Archive for February, 2013


Fellow Freelancers: Friends or Foes?

Connect with your freelance friends for advice, suggestions and contacts.Last night I attended a Media Bistro event in Seattle. There are usually two or three of these every year, and I’m lucky to make it to one. Not because I don’t want to go, but because I can make a zillion excuses of things I should do instead. I asked a non-freelancing friend to go with me this time to ensure I’d go…because my introverted side (yes, I *do* have one) was taking over, and I wouldn’t have attended otherwise. Last night’s crowd was more on the freelance writer/journalist side, and I had the opportunity to connect with about half a dozen fellow freelancers — all of whom I had met via SPJ at one point or another.

I am so glad I did. The crowd is usually a mix of editors, journalists, PR and marketing folks, and the conversations were lively and informative. We shared ideas, contacts, success stories, pitching tips and a few assignments-gone-wrong tales of woe. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed mixing it up with my peers.

From the outside looking in, my non-freelance friend didn’t understand how this was possible. “Aren’t you competing for the same work,” he asked me afterward. My friend was particularly surprised to hear me offer concrete suggestions to a marketing copywriter in attendance who wanted my advice on growing his client base. Why did I do it? Because that’s what the freelance community is like, at least in my experience.

Whether I’m in Seattle or D.C., I have found the freelance community to be one that is warm and welcoming. People are willing to share ideas, connections and advice freely. Why? Because there are so many clients, media organizations, publications, nonprofits and government organizations out there that need our talent, that we rarely compete directly with each other for assignments or clients. We have each developed our own niche. My specialties are business and community stories, Annika Hipple is focused on travel and hospitality, Crai S. Bower specializes in travel, adventure and humor. Even when our specialties do cross over, there are so many stories to be told that the prospect of two of us pitching the same story with the same angle to the same outlet at the same time are virtually nil.

Here’s an example. I’ve been wanting to write for Northwest Travel magazine. David Volk and Crai Bower both write for that magazine. The geographic area is limited, so there is some potential for cross over. When I told Crai that I’d pitched the editor a few stories last month, Crai offered to introduce me to the editor. I didn’t ask. He offered, and I’ll take him up on it because the “in” will improve my chances of my pitches getting read. Crai doesn’t expect anything in return, but if I can ever repay the favor, I’ll be happy to do it.

This is how the freelance world works. Fellow freelancers are not foes. Far from it. They can be our biggest fans and our greatest allies.

The takeaway:  seek out your fellow freelancers in and around your community, through organizations like Media Bistro and SPJ, and online on your favorite social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. You never know where your next great idea or introduction will come from.

 

Dana Neuts, Freelance JournalistFreelancer Dana Neuts share tips to keep writers motivated.
National SPJ Secretary/Treasurer
2013 Candidate for President-Elect

Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts is a freelance writer, editor and marketing pro. She is also the publisher of iLoveKent.net, an award-winning hyperlocal blog highlighting news, events and more in the Kent, Washington community. Most recently, her work has appeared in The Seattle Times, 425 magazine, South Sound magazine, Grow Northwest and Seattle Woman magazine. For more information, or to contact Dana, visit her website, VirtuallyYourz.com.

 

 

 

 

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Giving it the ‘ol college try

It’s always interesting to find out how people wound up in freelance journalism. For me, freelancing seemed like a good way to take my reporting in a different direction after covering the same topics for several years. I’d already dabbled in freelancing a bit, so I figured it was worth a try. Luckily, I had some connections through work and I was able to line up a number of story assignments right away. A handful of years later, I’m still at it. But what about those who are just starting out in freelancing, especially considering how much change the industry has gone through in recent years?

We hear about how the workforce is increasingly mobile, and opening up to freelancers more and more. But how does that affect up-and-coming  freelancers? Do people interested in freelancing need a journalism degree? Is it worth the time and money? And, how does a journalism degree prepare one for the entrepreneurial challenges of the freelance life? Guest blogger Emily Manke, who writes at JournalismDegree.com, responds to these questions and gives us some real-world advice on the topic, below. Feel free to weigh in in the comments about your own path to freelancing.

Manke says:

The jury is definitely not out when it comes to whether or not earning a degree in journalism will help you achieve the dream of landing steady freelance work, but there are many useful benefits to obtaining a B.A., or graduate degree in journalism. Obviously, the need to tailor your degree to your interests, and to suit the job market, is huge. Networking, school papers, exposure to professionals, practice, and a good portfolio, are some of the pros to pursuing a degree in journalism.

While who you know isn’t everything, knowing connected people in your field can’t hurt, particularly in a field where you rely on your contacts to eat, like freelance journalism. One thing a college education unequivocally does, is put you in the same place, with other ambitious people of all ages, who are interested in the same things you are. While on the job experience is paramount to ever hoping to achieve success as a freelance journalist, college can introduce you to countless other journalists. Being around other journalism students, and professors, can help advance your career in more ways than teaching you the curriculum.

The opportunity to get published in a school newspaper, is one the can set your career in freelance journalism in the right direction. Keeping a personal blog is also a great way to promote your writing, but it lacks the credentials of a school newspaper. Being published in a college or University newspaper implies that you made it through a submission process, which speaks volumes for your credibility. Depending on how picky your given school’s newspaper is, being rejected can also familiarize and prepare you for the inevitable rejection you’ll face as a freelance journalist.

Every college campus, no matter how small, will have resources available to point you in the direction of relevant cultural events in the community. Whether it’s an on campus event featuring a freelance journalist fresh from their investigative report in Africa, or a flyer to an event in a neighboring city for a journalism conference, simply being a student, puts you in the right place to be in the know when must-see journalism professionals make an appearance in your area. Having the opportunity to speak with a powerful, experienced, freelance journalist, can help answer your burning questions, encourage you, and put you in touch with the right people.

