This week we’re delighted to be chatting with Dawn Geddes, the talented freelance feature writer behind dozens of our articles.
When and why did you become a freelance writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a teenager. When I left school, I ended up studying Corporate Communications which covered everything from PR, Marketing and Journalism. I sort of fell into PR afterward. When I had my first daughter, I started to think a lot about how much I loved to write and I realised that writing copy for press releases and websites just wasn’t enough for me anymore. It wasn’t until I had my second daughter six years ago, that I became determined to break into freelance journalism. I won a writing competition to become No 1 magazine’s columnist in 2013 and that really gave me the confidence just to go for it.
What question do people most ask you about writing?
“What are you working on now?” People are always really interested to know what I’m writing about, but they’ll also ask me where I get my ideas features from and whether I’m given subjects to write about or if I get to decide on my own. It’s a mixture of both. When you’re first starting out, the ideas that you have for articles are crucial and they will determine whether or not you are commissioned at all, but once you become more established, work sometimes come your way, too.
Coming up with good feature ideas really is such an important skill to master as a journalist. Once, you learn how to do it, you’ll never run out of ideas! They’re everywhere you look!
What’s the best thing about being freelance?
Working from home and keeping my own hours. I love being able to work around my kids. I never have to miss the school show or the end of term service and it’s great being the one who drops them off and picks them up. But, I also just love the fact that I’m left to my own devices. I’m in charge of what I write and when. It’s really freeing. It also gives me time to pursue my other passions like writing fiction and running a writing retreat business, Chasing Time ( http://firstname.lastname@example.org ), with two of my friends.
What’s the worst?
Working from home! I really love it but it gives you so much opportunity to procrastinate! As soon as it’s time to write, every household task looks appealing. I’m forever dusting my desk! I’m also the only one who can get things done, I can’t delegate any tasks. During busy spells or when I’m on the run up to having time off, I often have to work evenings and weekends to make sure that everything’s done on time. That’s definitely the downside of freelancing, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world. I love it!
Do you accept any subjects as commissions, or are there certain subjects you wouldn’t cover?
I do accept most subjects for commissions, although I’d stay away from any that just didn’t sit right with me or were against my beliefs. I’m an animal lover, so I wouldn’t write a positive piece about fur or hunting, for example.
Like any journalist, I have my favourite subjects to write about. I particularly love crafting pieces on books and authors, art, culture, writing and social enterprises and I’m always thrilled to write historical pieces on people I admire, such as the Dagenham Ford Strike piece and the Women of NASA article that I wrote for the “Friend” earlier this year. Those features were so inspiring to write.
Is it necessary for a freelancer to pick a speciality?
I think it’s a great idea for freelancers to have a few specialist subjects, especially when they first start out. If you have a specialism that you are particularly passionate about, it will shine through when you’re pitching ideas to editors and it’ll really help when it comes to actually sitting down and writing the piece. However, it’s also good to be open to writing about areas that you don’t know a lot about. It keeps the job of writing interesting. Every time I write an article, I learn something new. It’s one of the things I love most about journalism!