Posts Tagged ‘Dana Neuts’

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, 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,

So You Think You Can Freelance?

This article appeared in the February 2, 2011 online edition of SPJ’s Quill magazine:

So You Think You Can Freelance?

by Dana E. Neuts

Making it as a successful full-time freelancer — writer, editor, photojournalist, blogger, etc. — requires equal parts talent, persistence and business savvy. For the sake of this article, let’s assume you are skilled in your primary area of interest and that you are motivated, self-disciplined and persistent enough to acquire and produce a sufficient level of work to make a living. Read More…

Should I work for free?

A lot of budding freelancers ask me this question – should I work for free (or for low pay)? The answer, however, is not as simple as the question. While many experienced freelancers would say NO without blinking an eye, I would caution you to weigh your decision carefully.

How do you decide? Consider this – are you getting anything out of being published in a particular venue or from a particular editorial relationship? If you can say YES, then I say “go for it!” If not, say “no, but thanks for the opportunity” and walk away.

For example, several years ago a website called Dr. Hottie magazine offered to pay me $50 each for articles on personal finance, women’s health issues, relationship advice and more. While the pay was below market, the pieces were easy to write, about topics that I enjoyed, and were in a niche where I had not yet been published. [And, yes, I made sure there was no porn or online dating involved!] So I said YES! I got a small paycheck, but the exposure I got in being published in a new niche was invaluable. (Freelancer Michelle Goodman, author of My So-Called Freelance Life, calls this PIE – payment in exposure.)

Other times I’ve been asked to edit eBooks or self-published books in exchange for a percentage of the book’s sales. I always say NO to this scenario, because book editing is a time consuming task that takes me away from my regular work schedule. In addition, I have no control over book marketing and sales, so there is no guarantee I will get paid anything. And, lastly, when an author is not willing to put forth any money toward his project, I question his commitment to his work and investment.

In other words, “freelance” does not mean “free,” but don’t be so quick to turn down opportunities that pay little to no money. Explore the opportunity first, and make your decision wisely.


Dana Neuts is a freelance writer, editor and marketing professional based in Kent, Washington. In addition to writing for publication, she edits books and is the owner and publisher of and, hyper-local blog sites. She serves as the SPJ freelance committee chair as well as on the national SPJ and SDX Foundation Boards. For more information, visit

SPJ Promotes Freelancers

The nation’s largest journalism organization aims to be a leading resource for freelance journalists, according to Dana Neuts, the group’s new freelance committee chair.

During a BlogTalkRadio show hosted today by SPJ Membership Chair Sarah Bauer, Neuts described a bevy of initiatives, from the online freelance directory and Independent Journalist blog to live local events and national conference workshops, all designed to help freelancers build business.

Here are some of the highlighted resources:
Freelancer Directory: This searchable directory helps editors across the country find the freelance talent they seek by state or by specialty. Neuts said she won work from a Homeland Security publication through the directory and a guest caller named Scott chimed in with his own testimonial. He’s employed full time, but won side work with a broadcaster through his Freelance Directory listing.
The Independent Journalist: Updated weekly, this SPJ blog features a rotating cast of freelancers sharing insights on everything from how to write a resume for the Digital Age to how to find individual medical coverage.
Resource Lists: Need help deciphering an indemnification clause or finding a writing conference near you? SPJ’s list of resources can point you in the right direction.
• Local Events: SPJ also has a strong network of local student and professional chapters that deliver helpful programs. Neuts lauded her pro chapter’s freelancing conference and Bauer described her pro chapter’s speed dating event, which made matches among local writers and assigning editors.

SPJ membership costs $72/year for professionals, but Neuts says the investment pays for itself. Plus, it’s tax deductible.

Listen to Your SPJ Membership: Focus on Freelance by visiting

[This recap was provided by freelance expert Maya Payne Smart. After spending six years in the trenches, Maya Payne Smart founded to help journalists, authors and other writers build profitable businesses. She currently serves on the boards of the Society of American Business Editors & Writers and James River Writers. Visit for tips and tools to help you build a more profitable writing business.]

SPJ Resources for Freelancers: Listen to, 12/9, 1 pm EST

Join host Sarah Bauer, SPJ membership committee chair, and Dana Neuts, SPJ freelance committee chair. this Thursday, December 9 at 1 p.m. (EST) on for a 30-minute podcast discussing the many SPJ benefits available to freelancers. Learn more about the freelance committee’s projects, resources and more. Got a question? Call in during the show to contribute to the conversation.

Can’t listen in live? No worries – we’ve got you covered! Listen to the show online at

Collection Q&A: What Happens If I Don’t Get Paid?

This question came to me via email today from a fellow freelancer. Because this is an issue that all freelancers face at one time or another, I thought I’d share my response.

Q:  I wrote four pieces for a regional magazine, ranging from home design to education. Two pieces appeared in the summer issue, published in June, and two were to appear in the fall issue due out in September, but are now past due by two months. I have not yet received payment for any of my work. According to our email agreement, I was to receive payment within two months of publication of the issue in which my pieces appeared. I have called and emailed the editor and the business manager repeatedly, but they do not respond. I received one email form the business manager in September apologizing for the delay, saying he’d mail my check for the summer issue the following Monday. I have yet to receive that check. What resource do I have, if any?

A:   As a freelancer for seven years, I’m happy to say I’ve only had to use a collection agency twice, once for a publication in New York City and another for a wedding planner for whom I wrote web copy. In both instances, I continued the collection process by sending a letter (I’d send it certified or US Priority Mail so you have documentation of its receipt) demanding payment. The letter said something along the lines of “Per our email agreement, I completed the assignments in good faith and was told I would be paid by ______. To date, I have not received payment and am making one final attempt to collect on the debt before turning the matter over to a collection agency.” Give them a date certain and follow through if they balk. Then, when I did resort to collections, I had documentation of my emails, phone calls and final demand for payment. You will also need or want a record of the email or verbal agreement (who said what and when) to send to the collection agency and, if it is legal in your state, be sure you pass the collection fee onto the client. Also, when you choose an agency, choose one that reports to Dun & Bradstreet. That way you are sure the collection will be reported.

Another option is to write to Angela Hoy of Writers Weekly. She’ll sometimes serve as an intermediary to go after payments for freelancers, and she makes it public so clients and media organizations can’t get away with not paying for work used.

Keep in mind first, however, that I wouldn’t take any of these steps IF you want to write for this company or any related or sister companies again. If you do, you need to hang in there. If you are willing to sever the relationship based on this breach, then proceed by all means!

One last bit of advice – as these situations have occurred, I have added safeguards in my two-page business agreement which lets clients know that I will stop work and/or take them to collection if they don’t pay as agreed. This agreement is usually between clients and me, rather than publications and me, but I use it whenever I can.

Good luck and keep me posted!

~ Dana Neuts, freelance writer and SPJ freelance committee chair


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