Why freelance journalists are an architects best friends | Annie Reid, Storyteller

May 6, 2016Ben Morgan

Annie Reid is a freelance writer who has worked for and contributed to publications across the globe, such Metropolis Magazine, The Age, Green Magazine and Indesign.

As one of our first journalists on BowerBird, Annie is well placed to help tell your stories in the media. We sat down with Annie to talk about what makes freelance writers so valuable to your creative business, and also the pressures and opportunities that make freelance journalism such an interesting career choice.

Could you tell us a little about your experience as a writer?

I knew from about the age of 14 that I wanted be a writer, following the footsteps of my grandfather who was an author and journalist. It was a matter of following that path, and luckily it never seemed difficult. I was first published at 16 – a review of Robin Hood in the Herald Sun – and to this day I have no idea how the editor contacted me to write it. Luck somehow! From there I studied at the University of Melbourne, secured a cadetship with Fairfax [one of Australia’s largest news organisations], and then packed up and headed to the UK to write for publications overseas.

I came back from London thinking I would like to freelance, and I’ve never looked back. I was somewhat naïve thinking that freelancing was all café hopping, laptop tapping and coffee sipping, and to be honest I’m kind of glad I viewed it romantically back then because freelancing is hard and tough at times. You really have to love it and give it 200 per cent to succeed in the long term.

What sorts of things do you write about?

I write about lots of things! If it’s editorial it’s not only features on houses, but also popups, restaurants, hotels, bars – anything bricks and mortar. But one thing I learnt early on is to diversify, so as well as the lovely magazines and publications I write for, I work with a range of other professionals, including photographers, graphic and design studios, publishers, public relations agencies, plus developers, builders and architects directly on a whole range of written material – from books and websites to video scripts and white papers.

‘The Density Debate’ – Architectural Review (Australia) October 2013 [Content collaboration with SJB and Plus Architecture]

I like the flexibility to be able to decide who I want to work with, and I’m very lucky that I’m still busy in an industry where more and more journalists are facing redundancy. I think freelancing is challenging when you’re starting out – but having said that I believe there’s always plenty to write about because there are always new stories that need telling.

‘Unit x Unit’ – Green Magazine Issue #44

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

One of my real passions is working with clients to create book projects. I have just finished a project as a ghost writer on a book on property investing, which was published in February by Major Street Publishing.

The project took about a year from start to finish, and I worked closely with the publisher and clients to essentially tell their story in their voice and tone. By all accounts it’s been selling well, so everyone’s very happy with it! From where I sit, the benefit of writing larger projects really enables you to get to grips with your client and build a relationship over writing. It’s quite amazing to see your document climb up to 70,000 words! It’s also a privilege to be asked to work on larger projects, so I relish these opportunities.

How is a freelance journalist different to a staff writer?

No staff politics! Control! Freedom! Flexibility! Yes, these are benefits, but there are also key differences too. One is that a staff writer (typically) answers to one editor, but when you’re freelance you’re anybody’s. You could write for 20 publications if you choose to, with 20 different editors and various ways of writing and filing copy.

When it’s just you, it’s exactly that. The buck stops with you when it comes to securing new work, organising your accounts, setting up the right insurance and everything else involved in running a business.

‘Cloud Kitchen’ – Inside Magazine Issue #86

As a staff writer you would typically work from your employer’s office, whereas freelancers tend to have no fixed address. This can be make or break, as some might miss the daily interaction with colleagues, while others might enjoy working with no interruptions – both have pros and cons. I have worked from home, a shared office and been an employee, and personally, the best scenario for me is to work some of the week in a shared office and some at home.

What’s the hardest part of your work as a freelance writer?

The lack of professional development. In a 9-5 job with opportunities for promotion and colleagues to look up to and learn from, it’s easy to extend yourself, but it’s just you when you freelance. It’s up to you to seek out opportunities to enhance your profession, whether it’s working with a business coach, mentor, day courses or further study, which means you have to factor this in alongside your other business activities.

I started studying my Masters in Publishing and Communications last year, and have found it a tricky balancing act because it affects my earning capacity and my time. On the flipside, it’s wonderful to be in an academic environment again where I have the space to enhance my skills.

‘Smart Infrastructure’ – Metropolis Magazine (New York) August 2015

What benefits are there in sharing your projects with a freelance writer?

A freelancer might have access to more publications and can work with you to target the ones you want to appear in. Freelancers also have relationships with more editors, so they can advise you on how they like to work, what types of projects they like and how best to communicate with them.

At the end of the day, if the project’s great it will secure coverage, but a good freelancer can help you maximise that exposure and also establish a relationship down the track to help you find coverage for future projects.

What are your top five tips for architects and designers when sharing their work with journalists?

  1. Tell us what is the most interesting aspect of the project when you contact us. See more below.
  2. Only send low res project images at first, and preferably use Dropbox or a web-based image sharing platform [such as BowerBird].
  3. Be responsive. Journalists don’t have time to chase, so if we ask for something send it within 12 hours or faster! Remember you are getting published and it’s costing far less than if you put an advertisement in the paper – make the journo’s job easy and we’ll remember it in the future.
  4. Be punchy. Include a one-line description of the project in your email subject line and keep the details about the project short and sharp.
  5. Keep journalists in the loop as to what you’re up to! We might get heaps of emails but you can bet we go through all of them.

What’s the most common question you ask in your work, or the most common thing you need to know?

For editorial work I always want to know two things – what’s the design brief and what makes the project different. In an interest to create stimulating content, we strive to uncover the unique aspect of everything we write about. This means asking questions to reach into the heart of a project, and it’s always fascinating what we can find there!

If you are really on the ball you can create different angles for different publications, thereby increasing your exposure and not just telling the same story twice.

‘Out of the Box’ Habitus Magazine (Australia) Issue #20

And finally, just out of interest, what’s the weirdest/most interesting thing you’ve ever had to write about?

I was reviewing a house back as a cadet, and the photographer and I got a bit of a funny feeling as we drove up to it. Towards the end of the tour, our suspicions were confirmed when we were led down to a cellar, where there were not only boxes and boxes of mint condition toys, figurines and dolls, but also full-sized, creepy mannequins dressed in gas masks, leather, feathers and various costumes. We got out of there quick smart! The week earlier we reviewed a house where someone had a chainsaw sitting in their living room, and not long after that another homeowner told us to step carefully because the glass top containing their bird-eating spider had slipped off.

You’ll be able to connect with Annie on the BowerBird platform. For your exclusive pre-launch invitation, click here…


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