There's a new fish in the ocean
Posted February 14, 2012
If you're looking for my blog, swim over to EditFish, which is all about the editing and writing life. I'm especially excited about the blog because it's syndicated on Masthead.
Everything's better with coffee
Posted November 26, 2010
As the VP of Special Events/Networking for PWAC Toronto, I decided that we needed more fun, members-only events. I love the chapterís professional development seminars–I attend nearly all of them–but I recently found out that most people who attend them aren't members, and many members donít attend any events! I strongly believe that networking is one of the best benefits of PWAC membership, so I started a list of ideas.
We had our first event on Nov. 19–a Friday afternoon, perfect for freelancers–at Lit Espresso on College Street. Two of the baristas led our group of about 10 people through a coffee tasting–like a wine tasting, but with some of the tastiest coffee in Toronto (they get it from Portland's Stumptown Coffee Roasters).
The two-hour event was fun, easy and cheap (just $5 per person), and it afforded lots of time to exchange industry news, advice about pitching stories and more–plus I discovered Stumptown's delectable Hair Bender coffee blend. Several people stayed past the event's end time.
Iím psyched about whatís up next! The next event will probably be in January. (Want in? Join PWAC Toronto!)
My website, myself
Posted August 6, 2010
A few of my fellow PWAC members recently complimented my website (thank you!) and asked who designed it. My husband and I worked on it together. (Heís not officially a web designer Ė heís a software developer Ė but heís handy with computer stuff in general.)
Iíve written up a few points on how we approached the design; perhaps theyíll help you make decisions about your own site, or provide guidance to your website designer.
- We created the website to market my business, but it also reflects who I am as a person. I also wanted to have a site that I love, so that Iíll enjoy updating it and writing my blog. So, the background is a beloved shade of blue; the fonts are favourites; the pattern behind my blog title is a piece of Japanese paper I bought and photographed; and the blue note with the pushpin was inspired by my love of bulletin boards.
- We kept the navigation simple. The list of "menu items" on the left is basic – the same one youíll see on most freelancersí sites. I also wanted it on every page so visitors can find their way easily.
- I got the images from Istockphoto. Itís inexpensive to buy low-resolution images, which is all you need for a website; you can buy higher-resolution images if you plan to re-use the images on printed items such as postcards, business cards, etc. I tried to be selective and fit the images to a certain theme – kind of vintage, kind of magazine style, and an aesthetic I love and enjoy looking at. (Iím not a fan of nature images for freelancing sites, unless youíre showcasing your own photography and/or travel writing. I think itís over-used and doesnít have a lot to do with writing or editing.)
- I made sure to include a link to my LinkedIn profile. The Twitter feed is functional eye candy!
- I consider my website a work in progress. That said, once the site is basically finished, I try not to overthink it, and just let it do its job.
- We drew on this site for inspiration and knowledge. The writer, Meagan Fisher, is a talented designer in the U.S. She emphasizes creating content first, and letting that drive your website design, as opposed to the other way around. You might not understand the technical parts (I donít!), but itís great to see how she builds a good-looking, user-friendly site from scratch.
Love and loss: pros and cons of the freelance life
Posted July 4, 2010
Here are the top five reasons why I love being a freelancer:
1) Flexible hours. If Iím really tired, I sleep in. If I want to linger over dim sum, I do. Midday grocery shopping, dentist appointments and yoga classes? You bet!
2) The variety of work. Iíve done everything from shopping guides and cookbooks to press releases and annual reports. Every project is a peek into a different world. I enjoy meeting people from all fields, and I also love meeting and working with other freelance writers and editors.
3) Job security. I donít have to worry about being downsized out of a job Ė an unnerving reality in todayís economy, especially in the media industry. I build my own opportunities by doing a great job for each client, which leads to more work and referrals to new prospects.
4) I can make more Ė or less. I can increase my income by doing more marketing and taking on more (or higher-paying) projects. I can also make less if I need to, in exchange for more free time.
5) The super-short commute to my home office (or the Starbucks across the street, when I need a change of scenery). Itís also great to work in clothes that are comfortable!
Of course, being self-employed is not painless. Youíll give up a lot of things, including:
1) A regular paycheque. Financial uncertainty scares many aspiring freelancers. And yes, youíll encounter clients who take too long to pay, and even the rare client who fails to pay (itís happened to me). Reduce anxiety by finding gigs that offer predictable, regular income (such as monthly newsletters and copy editing for magazines), choosing clients carefully, and keeping a reserve fund for slower months.
2) A predictable schedule. This is the flip side of #1 above. Some days, I might work for 30 minutes; other days, Iím at my desk for 10 or 11 hours. I work late and on weekends when necessary. But, hey, a lot of office workers have to do the same.
3) Medical, dental, disability and insurance benefits. Also stock options, corporate discounts, staff retreats, job promotions, paid training, office birthday parties, catered lunches, a free gym membership and all the other stuff that makes you feel like a valued employee.
4) Clerical, administrative and technical support. I do my own invoicing, bookkeeping and mailing. (Luckily, my husband is my IT guy.) Youíll also pay for office furniture, computers, software, Internet access and office supplies. After leaving my day job, I was shocked to learn the price of Post-it notes!
5) People with whom to chat about last nightís episode ofÖwell, everything. To stay connected, I meet fellow freelancers for lunch and coffee, attend networking events, and volunteer (Iím a PWAC Toronto board member). I also joined a book club to meet people outside the business.
Freelancing is not for everyone, but if youíre ready to say good-bye to the perks of working for someone else (and you can live without free sticky notes), I recommend laying the groundwork well before you write that resignation letter. More details in my next blog posting!
Top 10 Reasons You Should Quit Your Job Today...
The Renegade Writer
The Well-Fed Writer
The Wealthy Freelancer
Ready to launch your solo act?
Iíve always loved to write. As a kid, I made up stories to tell my sister in our darkened bedroom each night. In Grade 3, I poured my heart into my familyís Apple II+ clone. In high school, I edited a sometimes-pretentious, sometimes-sublime zine featuring writing by my peers. The highlight: a taste test comparing six brands of macaroni and cheese.
My first paid writing gig was for a now-defunct Toronto teen mag. I got about $50 for a handful of music reviews Ė not a lot, but I was hooked. I was getting paid to write! I kept freelancing while studying English at the University of Toronto and taking magazine classes at Ryerson University. I did a series of magazine internships, and then Chatelaine hired me as a research assistant. Over the next four years, I worked with some of Canada's best editors, and I learned an incredible amount about the magazine business, how to engage readers, and what makes a great story.
While working as the managing editor of a non-profit magazine, I found myself restructured out of a job. I was stressed about money, but also excited. Iíd dreamed of freelancing full-time, but Iíd heard, over and over, that it's too hard to make a living. Losing a salaried position was the push I needed. I figured that if things got tough, Iíd find a part-time job.
I didnít have to. I was able to build on the client base I already had, and in my first year, I grossed more than my old salary. I was relieved and thrilled Ė it is possible to make good money as a freelancer. (And yes, I work in yoga pants.) Now, after three years of freelancing full-time, I'm launching my new website and exploring new markets.
Over the years, Iíve talked to other freelancers, journalism students and magazine colleagues about what I do. Thatís the focus of this blog Ė the freelancing life, from setting up an office and finding work to continuing your education, networking and earning more.
Iíve been fortunate, and I believe I can do better Ė both in terms of dollars and job satisfaction. If youíre curious about becoming a freelancer, or youíre a freelancer whoís looking for ideas to boost your business, check this space Ė Iíll be posting regularly.