Freelancer of the fortnight: Mark Smulian, UK
Journalism.co.uk catches up with a member of its freelance community. Mark Smulian specialises in local government and is currently based in London
Why did you choose to become a freelancer?
I was editor of a B2B weekly called Housing Today and left in 2002 to become a freelance a few weeks after it changed ownership.
If you trained, where? If not, how did you become a freelancer?
I was a freelance briefly in the mid-1990s between jobs, which proved useful experience for doing it permanently. I've been in B2B magazines since 1985, so when I left Housing Today I contacted pretty much everyone I'd ever known in the business, searched out other potential clients that were new to me, and took it from there.
Do you specialise in any particular field and what areas do you write about?
I specialise a lot in local government, but that is a broad field - politics, finance and dozens of individual services. I also write about the public sector generally, transport, construction, planning and regeneration, plus sometimes things not related to my earlier journalistic career like law, travel and retail.
Which publications have you been published in?
Local Government Chronicle, Planning, Regeneration and Renewal, Law Society Gazette, Contract Journal, Public Finance, Housebuilder, Supply Management, Local Transport Today, Retail Newsagent, Moneywise, the sadly-defunct Business Travel World and various others from time to time.
Which articles, in which publication, are you the most proud of?
Right now, a feature in Local Government Chronicle in May, which is among the most widely read stories on its website this year - the tale of a bizarre dispute involving an MP, a cat, a chief constable, a council chief executive, a councillor, bogus websites and a popular singer of the 1930s.
What are the best and worst aspects of freelancing?
Best: I get to work on a wide range of subjects and I don't have my time wasted in corporate meetings and processes.
Worst: chasing payments.
Do you have any interesting anecdotes in relation to your experience as a freelancer?
Happily for freelancers, there are plenty of people who need our help in producing something readable. I was once asked to turn an academic study of older people's housing into more accessible English. I entered a parallel universe in which people occupy 'the focal axis facing the focal point' of their living room instead of sitting in their armchair facing the television; don't invite their friends round, but 'maintain social agency' and, somewhat alarmingly, 'achieve toileting' rather than go to the loo!
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