Media


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Edinburgh Freelance Friday: Dates

Freelance Friday is for Edinburgh freelancers who’d like to go for a pint on a friday ‘after work’.

It started in my first week as a full time freelancer, I invited a few freelancers for a beer. People seemed to think it was a good idea and since then we’ve hired out a room once a month and it’s been just brilliant getting to know a bunch of creative ‘regulars’ and we’ve met lots of interesting new people too. I wrote a bit more about it here. If you’ve not been please do join us….. because you don’t have an office, it’s the end of the week and it’s good to meet other freelancers.

Expect a warm welcome, good craic and free snacks.

Dates 2011: Friday from 5.30pm

Dates 2012:  2nd Friday of the month, from 5.30pm

Come along, tell your freelance friends

So far we have web developers, jewellery makers, magicians, fashion folks, journalists, PR people, podcast makers, poets, life coaches, illustrators, ghost writers, polar scientists, translators, editors, artists, radio presenters and authors. Whatever you do you’re welcome, full and part time freelancers.

If you’re coming let me know I’ll look out for you. Drop me a comment below or I’m @auntyemily on twitter. The hash tag we’re using when talking about Edinburgh Freelance Friday on twitter is #edff. I’ve also made a twitter list of Edinburgh Freelancers. Just let me know if you want added.

I’d like Freelance Friday it to belong to everyone who comes so please invite friends, share it, blog about it. If you’ve been before then help welcome those newbies, but you’re friendly folks who would do that anyway.


I’ve started interviewing some interesting local freelancers to get hints and tips from the masters. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them, I thought we could all learn from each other. I’ll add to this list as it grows:

Why Leith?

Lots of us are Leith based, town is busy on a Friday and there are some lovely pubs in Leith that let us hire out their back room and give us free snacks. They serve food too which is great if you end up staying out late. In October I planned to stay for an hour or so but I had such a good time I was there until gone midnight and ate wasabi peas for tea. Next time, I’ll get proper food.

Freelance Friday starts in Glasgow in December too, hurrah! If you know any Glasgow Freelancers please pass on Christopher Barr’s blog about it.

*Christmas Special: 16th Dec
Because it’s Christmas, every hour on the hour there’ll be a quick (5 mins max) entertainment slot. Magic tricks, that kind of thing provided by freelancers who do entertaining things. I’ve got a few confirmed already but If you are an entertaining type of freelancer please let me know if you can do a wee slot. But not pressure. And no longer than 5 mins, it’s not the X Factor.


Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Events, Freelance Friday


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Alan McIntosh: Man of Mystery Behind The Broughton Spurtle

I recently became a full-time freelancer, for those who are considering it, it’s awful… and brilliant. 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 first in the series, meet Alan McIntosh. 

I first met Alan a year ago on twitter. We had a direct message conversation which included mistaken identity, spilled wine, some unrepeatable things and birds. Since then I’ve got to know Alan through various Edinburgh events and it’s always a pleasure, he’s encouraging, charming, interesting and wonderfully witty…

A A.J. McIntosh took his first, tentative steps towards not becoming a millionaire by studying English and related European Literature at York University. Short careers followed as a hospital theatre porter, box dismantler, roof cleaner, lightbulb technician, dishwasher and warehouseman. On his first day as a City of London courier he temporarily mislaid bills to the value of £16m and was fired. An MPhil in Publishing Studies followed at Stirling University. Since 1988 he has lived in Edinburgh.

1.How did you get started? 
I went freelance almost as soon as the publishing house I worked for in London was taken over by a multinational giant. I’d been working as a Commissioning Editor and stood to lose any autonomy, would have seen some of the smaller titles I’d fostered get the chop, and was overnight expected to dress formally for work instead of turning up like a mobile compost heap. Basically, I decided to jump before I was mulched. I remembered Edinburgh as compost heap-friendly and headed north.

