Freelance of the week: 'Austria beats Milton Keynes County Court'

Patricia Carswell started life as a barrister in a commercial practice in London.

After ten years, she flirted briefly with life-coaching and eventually fell into journalism.

She now writes mostly about health, fitness and family, with a bit of greenery and travel thrown in.

She also has a blog about rowing, documenting her spectacularly unsuccessful attempts to master a sport better suited to giants.

Carswell has written for most national newspapers in the UK including the likes of The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

How long have you been a freelance?

Five years, though the first year or two involved a slow process of building up from scratch.

Why freelance?

I’ve been self-employed for most of my working life, so when I started writing for a living it actually never occurred to me to get a proper job.

Working from home can make you slightly eccentric, though, especially when you live in the depths of a Welsh valley, so I try to get out and about fairly regularly to keep me sane.

Who are your main sources of work?

My most regular clients are The National (an English-language broadsheet newspaper in UAE), and the fitness magazine Bodyfit.

Other than that, I have written for nearly all of the major national newspapers and a wide variety of magazines – anyone who will pay.

How much do you charge?

It depends on the publication and how much work is involved.

The NUJ recommended rates are a good starting point, but I’m always happy to talk money.

What’s been your best ever gig?

That has to be an all-expenses-paid week at an Austrian spa, with daily treatments and heavenly food.

Compared with schlepping off to Milton Keynes County Court, as I might have done in my old life, it felt like a pretty good way to make a living.

And what’s been your worst?

I’ve been quite lucky so far, although I have had a few white-knuckle rides when case studies have dropped out.

I always try to think laterally and find a creative solution when a piece implodes.

What story are you most proud of?

Probably a piece I wrote for The National about a genetic link with depression.

Have you agreed to do anything ridiculous for money?

I underwent a cryotherapy session, which involved being frozen to -125 degrees.

It became fairly surreal when I arrived at the clinic to find Frank Bruno standing in front of an electric fan wearing underpants and nipple protectors.

What’s the secret of keeping the wolf from the door?

Never drop your standards, talk to everyone you meet and make your non-working life varied enough that you have interesting things to write about.

Contact details?

Web: www.patriciacarswell.co.uk Email: patriciacarswell@gmail.com

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