Archive for December, 2011

Joy R. Lynskey: Time Management for Freelance Writers

I subscribe to the Worldwide Freelance Writer, a weekly newsletter for freelancers. It has tips on markets, interesting articles and other ideas for promoting your work and getting yourself out there. Here’s a recent article by Joy R. Lynskey that I thought was particularly helpful. It appeared in the Dec. 28, 2011 issue of Worldwide Freelance Writer. It’s good advice for freelance writers and editors as well as other home-based business owners.

Time Management for Freelance Writers

Thanks, Ms. Lynskey, for the great advice!


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More Journalists Jailed in 2011, 44% Freelancers

In this New York Times blog post from 12/13/11, David Carr features a recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists that shows more journalists were jailed in 2011 than the previous year. At least 178 journalists were jailed this year, including at least 79 who are freelancers, who often lack the institutional support and financial resources to fight wrongful imprisonment. For more on the subject, read the original blog post which includes a list of the imprisoned journalists.



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Plan ahead by looking back

As December winds down, many of us are looking ahead to the New Year, usually to set goals about our diet, health, wealth or work. As a freelancer and business owner, I also like to take the opportunity to look back at the past year to see which goals I accomplished, what projects I’ve completed and what really worked well (and didn’t) for my business. And, of course, I like to see how much money I made and how I can do better next year. I encourage you to do the same.

But where to begin? Gather some objective data from the year so you can analyze it before setting goals for next year.

Looking Back

Compare your client list from the beginning of the year to your client list now. What clients did you lose? Which ones did you gain?

Print off a summary from your bookkeeping program (or spreadsheet) to show you how much you made for the year and who paid how. Let’s say you made $1,500 from publication A in 2011, $3,800 from publication B and $7,500 from client C and $15,000 from a collection of other clients. Are you still doing business with these publications/clients? Are they reliable? Do they pay on time? Would you struggle financially if one of these clients or publications went out of business in 2012?

From a journalism perspective, where did your work appear? What newspapers, magazines or online venues published your work?

What work did you do this year that you are most proud of? Editing a book? Publishing an article in a particular magazine? Creating a humor blog? Landing a regular column on your favorite tech website? Consider what it was about this project that you loved so much. How can you do more of that?

When you are in control of fee or rate structure, what are you charging? How does this compare to other freelancers in your market? Are higher, lower or about the same?

When the publisher is in control of rates, what you are earning per word? Sort from high to low. What’s the average rate per word?

Planning for 2012

First, pat yourself on the back for all of your accomplishments this year. Then take this data and use it to help you define goals for 2012, financially, personally and professionally. With a firm plan in place, you’ll be sure to meet your goals next year too Ah, the joy of freelancing!


About Dana Neuts:

Dana Neuts is the owner of Virtually Yourz, a writing, editing and marketing firm based in the Seattle area. Her work has been published in The Seattle Times, Seattle Business, South Sound magazine, Kent and Renton magazines, American Profile and HS Today. She is also the owner and publisher of and Dana serves as the chairman of the SPJ freelance committee and is the regional director for SPJ’s region 10.


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12 Days of Christmas: Journo Style

It’s countdown time. We’ve entered the 12 days of Christmas and since most journalists don’t need geese-a-laying or drummers drumming, you’ll have to find some other options. No worries, though, we’ve got a countdown of some great gifts that are a bit more practical.

12: Although some reporters don’t always have time to eat, let alone cook, you might know one or two that would appreciate this creative set of an oven mitt and pot holder, crafted with “prints” from The Guardian. Maybe they’ll make you dinner in return?

Guardian-themed Oven Mitt & Pot Holder

11: Journalists don’t just write the news, we tend to read it as well. A lot. So don’t overlook something as simple as a subscription to a paper or magazine or even take advantage of the digital subscriptions now so easily accessible on the iPad and other tablets. FYI: some publications offer free digital access with a print subscription and it’s sometimes a better deal.

10: They may be a text master in warm weather, but the cold does strange things to all of us. Why not give them some cool gloves that will keep them warm — and stay connected. Agloves has tons of different styles for men and women, and every kind is created to work on touch screens.

Aglove's Touch Screen Gloves

9: Gifting to a wonderful woman who just happens to be a journalist? Chances are she’ll love this unique, hand-crafted bracelet made from replica typewriter keys. Available on Etsy, it’s a lovely reminder of the news tool we all miss so fondly and also features some reporter-themed charms, including newspapers, quill and computer.

Newshound Bracelet

8: What journalist doesn’t drink coffee and feel crushed under the pressure of deadlines? Help them get it on the record with Newseum’s “Not Tonight” coffee mug. It’s also in shot glass form for those who need something a little stronger to make it through crunch time.

Newseum's Not Tonight Mug

7: Especially wonderful for copy editors, we can almost guarantee any journalist will get a kick out of Fake AP Stylebook’s absolutely phony guide. With a title like “Write More Good,” you can’t go wrong. See? We know we’re the most bestest.

6: If it rains a lot in their location or they report outside in crazy situations, consider gifting something from Rite in the Rain. They have a line of products they’ve put together that are useful for journalists. And with a paper that’s difficult to destroy or mangle, you’ll never have to hear them complain about smudged quotes or torn pages again.