Getting better at anything often requires disciplined practice. Journalism is no different. Studying journalism in college, not only helps you hone your skill through the repetition of school assignments, but it can help you build up your portfolio of writing work. When it’s time to embark on your full-fledged freelance journalism career, the practice, and breadth of work that comes along with earning a degree in journalism that can propel your chances of finding freelance work.

While there’s no way to ensure success in the competitive world of freelance journalism, earning a degree in journalism, is a good place to start. Through meeting the right people, getting your writing out there, and diligent practice, college gives you unparalleled training for writing freelance. Due dates, and deadlines aren’t that far off, so if your freelance career is at a lull, consider a degree in journalism.

 

Anna Pratt (Twitter @annaprattEmail

As a staff reporter-turned-freelance journalist, Anna Pratt, who lives in Minneapolis, Minn., has ventured into garbage houses, spent the night in a homeless shelter and witnessed a fistfight in a church basement, all for various stories. Over the past nine years, her byline has appeared in the Star Tribune, The Line, the Southwest Journal, the Minnesota Independent and several suburban and community papers, web publications and broadcast media in the Twin Cities. She’s had many beats, including education, community news, business, development, arts, civil/human rights and immigration. Pratt chairs the programming committee for the award-winning Minnesota Pro Chapter of SPJ and she’s running for president-elect of the chapter. She also serves on the organization’s national programming committee. To read more, visitannaprattjournalist.com.

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Freelance writers, this is your week

National Freelance Writer Appreciation WeekThis week, if you see a freelance writer, give ’em a hug.

Better still, give ’em a job.

The annual National Freelance Writers Appreciation Week starts today, and if you haven’t heard it’s a seven-day serenade to all the wordsmiths and keyboard-pounders who give shape and life to ideas on their own time, often on their own dime, so that others without the patience or aptitude to write still have a voice.

No proclamation made this week possible; no act of Congress, or act of God — just the goodwill and good sense of people who put a premium on well-rounded words and the diligent souls who smooth them into shape.

And there are many of these souls plying this heartfelt trade. Besides being responsible for the words you’re reading here, freelance writers create most of the grant applications, e-commerce strategies and advertising copy that shape our world. They break news and they build reputations; they churn out blogs and business plans, pastorals and poems. In fact, you probably can’t make it through the day without seeing a freelancer’s work in ink or digital print.

So, this week, show your appreciation by giving a freelancer more than just a smile. Become acquainted with and support such prime sites for freelancers as the Editorial Freelancers Association, Freelancers Union, and of course, become a regular reader of the Society of Professional Journalists’ own Independent Journalist blog.

SPJ also offers a Freelancer Directory, where one can shop for freelance help, as well as a Job Bank, where freelancers can shop in return. And there’s “On Your Own: A Guide to Freelance Journalism,” written and edited by SPJ-member freelancers and free of cost to SPJ members. However, a small donation for it is welcome from everyone, as the money goes to help support freelancers and their efforts.

David Sheets, SPJ's Region 7 directorDavid Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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They don’t teach this in J school

How freelance writers stay motibvatedOne of the most important skills for a freelancer to have is one that isn’t taught in J school, nor is it something you can learn on the job. It’s something that requires constant nurturing and attention. Yep, you guessed it. The M word. MOTIVATION.

Motivation is what gets us out of bed every day, that elusive thing that keeps us sitting at our desks or working on our iPads until the story is done. It’s what encourages us to pitch to new publications, endure rejection after rejection, and work at our craft day after day. It’s also what keeps us from getting distracted when doing the dishes or washing a load of laundry seems more appealing than plugging away at the computer. Motivation drives us to earn a paycheck, and it is what causes us to choose work over taking a nap.

For some of us, motivation comes easy. We live for words and we can’t wait to see our next story published or produced. For others, it is a daily battle. To be a successful freelancer, we each need to find something that motivates us – daily. For me, my motivation is two-fold. As a single mother, I am motivated by the desire to care for my small family. Freelancing is my full-time day job, and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. But my motivation goes beyond that (most days). I am also motivated by the desire to meet new people, learn new things and to share important stories with the world.

I have slow days like everyone else though, where I just can’t get going. I move beyond those by going through the motions. I get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, have breakfast and sit down at my desk to peruse the latest news. Then I log in to Facebook and go through my friends’ news feeds. Because many of my friends are freelancers or fellow journalists, I see clips of their latest stories. This often inspires me. If that doesn’t work, I log into my @spjdana Twitter account where I follow a number of well-respected journalists. Their work nearly always sparks me to work on my own projects.

And some days I just don’t have it. Unless I’m on deadline, I treat myself to a few hours off to take a walk, go the gym, play with Jelly Bean, or, yep, you guessed it – take a nap! At some point, my motivation kicks in.

These tips might not work for you, but this article offers several dozen ways to get motivated:  Motivation, Inspiration and Encouragement for Writers. Find one, or ten, that work for you. You’re portfolio (and paycheck) will thank you!

Freelancer Dana Neuts share tips to keep writers motivated.

Dana Neuts, Freelance Journalist
National SPJ Secretary/Treasurer
2013 Candidate for President-Elect

 

Based in the Seattle area, Dana Neuts is a freelance writer, editor and marketing pro. She is also the publisher of iLoveKent.net, an award-winning hyperlocal blog highlighting news, events and more in the Kent, Washington community. Most recently, her work has appeared in The Seattle Times, 425 magazine, South Sound magazine, Grow Northwest and Seattle Woman magazine. For more information, or to contact Dana, visit her website, VirtuallyYourz.com.

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