Copyright and Freelance Writing

Copyright exists in anything you create, as soon as you write something down or record it in some manner, you have copyright. The work must be your own, so plagiarised material is excluded. If you are employed or have a contract which stipulates that copyright passes to whoever has commissioned your work, then copyright vests with your employer.

In the UK and European Union, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the writer, or if the work is published after death of the writer, for 70 years after publication.

A general rule is not to surrender copyright unless you have negotiated suitable compensation. Retaining copyright gives you the right to be rewarded for your work and if successful, may continue to benefit your family for decades after your death. Look at the estate of JRR Tolkien, the author of “Lord of the Rings” and consider the royalties paid the owners of the copyright from the movies that have been made.
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Libel and Freelance Writing

Libel is where you write something that is damaging to another person. If your writing is professionally damaging to that person, the scope for redress is even greater.

Libel is a publisher’s nightmare as it can lead to bankruptcy and the end of a career for you as a writer. Caution is the watchword when handling contentious issues which may put you at loggerheads if you have something you passionately believe in.

The main defence to libel is in writing the truth. What constitutes the “truth” may be a very difficult thing to prove once you are in a court of law and you are required to back up your claims. From bitter personal experience of courts in the UK and the US, though fortunately not for libel, I have learned to appreciate that there is a huge difference between what I know and what I can prove.

Libel is something that can affect both the non-fiction and fiction writer. Writing a denigrating piece that places a product in a bad light can be considered libellous, so product or service comparisons must be made with care. Using a fictional name for a character in a novel that you are basing upon a real life individual will not protect you from a libel suit if that person is identifiable from your writing.

It is necessary to demonstrate that you have been malicious or reckless when demonstrating libel. This is why you see disclaimers along the lines of “All characters are fictional and any relation to persons living or dead is unintentional.” but you still must take reasonable steps to ensure that you are not using someone’s name who actually exists. If you were to write about a politician or business person who is corrupt, you should Google that name and ensure no politician exists out there that has the name of your fictional character.

You cannot libel the dead so essentially you can write what you want about them. It would lead you open to criticism about making allegations against someone wh is unable to defend themselves or indeed, you may indirectly libel living relatives of the deceased. Best not to get involved in either case.

If you inadvertently libel someone, the best course of action is to consult a lawyer and your publisher. Issuing an apology and a retraction tend to do the trick but libel in the UK is serious and it can be horribly expensive so take care.

I or Me?

One trick to use when checking your grammar is to remove part of your sentence and see if it still makes sense.

I find this useful when considering if “I” should be used instead of “me”.

Think about the sentence I have just written and substitute “Me” for the initial “I” – “Me find this useful…” just does not make any real sense in that context and “I” is correctly used.

Now think about this sentence:

“They gave my father and I drinks at the pub.”

That sounds natural and correct to me but it is not correct – remove “my father” and you would have “They gave I drinks at the pub.” which sounds wrong and indeed it is – using “me” is better, so:

“My father and me were bought drinks at the pub.”

Now look at this example:

“My son and I went to the park.”

Removing “My son” leaves us with “I went to the park.” and that is correct – in this instance “I” is correctly used rather than me.

I see “myself” used to get around this grammatical conundrum but that just seems clumsy.

Sources of Work

When I started writing I was heavily reliant on Get A Freelancer for work and my client portfolio blossomed from there.

GAF is just one of several sites that provide work, and we have already covered others such as Guru.com which offers in my opinion, better work, better pay but you have to have something to offer if you stand any chance of competing.

Other sites you can take a peek include the following:

Freelance UK

This is a didactic resource filled with help and material to help you get your self organised but light on actually bringing writers and clients together.

Probably the best resource for getting you on the straight and narrow with taxes and accounting as well as providing good information on copywriting rates of pay.
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Jumping in the Dark

“You don’t jump … you step, like walking off the pavement when you cross the road.

It’s noisy but you don’t hear anything as you are concentrating on what you are going to do.

Smell is the sense that is heightened the most when you are scared and can’t see anything and your ears won’t work. It stinks of piss and puke with a waft of pure freshness coming at you in insufficient quantity to clear your gut from being scared and taking away the metal taste in your mouth.

Now it’s your turn with the rear-front shuffle taking you to the black hole while your arms are aching with holding onto the weight and I want to throw up but I didn’t eat anything on purpose.

It’s pointless looking up because the cloud blanks out the stars you otherwise would expect to not see, a double negative on a good night that tells you it’s open.

Now your ears tell you what’s happening. Shouts from others that have gone before and are coming after.
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Blue Grammar

Periodically I research for myself on the subject of “writing”; that is a bit of a shocker as it is my chosen means of earning a crust.

I came across a site which you can find here – www.grammarbook.com – an American site again but informative and helpful if you just watch for those Americanized spellings.

One recommendation I found useful is avoiding the overuse of “there is”, “there are” and “it was”; something I am perennially guilty of.

Remember one of the Supaproofread writing tips – if you can dispose of a word in your piece then remove it as long as your message is not affected. This is simply good practice to impart your ideas with economy so the message is not lost in an overgrown bramble of words.
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What is the Difference Between Editing and Proofreading?

Proofreading is a final check on your work to ensure accuracy, correction of grammatical errors and general presentation are within the specifications you have been given.

Editing is much more than this as it combines proofreading together with revisions that should improve the flow and structure of your work to maximise the impact of the piece.

Some may disagree as Nabakov (he of Lolita fame) once said “By editor I suppose you mean proofreader.” Indeed, editing is often referred to as the “butcher’s trade”.

Editing requires a thorough grasp of English whereas proofreading requires an ability to simply spell. It is also fair to say that editing requires the exercise of the little grey cells to a far greater extent as they will be actively considering the subject matter and how well the piece will communicate with the prospective reader. This contrasts with simple proofreading which is a more mechanical process.
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Freelance Writer is Not Code for Unemployed

I pounced on that and told them proudly that I was a freelance writer. The usual raising of eyebrows and looks of interest made me feel like I was the house cat that had been dyed pink to make a conversation piece.

After answering the questions that flow from the status of being a freelance writer; “What do you write about?”; “Where is your work published?”; “How did you get started?”; I overheard amidst the hubbub some cynic mutter “Freelance writer is another way of saying unemployed…chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.”

I didn’t spot the offender though I had my suspicions and concentrated on chatting to my suspect’s girlfriend and making her laugh so hard she was going to wet her knickers (my preferred form of seduction). Nothing like arousing the green-eyed jealousy monster to extract a measure of revenge and a point not lost on my host with whom I had a good chuckle about it all after the event.
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Copywriting: Emotional or Intellectual Approach?

I worked as a salesman for many years and I was good at it – good enough to build my own company and flog it for enough beer tokens to keep me happy for the rest of my days. I know what I’m talking about when it comes to selling.

Writing good copy is something I have never mastered and I have a constant battle within myself when it comes to expressing the emotional nature of intellectual facts and features. I am by nature an analytical individual, I like facts and figures when it comes to making a buying decision and rarely does the emotional aspect of a purchase strike my consciousness. That flies against the general doctrine of advertisers and copywriters who believe that facts and figures only help to justify a purchase and the real decision is based upon emotions and feelings.

You can see this dichotomy all over the place – how many times have you come across web copy such as this for Sean Nalewanyj and his bodybuilding course. Very emotionally based, playing to the desire to be ripped and muscled, referring to “getting the girl” and a reader’s feelings of self-esteem and perception.
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