Rite in the Rain has multiple products available

5: We all need friends, especially friends who share a love for the journalism profession. And although some say it’s not true, you can buy them! OK, not really, but you can give the gift of a professional membership that will lead to friends and, just as good, tons of great resources. Personally, we suggest a membership to SPJ, but, of course, we’re biased.

4: For the person always fighting over plugs at Starbucks, you’ll soon be their hero with this gift. Check out the PlugBug. It’s an adapter made specifically for all MacBook power adapters that allows you to charge another USB device from the same plug. Yep, it’s awesome.

PlugBug Charging Adapter

3: Because this is a place for freelancers, we had to include something inspiring and motivating for those who need it. This Holstee Manifesto poster, which swept through the social media world this year, is a beautifully designed reminder to find the passion in your life (and, in this case, your work).

The Holstee Manifesto Poster

2: Maybe you’re looking for a gift for that person who still loves print, but can’t get away from the internet. We’ve got the coolest gift, although it’s not available until 2012 and we have no idea what it will cost. But we decided to include it anyway because it’s just that cool. BERG has introduced the Little Printer, a cute little “guy” who pulls your pre-determined data (set up on your phone) from all over the place and prints you a custom news update several times a day. It’s like your own personal wire!

BERG's Little Printer

1: From interviews to meetings to conference sessions, this gift will come in handy for anyone on your list. It’s the Echo Smartpen from Livescribe. With just the pen and some nifty paper, audio recordings are easier to maneuver. Just tap a place in your notes and the recording plays just what you’re looking for. The pen really is mightier!

The Echo Smartpen

There you have it. Gift away! Now, could someone please direct my husband to this list?


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Conference attendance brings many benefits for freelancers

The end of the year is approaching, which means it’s time to start thinking about planning for the new one—including whether to attend conferences of SPJ and other organizations that can help our freelancing efforts, so we can budget for the time and money to participate in such events.

That raises the obvious question of why – why go to an SPJ regional or national conference? Why go to the conferences of other organizations?

That’s easy: Because it’s good business for a freelancer. It’s a smart use of your time and money.

As freelancers, we can often feel isolated and cut off from our colleagues. One way to reduce that lonely feeling is to get out of the house and … go to a conference. Attending a conference is a great way to get reconnected to colleagues.

Conferences are learning experiences almost by definition. They offer a consolidated, in-depth and often intense opportunity to plug into the current trends of our profession (or the professions and industries of the people we write about) and to pick up on tools, techniques and other topics important to those of us who practice and care about journalism, no matter what role we play in the profession. You never know what you might learn by attending a conference.

The SPJ’s national conference will include a number of sessions specifically for freelancers, as well as plenty of opportunities. Regional meetings are likely to include freelance topics as well. (If not – be the one to offer something about freelancing at your regional meeting!) Whether you’re thinking about freelancing, starting out or have been doing freelance journalism for years, you can always learn more from colleagues and presenters.

Conference attendance is also a great way to meet colleagues in person and interact on levels well beyond the impersonal one of e-mail. Why do that? Well, it’s always nice to make new friends, but it also helps to remember that we’re more likely to want to work with people we know. Meeting in person enhances your network of people who might refer or recommend you for projects or even hire/subcontract with you. You become more than an e-mail address; you become a real person, and that makes you stand out from all those other e-mail messages in someone’s inbox, especially when that someone needs to hand off work they don’t usually do or are too swamped to take on.

Conferences bring us together not just with our peers, but with people who might hire us. That’s an opportunity we shouldn’t miss. Again, meeting prospective clients in person makes us stand out from the throng when there’s a reason to get in touch later on.

Yes, conferences cost money, and freelancers don’t have the luxury of being sponsored or reimbursed by their employers to attend professional meetings. However, those expenses are tax-deductible – not just registration, but travel, accommodations, meals, supplies, resources, etc. If you put some money aside starting in January, you can build up a sizable conference budget for the year.

You can even make money from attending conferences. SPJ may not pay most of its conference speakers, but some organizations either pay honoraria or cover the costs of travel and accommodations for their speakers, along with giving speakers free conference registration. Think about what you might have to offer to colleagues or clients, and start looking for opportunities to be a speaker somewhere in the new year!

Even attending a conference can be a freelance assignment. I have clients that pay my travel, accommodation and meal expenses, plus a daily fee, for me to attend their annual conferences and write up daily events for an onsite newsletter or post-conference report. Being there also lets me mingle with other attendees whom I wouldn’t meet otherwise and who might have a use for my freelance services, or might be good story subjects for the future.

As I said in a recent assignment (for an organization that has nothing to do with journalism), conferences are for us – designed with our professional and personal needs in mind, and intended to serve those needs by giving us what we need to stay up to date in our profession, make our work better, and enhance the skills and service that we provide to our clients.

When you go to an SPJ conference, a conference for freelancers or one for members of an industry that you cover, you’re not just among colleagues; you’re among friends. So sit down with a calendar and your budget for the new year, and plan now to plug yourself into the adventure of at least an SPJ conference. See you there!

Long-time freelancer Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is a veteran of “too many conferences to count” in various aspects of communications, as well as on behalf of clients in several professions and industries. She is the owner of Communication Central (, which presents an annual fall conference for freelance writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, etc.

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