Why did you choose to become a freelancer?
To be honest, it came about when I was made redundant from my job as a biotech scientist in West Wales. At that time my wife was a freelance writer who had more work than she could handle, so I stepped in to help out. 12 years later, I am still here.
If you trained, where? If not, how did you become a freelancer?
I did not train in journalism. I have a PhD in chemistry, and post-doctoral research and lecturing experience, so I had much involvement in academic scientific paper write-ups and submissions before becoming a freelancer. My wife handed me the 'dream ticket' into freelancing, and specifically into the technology field. As time went on, I took over all her writing assignments while she took a career break (children) and developed demand in my own right, in my own name. I have not looked back since.
Do you specialise in any particular field and what areas do you write about?
Medical, scientific, technology and engineering covers the majority of the subject areas I write in. At the moment I am undertaking lots of medical writing assignments – last year the energy industry kept me topped up with projects. I have also written about the construction of ships, bridges, roads, airports and aeroplanes, food processing plants and the new technologies in printing and packaging, mobile communications, the security of pharmaceuticals, emerging and advancing technology within the energy industry ... it is a very diverse portfolio. This means I find everything I do interesting and fascinating as these industries in particular are constantly developing and evolving.
Which publications have you been published in?
Recently much of my work has been 'confidential' as it concerns drugs in the development pipeline. Many assignments for communication and PR clients are also published under the client’s name.
But aside from this I am the UK editorial representative of the German-based Tobacco Journal International where I write on technology and packaging, and I have written for industry-leading magazines that include Packaging News, World Cruise, World Pharmaceutical Frontiers, Packaging and Converting Intelligence, Airport International, Future Airport, World Expro, Baking & Snack International, Hotel Designs, Mobile Business, Soft Drinks International, Tramways & Urban Transit, Pellet Mill, Bolted, to name just a few – and many, many websites (too many to name).
Which articles, in which publication, are you the most proud of?
This is a difficult question. I’m proud whenever any of my articles gets syndicated or when I receive a congratulatory email from an industry professional. The most recent incidence of this was an article titled "Can’t see the wood for the trees" for Pellet Mill magazine (Biomass Power & Thermal International, US) which concerned the development of the UK market for wood pellets as a fuel source. I received a lot of positive feedback upon publication, including phone calls from other countries around the world looking to implement a wood pellet programme of their own and wanting my advice!
What are the best and worst aspects of freelancing?
Best: being my own boss in charge of my own destiny. I work from my home office, and I can help out with the school run and be more hands on with my young children. The diverse range of industries that I cover, along with the varying tasks and requirements (from covering meetings and conferences, to interviewing, to producing manuals, press releases and so much more) means I never get bored. Every day is something new – it’s never boring or repetitive.
Worst: the occasional uncertainty of future work/income. Fortunately I currently have a steady stream of commissions, but it has peaks and troughs which get a little nerve wracking at times. And sometimes being home-based for long periods leads to cabin fever. At these, albeit rare, times I actually miss commuting and actively seek assignments that get me out of the house.
Do you have any interesting anecdotes in relation to your experience as a freelancer?
I was once commissioned by a company to conduct some industry telephone interviews. Another client contacted me asking if I could lead a telephone interview for them ... turns out I was the one asking the questions, and answering them!
On another assignment I had to interview a man in Scandinavia and write a 1,000 word article based on it. I had 20 set questions to ask, recorder at the ready to capture everything, but every answer I was given was simply "yes" or "no" – It was a struggle to reach the word limit for that one.
Huw has a website at http://www.huwkidwell.co.uk