Freelance Alliance Spotlight - Kenny Clements

What freelance services do you offer?

I'm a writer, editor, concept developer, researcher and project manager and I work across a gamut of subject areas and mediums. Newspapers, magazines, partworks, books, DVD scripts, CD-ROMs, new product and marketing concepts, websites - I've pretty much ***image1***worked on them all. It's the challenge of new subject areas and fresh ways of presenting them that gets me out of bed in the morning. I also have marketing experience, having been a member of Hilton International's corporate communications team for several years (I worked on the "Take me to the Hilton" campaign), and I set up and managed Ladbroke Group's inhouse Creative Services division back in the day, which got me more involved in design concepts, rather than concentrating solely on the subject and text. After 26 years in the business, I'm pretty much a publishing all-rounder.

How long have you been freelancing and what did you do before you became a freelancer?

I spent 3 years working as a newspaper journalist in Scotland after I graduated, before moving to London in 1987. I joined a small publishing house called Greenleaf, where, as well as publishing our own bimonthly PC magazine, we also freelanced as journalists and worked on corporate brochures and newsletters. Those were heady days and it was a tremendous introduction to multi-discipline publishing. I owe Geof Wheelwright and Yvette Stachowiak, the company's founders, a huge debt of gratitude for throwing me in at the deep end. From Day 1, they expected me to produce incisive columns and features for the likes of The Times, Newsweek, The House Magazine, Which PC? and Microscope, as well as plan, commission, write, layout and edit 6 magazines and two dozen newsletters per year. And somehow I did! I have dipped in and out of full time employment since then, but I never really stopped freelancing and diversity is still extremely important to me.

What triggered your decision to go freelance?

Initially, I didn't have a choice (see above), but I really took the plunge in 2002, when I ***image6***decided to quit my full time job as Editorial Director at De Agostini and see what else was out there. It was nerve-wracking, but within a week I was lucky enough to be booked as launch editor on Carl Fogarty's magazine - Planet Riding - and we were off. I worked solidly for 2 years on a multitude of projects and then accepted a 6 month freelance contract as a relief editor with Internatonal Masters Publishers (IMP). Six years later and having become IMP's Head of Global Concept Development, I am finally ready to leave and start freelancing again!

Being on your own, are there any difficult gaps to fill, knowledge or skills wise?

Because the projects I take on are so varied in terms of subject and format, I'm constantly having to become an "instant expert" - or at least have access to one who's willing to share their knowledge. I don't specialise, but I do a lot of research and I've built up a great contacts book of experts in various fields over the years. Those colleagues are invaluable to me when I'm working in a new project area. It's a two-way street and I also use my skills help them as much as I can. I'd like to brush up on my web skills and that's something I plan to do very soon.

What were your goals when you started your business? Have they changed?

***image2***It's a very simple goal: persuade potential clients that I'm the right person for the job and then hope to get paid in time for a good job well done!

Were there any crisis points early on? Any moments when you wondered if the pressure of making your business a financial success outweighed the benefits of independence?

I did have one client who took 6 months to pay a substantial invoice, long after I'd completed the job to their satisfaction. That was tough, as I'd been working flat out on their project for several months and didn't have any other income at the time. I had committed funds and regular outgoings, like everyone else. It was literally hand to mouth until their cheque arrived, as I scrabbled to find other work. Times like that can - and have - made me swing back towards earning a regular income that's taxed at source and has a notice period built in. But the independence and diversity that comes with freelancing is a powerful draw.

What are the best mistakes you’ve made? (i.e. those you’ve learned valuable lessons from.)

Too many to mention and they occur every other day. I hope they continue to do so, as I think the school of hard knocks is the only way to learn and develop professionally and personally.

What is your most triumphant moment so far?

I get a huge kick out of every successful launch - be it a magazine, a book, a continuity series (which are particularly hard to crack but can bring huge financial rewards) or simply a published article. Those are the moments that keep me in this business.

Looking back on your freelancing career now, is there anything that you would do differently?

I think if I had planned it better, my freelance career (and at times my bank balance) would have caused me less grief. However, I'd have missed all the unplanned twists and turns that have led me to work on the most fantastically diverse projects, with incredibly talented people, all over the world. On balance, I wouldn't change a thing.

What things do you find personally rewarding and satisfying as a freelancer? What have been the rewards, risks, and trade-offs?

The published item is the pay-off and knowing that your work has been profitable for your ***image3***client is the icing on the cake. It's also what gets you re-booked! Complex projects sometimes don't go completely to plan and so trade-offs and last minute changes/decisions/u-turns/disappointments can be par for the course and need to be worked out. Discovering new passions, developing new skills in different mediums, working with professionals across a variety of disciplines and subject areas, travelling the world on assignments and making a difference are the rewards.

What have you been working on recently?

At the moment I'm mentoring a relatively new but talented Swedish concept developer in the areas of natural history, food, gardening and children's education (what did I say about diversity?), and I'm always very much looking forward to my next freelance challenge. Whatever it may be.

To find out more about Kenny Clements, and to contact him, see his Freelance Alliance profile.

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3rd June 2010

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