Posts Tagged ‘bruce shutan’


Making Your Best First Impression with Editors

Contributed by Freelancer Carol Cole-Frowe

Love hurts.

That is — love of yourself — enough to put yourself out there in a positive way.

Good self-marketing is probably the toughest part of being a freelancer. Journalists have been taught from day one to make themselves secondary to the story. But as a freelancer, how you put yourself out there says a lot about how much you believe in yourself and your talent and how many quality freelance jobs you get.

When I became a freelancer, I did a search on the Internet for business card templates. I figured that I had some newspaper design training in college and surely that would translate to picking out a good business card that would represent me well. I knew that was important and my first impression with any editor.

I found lots of inexpensive templates and one spoke to me that day. I ordered up cheap business cards that had sort of a curly, flourishy thing on them. Heck, I thought they were even sort of pretty.

A couple of weeks later, I was having lunch with one of my friends, who is retired from the largest newspaper in the state — and my 70-plus year-old veteran journalist friend took one look at my new cards and grinned.

“Didn’t know you had started writing romance novels, Carol,” she said.

Not that there’s anything wrong with writing romance novels, but that’s not exactly me. I think of myself as a lot more serious journalist, with a strong investigative streak.

Those business cards ended up in a bottom drawer in my desk.

I went back to the website, looking for something that more reflected my essence as a journalist. And I found a nice template with a vintage typewriter that probably dated back to before I was born. I printed those babies off and in a few days, they were in my mailbox.

And once again, my journalistic friends had something to say about it.

“It makes you look old,” was almost the universal reaction.

Ouch.

Who wants that? Nobody, especially when journalists are promoting themselves as tech-savvy, multi-platform producers.

I showed a graphic designer friend of mine, Shirley Morrow of Morrow Design, my two card efforts and she had a strong reaction (after she stopped laughing.)

“NO.”

Shirley has been in a few newsrooms and she’s known me for quite a few years. She volunteered to tackle the problem.

She riffed off the copyright symbol, designing a round business card with a circled C in the middle and the F by it’s side, much like the way I often sign off as C2F.

Shirley added the perennial joke about drinking coffee in newsroom, with a “coffee stain” on the round white card, with my professional memberships on the back of the card reversed into a latte color.

It’s just so darn cool, if I say so myself.

And we printed a whole bunch of smaller stickers that I can apply to everything from envelopes to invoices to reporters’ pads.

I confess that when Shirley proposed a circular business card, it gave me a bit of heartburn. Would people put it into their Rolodexes? Would people type in the info into their address book because it wouldn’t go into one of those business card scanners. Would people save it or lose it? Or would they use it as a coaster?

The answer to all of the above is — yes.

The best reward was when Los Angeles freelancer Bruce Shutan, a member of SPJ’s national freelance committee, held up my card in a freelance workshop at SPJ’s national conference as an example of doing it right. It was a surreal and wonderful moment.

What did it cost me?

I paid for the printing and even splurged on an emboss of the circle C and the F in the middle. Shirley and I will trade out my writing for her design on the “friends of Shirley” plan. I’m at her beck and call on projects that are appropriate for what I do.

I would encourage you to spend a little more on anything that directly reflects your image as a freelancer, whether it’s a business card or your website. Using cheap business cards just positions yourself as being a freelancer who may or may not perform professionally.

If you have a friend who has those graphic design talents, remember that there are things you can do for them as well to trade out your talents. Write for their website. Write some press releases for them. Brainstorm on their clients. It all creates a synergistic effect with your creative friends.

But even if you don’t have a friend with graphic design talents, it’s still worth it to have something that reflects you.

And love yourself enough to improve your image on what you’re putting out there. It will reward you in kind.

 

Carol Cole-Frowe is a full-time freelance journalist working primarily in Oklahoma and north Texas. She is president of the Oklahoma pro chapter and co-chair of the SPJ Region 8 spring conference April 8-9 in Norman, Okla., at the University of Oklahoma Gaylord School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Resumes & Testimonials in the Digital Age

Contributed by freelance writer Bruce Shutan

Is it necessary to even have a resume in today’s digital age when virtually anyone can stake out a spot in cyberspace and pen an unlimited narrative about their career, skills or accomplishments without worrying about confining the highlights to a single page?

Of course, it depends on each person’s situation. But for the most part, I believe that it’s much more effective for freelance writers with at least some sort of a track record and online presence to spring for their own Web site that features a bio, as well as a client list and writing samples if they’re far enough along in their career. Finishing touches should include a photo and contact information.

One element that I would avoid like the plague involves testimonials from editors or colleagues, which I think are unnecessary and even could be construed as presumptuous, sycophantic or arrogant unless someone is just starting out and could use a jump start. Why not simply let one’s work speak for itself?

For those of us who have a full-time gig with a newspaper, magazine, Web site, TV or radio station and want to test the waters of freelance writing there has to be some sort of starting point. A LinkedIn profile with bulleted points is probably the best sort of compromise for entry-level freelance scribes whose career is an empty canvas. If there’s enough material that can be strung together in complete sentences, then I think it’s a cleaner and more professional presentation. That’s just my humble opinion. Some folks may beg to differ.

Moira Allen, editor of Writing-World.com, has suggested that freelancers whose job history may bear little resemblance to their writing ability draft a “skills” resume rather than a traditional one that lists work experience in chronological order. The focus would be on skills and qualifications that are relevant to the job these individuals are seeking, with the information listed in a separate section as opposed to a work history subset.

I think that freelance writers who have written for a few media outlets and have a handful of clips, even if they’re not archived online or available to the public, must invest in their own Web site, which can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. There’s no excuse not to in this highly competitive business climate. And as the Internet becomes increasingly sophisticated, I believe that the traditional resume, with its cringe-worthy description of one’s job objective, eventually will go the way of the dinosaur.

Bruce Shutan is a Los Angeles freelance writer who has written for about 75 publications or corporate entities. His extensive reporting on the American workplace dates back to 1985, with a showbiz sideline developed in 2000 when he began contributing to Variety, a must-read for entertainment industry insiders for more than a century. He can be reached at bshutan@gmail.com.

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