I've been doing some freelancing lately, and for the most part I enjoy it. You take a lot of meaningless drivel and boring statistics and you start fashioning paragraphs and sentences and if you do it just right you end up with a pretty readable story.
However, there are always people involved with these stories.
Words I know how to deal with; people not so much. I admit: I had socially backward childhood.
Just to give you an idea how the process works:
Day One: I get an email from the Big Guy containing a name and a contact number. I immediately call said contact. They never, ever answer, so I leave a message telling them who I am and why I'm calling. Then, knowing I have some time to kill, I get online. I google the company name; the contact's name; I find out everything I possibly can. If it's a fish market I research fishing laws and markets and marine life.
Day Two: I call and leave another message. I'd like to do an interview, it should only take about fifteen minutes of your time, we can do it whenever is convenient for you. Call me back–thanks! I get online again and I figure out the secret code for that company's email. Usually it's something like firstname.lastname@example.org. I plug in my contact's name in the secret format; usually I'm correct. They will usually answer this email, and set up a time for an interview.
Day Three: I keep my appointment. If I'm lucky, so does the other person. Chances are, however, that the interview will consist of a cheery greeting, and an idea for a more qualified individual I can talk to–which they will email me later.
Day Four: I get the email. I call the new contact and leave a voice mail. I also immediately apply the secret code and send an email.
Day Five: Contact responds. "I'm terribly busy. Perhaps next week sometime, what works for you?" I immediately respond leaving the schedule wide open, and we set up an interview.
Day Six: It's the weekend. I conduct more research. I talk to people who buy their fish at said market. I talk to people who fish for a living. I talk to everyone I can. I try to find an angle for this story so that when I interview this person, I'll know what direction to take.
Day Seven: Did I ever mention how much I LOVE the concept of a Sabbath day?
Day Eight: Big Guy emails me. How are we doing on the story? I respond-pretty good. I've got some great information together. I still need to do the interview. And then I pause–when can I have it done? Well, it should only take me an hour or so after the interview, so I promise him, "I'll have it to you tomorrow."
Big Guy responds: good, because it's running the next day–I'll need it for final approval in the morning.
WHAT????? The other assignments I'm working on, that I received before this one, won't be running for weeks still. But he told me this could get fast and furious. So I think hard. I have enough material to write a good story; my facts are straight. I consider calling said contact and explaining what I've got. Hahahahaha. Yeah, right. Like they'll answer. And I've been in trouble before for hounding a source too much. So I content myself with an email. Which nobody responds to. Surprise, surprise.
I'm not the kind of person who says, "Sorry, so-and-so did or didn't do this, so I can't keep my end of the bargain." I improvise. I come through. So I stay up all night. I make the story as good as I can. I quote the contact's boss from their website–and I am careful to make it clear that I'm quoting a quote.
Day Nine: Big Guy is rattling my cage with emails. Are you done yet? All hell is breaking loose down here. Yes! Yes! I'm almost there! Give me an hour to try to contact these people one more time. I'm not sure they'll be happy with not having input here. I don't tell him the interview isn't until one o'clock. The way I figure it, he's sending the story to the contact for final approval; if they are as busy as they appear, they might be glad I wrote the story without harrassing them further; if they don't like it, they'll send it back–or be motivated to call me up and give me some input. What can it hurt?
So I hit send.
Not a good idea. More than "all hell" broke loose. They love the story as far as a story goes, but they think I made parts of it up; they don't recognize my sources; I'm a liar! Contact sends this email to Big Guy, plus carbon copies the thing to every single person in the organization and maybe a few more.
I apologize (and sweat) profusely. I keep my interview appointment that afternoon and write an entirely new story in less than two hours. It's half-way decent, but I send it off full of grammatical and probably logical errors. I just want to get it out of my inbox. Out, out, damn story.
And then I stay awake all night again agonizing over my reputation as an honest writer, not to mention having my name printed next to the unedited drivel I so hastily posted.
C'est la vie. Lesson(s) learned.