Freelance round-up: This month in writing

Campaign to stop PR spam

Although good PR people are an essential tool for journalists, if there’s one thing hacks like to complain about it’s the pesky ones amongst PR folk, who bombard them with irrelevant press releases and phone calls.

A controversial campaign - An Inconvenient PR Truth - has now begun to reduce the "the pollution of journalist, blogger and publisher inboxes". The campaign follows research which found 1 .7 billion irrelevant press release emails are estimated to be received in total each year by UK and US journalists alone.

The campaign’s website outlines a Bill of Rights which is a list of recommendations on how PR professionals should approach journalists and bloggers. Rule number one is “Permission required - Press releases should only be sent to recipients who have given express or implied permission. Implied permission meaning the recipient has stated publicly that they are happy to receive press releases.” Other demands include reading publications first to ensure content is relevant and not following up press releases with a phone call.

It’s not simply a case of journalists having a pop at PR people either. While some have branded the Bill pompous and self-important, many PR industry big-hitters are openly backing the campaign.

Petition to change the National Insurance system for freelancers

A freelance writer’s petition to make the National Insurance system fairer for self-employed workers so far has the support of 91 people. Journalist and copywriter Anne Wollenberg says the NI system as it stands “is stacked against freelancers”. She points out that: “An employee earning millions loses their job after 2 years and gets 6 months’ contributory (non-means-tested) JSA. A freelancer signs on as their business fails. They can’t get contributory JSA and must apply for means-tested benefit, which they probably won’t get if their spouse or partner works.”

She also highlights the problem of freelancers being forced onto PAYE for casual work and having to pay Class 1 NI even though these sporadic payments don’t count but can’t be reclaimed.

She is calling for:

· Freelance NI to count towards contributory JSA or Class 3 top-ups to be eligible

· Better explanation of current rules to people registering as self-employed

· Those paying Class 1 NI for 2 years to retain eligibility for contributory JSA if they then go freelance

· A higher threshold for freelancers before paying Class 1 or a Class 1 exemption system

Dream freelance jobs

Much as many of us love working from home, don’t you ever dream of more glamorous surroundings? A recent Guardian article looks at the enviable lives of workers who fully exploit the freedom that online working affords them. Two of the globetrotters make their money, at least partly, through freelance writing. Adam Schofield works in Vietnam as a DJ and writer, while Glen Allsopp is an Amsterdam-based blogger putting in on average three or four hours a week.


The Plain English Awards

At the end of last year, the Plain English awards were handed out, including awards for the best and worst examples of written communications. The Golden Bull and Foot in Mouth awards are good for a laugh and to keep you on your toes, while the good communications winners provide some useful tips and pointers on making sure your writing is focused and to the point.

In its quest to banish gobbledygook, the Plain English Campaign, the group behind the awards, this week pulled the Co-op up on describing its porky pastry goods as “ambient sausage rolls”. The Co-op moved quickly to claim the bizarre naming was an administrative error.

Sarah Wray


2nd February 2010

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