2. If you could go back to when you started what advice would you give yourself?
In my first year as a freelancer, I wished I’d remembered Income Tax. You don’t get to keep all the money you earn. You have to hand some back to the government and – worse – justify your miscalculations. My advice to new freelancers is to get a large folder and carefully, methodically, file invoices, receipts, expenses and bank statements from Day 1. Dump them on a competent accountant (preferably one who’s been recommended to you by another freelancer) and let him or her sort it out for you at a time mutually agreed months in advance. This is really good, commonsensical advice which I have never once managed to follow properly over the last 23 years.

3. What do you like best about being a freelancer?
These days, I work mostly as a copy-editor on academic texts, preparing, repairing,  and occasionally rewriting typescripts for subsequent mangling by typesetters in the Far East. When the books are interesting – history, politics, literary criticism – the job is very entertaining. When the books are 500-page tomes on Egyptian copyright law translated from the Hungarian by a Dutch academic doing acid, I yearn to gut fish on a Norwegian trawler. The work arrives irregularly and in spurts, leaving ample space for other activities such as research, writing, and generally shirking from home. Being flexible about when I work has allowed me to save a fortune  in childcare expenses, and to see a great deal more of my children than I ever saw of my father.

4. What do you find most challenging about being a freelancer?
It can be difficult to plan the rest of one’s life when cashflow is as unpredictable as a Yellowstone geyser. Freelancers are also extremely vulnerable to the unrealistic expectations and occasionally exploitative practices of ‘clients’ (employers) who operate without any real sense of responsibility or affection for remote contacts they may never meet. Freelancers get good at gritting teeth.

5. How do you know when to stop working?
I tend to become lost in the work and lose track of time, but with editing – even when struggling to meet a deadline – it is counter-productive to try and concentrate too long. I rarely work after 10:00pm. It’s better to renegotiate sensible deadlines at the outset than to produce rushed, scrambled or late work at the end.

6. What do you do in your breaks?
I help on the Broughton Spurtle: an independent community paper in central/north Edinburgh. I cook food teenagers won’t eat. I hang about in Warriston Cemetery, the Central Library and National Archives researching biographies. I ride a bicycle, imagining myself to be a Spitfire pilot or Captain of cavalry. I observe birds, one-eyed, through high-powered binoculars. I mooch about, plotting revenge. I often contemplate Death and the even more awful prospect of getting a proper job.

7. Are you being paid to do what you love or do you do something else to finance what you love?
Freelance editing/journalism is a compromise with good features and bad. The good ones are all about freedom. The bad ones are all about shortage of funds and having less freedom than you imagined.

8. What are your top money saving tips?
Resist heating your home during the working day. If you’re thinking of having children, delay the deed. (Treble layers of thermal underwear will help with both of the above.) Only smoke other people’s cigarettes. Never use a tumbledryer. See a penny, pick it up. Wash your hands afterwards. Don’t waste £3.00 a week on the Edinburgh Evening News.

9. What new projects are in the pipeline?
I am rewriting parts of a science-fiction novel so innovative and enjoyable that no-one will ever publish it. I’m currently planning a similar work set in the Hebrides, and writing an Edinburgh chiller told in Tweets. I’m part of the 26 Treasures project this winter at the National Museum of Scotland, and have high hopes of getting paid centimes for a French, animated short film on which I collaborated earlier in 2011.

You can read more from Alan at the Broughton Spurtle; on twitter @thespurtle; at 26 Treasures and Strange Tales Volume III.

If you’re an Edinburgh Freelancer why not meet Alan and other freelancers at the next Edinburgh Freelance Friday on 25th November, 5.30pm at the Parlour, Leith or 16th December, 5.30pm at Sofi’s, Leith, more here.


Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Freelance Friday


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Hello Freelance

Two weeks ago I said goodbye to Changeworks and became a full time freelancer.  People keep asking me what I’m up to. So far it’s gone like this:

  • Week 1: Run away
  • Week 2: Holiday
  • Week 3: Get on with it

That’s maybe too brief.

