Christa: Chances are
Freelancing over the last seven years has taught me foremost that you just never know. The most innocuous, even boring, opportunities might lead to the best ones…or they might not. The point is never to pass something up just because you don’t expect it to go anywhere. It might surprise you.
Five years ago I was assigned to write an article about cell phone forensics. At that time, no one knew much about it; I remember panicking because I had found exactly one source for the article, and he wanted to remain anonymous. Then one of my editors recommended the International High Tech Crime Investigators Association. I just needed one more source.
I can’t remember if my HTCIA source recommended the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force by name, or if I Googled “cell phone forensics” (or something similar) and arrived at the site that way. I believe what happened next was that I emailed their generic address and hoped like heck they would get back to me (cops not being the most trusting of media). One investigator did, and ended up being tremendously helpful, someone I got along with better than I’d expected.
I didn’t expect him to keep in touch; only one other source has, and only because we reconnected on a site for crime fiction authors. (Ironically, I also interviewed her in 2003, for an article in the same issue. Her name’s Felicia Donovan; go check out her website.) But he did email me again, several times in fact, soliciting article ideas. Over time our professional relationship developed, and from there became more of a professional friendship. And that’s when we decided to collaborate.*
I don’t know what the chances were that he versus another investigator would have answered my email. Maybe he was on “media duty” that week, or maybe he was considered the “go-to” guy for media in general. The point is, if you get along well enough with a source or another creative person, don’t be afraid to follow up. Don’t think there are “boundaries” you need to respect; if you think they’re open to working more with you, ask. That’s what I did this past week, when another source dropped a few hints about writing such that I asked if he wanted to collaborate. He does, and we’re negotiating.
What’s my point? I have “chance” on the brain because I’m about to take a big one-not just the collaboration, but kicking off my freelance career as a whole once more. I’ve always been a “go with the gut” person, and my business has for the most part been successful for it. Still, I keep wondering what on earth I’m doing. I still have one (rather needy) child at home, and even though most of the sources I plan to work with have no problem hearing his little voice in the background, it’s a chance I’ve never taken before. But it, like the collaboration, feels like the right chance to take. And in my mind, that makes it worth the risk.
* I don’t mind dropping Felicia’s name, because she’s trying to sell books. However, my collaborator is still active in law enforcement and not trying to draw attention to himself. You can probably figure it out if you read enough of my articles, especially in upcoming months, but really high-tech crime — at least the way I write it — isn’t that terribly interesting!