Sunday, 14 April 2013

A typical day in my email inbox

- RE: pitch for <insert name of publication>

1. 'Thank you for your email. We're not interested in this particular idea, but please keep us in mind when you have other stories to sell.' 

(Three days later a curiously similar article appears in the publication in question)

2. 'Hi Ester, What a fan-tas-tic idea! Can you write it for free?'

3. 'Dear Ester, We're very interested. Could you hand in your final copy in two hours? Our fee is 0.0001 Egyptian pounds per word.'

4. 'Hi, I noticed you have uploaded a photo to your Flickr page that would fit perfectly with a story I'm writing for <insert prestigious publication>. I am of course getting paid for my work, so I was wondering if I could use your photo for free. I'll credit you.' 

5. 'Hi, I'm a budding freelance journalist moving to Cairo in the near future. Can I please interview you on <insert random orientalist topic> so I can steal your ideas and analyses and make money off of your back? Coffee is on me.'

6. 'Hey, it's your best friend. Are you done with those terrorists already? Is it time to move back to the Netherlands yet?'

7. 'Hello, we're a <insert random nationality> TV crew travelling to Cairo soon. We're going to shoot an item on sexual harassment/Arab spring/the revolution/graffiti/some other subject that has been covered by everybody and their dog, and could do with some advice from a colleague that has been in Cairo for a while and knows the ropes. Could you possibly assist us during our two weeks in the Egyptian capital? 

PS: despite our budget being enormous and your fee very modest in comparison, we'll obviously not pay you for your effort. It's not like you have rent to pay or need to eat, right?'

8. RE: payment for your work we published 800 weeks ago
'Yeah, we're working on it. You should get your money soon.' 

I love being a freelance journalist. Life is great. Now excuse me while I go punch myself in the face repeatedly.

I wish I could go back in time and show this to my 18 year-old self. 'Get a real job', I would tell her. 'One in which people won't treat you like a lesser human being. Go do something else with your life. Anything else. Anything but becoming a freelance journalist.' 


  1. Zeer realistisch ... freelance journalist zijn, is altijd een beetje vechten. Maar soms kan een heel klein mailtje ook heel bemoedigend zijn. Succesjes!

  2. Hoi Ester, ik lees soms je vermakelijke blogs waarin je de Egyptische samenleving en jouw positie hierin (als vrouw, westerling en journaliste) beschrijft middels leuke, aparte insteken. Het is inderdaad lastig om aan de bak te komen als freelancer, maar daartegenover ben je wel lekker aan het bloggen en zit je nota bene in Egypte. Daar spreekt al genoeg doorzettingsvermogen uit. Als je 'klaar' bent met Cairo, kun je je blogs bundelen en een uitgever zoeken in NL. Mocht dat lastig zijn, dan heb je in ieder geval genoeg materiaal om een toekomstige opdrachtgever ervan te overtuigen wat jij allemaal in je mars hebt. Ik zou daarom de moed in ieder geval NOOIT opgeven. Succes! Groeten, Jilles