Week 1 was week really difficult, people and community are really important to me. I suddenly felt I wasn’t part of anything. On Thursday I felt lonely. That was the day that everything broke. The shower, the phone, the internet…

I wanted to believe I could do it but everything seemed so difficult. That night I had a poetry gig called Stone Soup. I didn’t feel like performing. There were over 50 people there, loads more than expected. There were some great bands, a lovely atmosphere, I sat next some lovely ladies, the gig went well. But nobody I knew was there to see me. I couldn’t help feeling like I’d chosen the path of a freelance lone ranger and the rest of my life would continue… alone.

Friday, I booked a ticket to be somewhere where I knew I’d feel loved and safe. I couldn’t just go because earlier in the week I’d arranged ‘Freelance Friday pints’. Since I’d arranged it, I made an effort and had a really good time. Sometimes it’s good to do things when you don’t feel like it or think you can. Six freelancers met, Alan (The Broughton Spurtle), Shell BrysonAlly Tibbitt, LillyLyle and Jaimie MaccDonland in the Brass Monkey, Leith. Others said they wanted to come next time, Milo McLaughlin (AKA Clear Minded Creative), Jon MelvilleElspeth Murray, Tom Allan, James Coltham, Tony Bibby and Michael MacLeod. It was a bit noisy so if you’ve got a suggestion for a better venue, do let me know? Also if you’re a freelancer and you’d like to join us another time just drop me a comment or tweet me.

I went straight from the ‘Freelance Friday’ pub to the train. I spent the next few days with my sister Julia and her family, then with my folks on my Dad’s newly fitted out canal boat (it was his retirement project) and lastly with my sister Ruth and her family for two days. They all stay in England, It was my niece’s fifth birthday. She cried when I left and said she wanted me to stay forever. It was good to be part of a team again, I had a role, I had something to contribute, I was part of the family. We decorated this brilliant cake together.

The Rest of My Life

I’m back and I’ve just started week 3, I’m feeling more positive. My flat is tidier. The future is exciting and unplanned and I know there are advantages to taking the freelance path.

This week I’m running creative writing workshops in a school in Edinburgh and for a retired arts group in West Lothian. I’m recording podcasts for Greener Leith, meeting other freelancers and doing things I need to do like get my hair cut. I’m enjoying seeing friends too. Next week I’m in the West Port Book Festival so I’m preparing for that.

My future plans?

I was freelancing half my week already, here are some of the things I plan to keep doing:

  • making films and podcasts
  • running training, especially storytelling training for adults and teachers
  • writing curriculum linked shows, workshops and stories for museum and other education providers
  • pitching new ideas to CBeebies. The pilot I’ve already made with BBC Scotland could become a series so if that happens I’ll be pretty busy with that (and overjoyed).
  • writing for websites
  • offering consultancy in education, science communication and new media
  • volunteering as a journalist for Greener Leith

New plans:

  • I’ve started running creative writing workshops as an Author. I’ve really enjoyed working with adults with mental health problems; I definitely want to do more of that.  I’m also excited about visiting schools
  • I want to establish new working partnerships. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Elspeth Murray on a few projects lately. She’s been a wonderful encouragement. I’m so grateful to her for helping me to move forward as a writer and poet. I’d like to work more with creative and inspiring people like Elspeth.
  • I want to write more, I want to get picture books published.  I’m going to apply for the Scottish Book Trust Mentoring scheme to try to help make that happen (fingers crossed).
  • I have some ideas for projects to run in Edinburgh, art / poetry related
  • I’ve started to learn to play the ukulele, I realized during the fringe show that the guitar is too heavy to carry around and I kept bashing people on busses. A uke is safer, smaller and funkier.

Basically I want to be an influence and use my creativity to make the world a better place. The ukulele will not achieve that at first so bear with me.

And if you hear of anyone looking for an audio trailer, a curriculum linked education workshop, storytelling training, a author visit, some web text, a TV script or a bad ukulele player…. I’m your woman.


Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Freelance Friday, poetry


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