Gillian McAinsh is a freelance writer and editor. She is an inquisitive and deadline-driven creative (super lazy if there isn’t a deadline).
Please tell us more about what you do.
I am a freelance writer and editor and the kind of projects I work on include annual reports, business profiles, internal and external corporate communications, arts and lifestyle features, media strategy, and blog content. I also train, most recently offering a “be your own publicist” media training workshop, and I dabble in basic graphic design and photography. My speciality is to merge what clients want to say, into a message their audience wants to hear.
How long have you been a freelancer?
I never planned to be a freelancer, but it was the only logical step to take when I was retrenched from Arena Holdings (then Tiso Blackstar) in mid 2019. I dived into a new career as a solo entrepreneur just before Covid hit South Africa but, fortunately, a mix of dogged determination and irrational optimism, along with a well-tuned bullshit detector and stunning contacts built up over decades in the newsroom, has so far been paying off.
What does a day in your life look like?
That totally depends what I am working on, so no two days are the same. I love to start with a sea swim, Pilates class or even a round of golf but most days it’s straight to my laptop at home (often with a ginger cat trying to interrupt). I work until the job is done or I have to stop and wait for more info or feedback (the bane of freelance life). So, some days are hectic, others more chilled, and weekends are not necessarily days off. Even if you have to work eight hours a day, though, who says it has to be from Monday to Friday, 8-4?
As long as there is wi-fi and sunshine, living and working in Nelson Mandela Bay is no hardship.
Where/how do you find inspiration?
The National Arts Festival in Makhanda (Grahamstown) gives me a creative boost every winter. Open-water sea swimming washes the cobwebs from my brain and is a quiet time that resets my soul. Generally though, I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration – that is too much of a luxury for a professional wordsmith. It’s better just to start a job, and to keep on working, until you finish, whatever project you are working on. I’d rather do good work and ship it on time than miss a deadline chasing the elusive ideal of perfection.
What advice do you have for other freelancers?
There IS work out there: be professional, treat everyone with respect, work smart, and the rewards should come. Don’t forget to factor in space in your week for admin and marketing: billable hours are great but you can’t just work, work, work all the time. Also, you need not have studied journalism to be a journalist. For example, I studied clinical psychology – I’ve got an MA (clin psych) and practised briefly – and this taught me to listen for meaning, which has been invaluable in taking an effective brief.
How long have you been a Safrean, and why are you a member of Safrea?
I joined three years ago when I went solo, so that I could learn from other freelancers. Great decision! I’ve met some amazing people, learnt a lot (thank you Tiffany in particular) and the R500 annual membership fee has more than repaid itself in job opportunities.
What is your work/life motto?
You only have one life, so make it fun and leave people, including clients, happy that they chose you.
More about me
See examples of my work at my website: https://www.gmcainsh.co.za
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