Freelancer Resources

The United Media Guild already has several freelancers as members. More have inquired about joining. So we are creating a freelance membership unit in two categories:

  • Journalists (reporters, editors, photographers, videographers, print and digital designers).
  • Communications specialists (public relations, social media management, advocacy messaging).

Membership for free-lancers is $12 per month. If you join you will become a card-carrying member of the United Media Guild, TNG-CWA Local 36047.

Membership will entitle you to a variety of Union Plus discounts and benefits. Explore that website to see all ways union members can save money.

Of special interest to freelancers is access to the CWA/NETT Academy, with a variety of on-line courses, and the expansive Lynda.com instructional video library.

For more information, check out this Lynda.com Flyer

Best of all, you will be joining the organized labor movement and help us support the craft of journalism on local, regional and national levels.

As we gain more members, we will organize workshops and seminars that will benefit freelancers as well as the members at our various media and social justice units.

Anybody interested in joining should contact UMG president Jeff Gordon at jgordon@unitedmediaguild.org.

USEFUL SITES FOR FREELANCERS

Here some websites of great value to freelancers as well as full-time journalists doing side work:

Accounting and invoicing tools: Help for running your freelance business.

American Journalism Review: Looking at the critical media issues of our time.

Columbia Journalism Review: Another site looking at the critical media issues of our time.

Contently.com: Building a better media world!

Copy Editing Resources: Help with those words.

Daily Writing Tips: Ideas to keep you going day after day.

Editor and Publisher: Focusing on the newspaper industry.

Enago: Academic and scientific editing jobs.

Freelancers.com: Resource site for freelancers.

Freelance Rates Database: How much do publications pay?

Freelancers Union: Hives: A community for freelancers.

Freelance Writers Den: A meeting place for freelancers.

Freelance Writing Gigs: Leads! Lots of leads!

Gateway Journalism Review: Journal exploring Midwest media issues.

GuildFreelancers.org: Our colleagues with the Pacific Media Workers.

HARO: Help a Reporter, a site that helps reporters find story sources

Journalism Jobs: Resource site for media job seekers.

Journalists Resource: Digital toolkit for journalists.

Lynda.com: Training videos, free to members of the United Freelancers Guild.

Make a Living Writing: Tips for making freelancing work.

Media Bistro: New York-based site for freelancers and job-seekers.

MediaGazer: Keeping an eye on media development.

Modern Freelance: Freelance solutions for the new economy.

Nieman Lab: On the cutting edge of media developments.

Poynter Institute: Resource site for newspaper journalists.

ProBlogger: Job board for blogging jobs.

Jim Romenesko: Blog devoted to media issues.

Scratch Magazine: Writing for a living!

Society of Professional Journalists: Professional group dedicated to promoting journalism.

Story Board: Our colleagues up in Canada.

The Write Life: Resource blog for freelance writers.

Upwork: Marketplace for freelancers

Writers Digest: Resource site for creative and long-form writers.

Writers Relief: Resource site for writers trying to stay fresh.

FREELANCER ADVICE

Carrie Smith, writing on Time.com, offered five questions you should ask before quitting your day job to freelance full time.

How much should you save?

This depends on your overall situation, of course. Are your the primary wage-earner in a household? What do your expenses look like? How much business do you expect to generate in the first three months, six months and so forth?

Smith writes:

Most experts suggest that you keep at least three to six months’ worth of expenses in a separate savings account to cover any emergencies or losses of income (some even suggest as much as twelve months’ worth). As a freelancer you might as well double this amount to account for the added risk of being self-employed.

What is you bare minimum budget?

Look at your entire year and every anticipated or likely cost. Average that out over the 12 months to see how much income you must average to make a go of it — and how much money you should build up in your checking account to pay the business while you build business.

Smith writes:

Calculate how much money you need to adequately pay your bills every month, then multiply this figure by six to eight months. This is the amount you’ll need to save in a separate account to make the transition from a day job to freelancing a successful one.

Do you have any other income?

A related part-time job can ensure cash flow while you build business. Many freelancers also lead seminars for a fee or teach college courses as contract employees.

Smith writes:

One other way to make this process much easier is creating multiple streams of income. Aside from your core freelance duties, do you have other options for creating passive income? What other assets can you leverage to bring in more money each month?

Are you prepared to do what it takes to build business?

Building a vibrant freelance business can take a lot of time and effort. It is not an easy way out of the workaday world.

Smith writes:

How much time you spend in the beginning will determine how quickly you’re able to replace your day job’s income. There will likely be a lot of sleepless nights and stressful days, but in the end you have to determine if the reward is worth all the effort. Freedom is never free, and this includes financial freedom. You have to figure out if the cost is worth it.

What is your Plan B?

Be aware that succeeding as a full-time freelancer is not easy. The more money you set aside, the more time you have to make it. But what if you don’t make it?

Smith writes:

Create a plan of action for this specific event. List out the possible solutions and scenarios for how you and your family will deal with this. Are you going to find another full-time job? Will you be able to move back in with your parents?

Writing for the Freelancers Union site, Harrison Dawson offered “Ten ingenious ways for freelancers to find work through social media.”

There is plenty of good stuff there about becoming noticed and respected by would-be employers.

But first things first. He recommends covering these basics:

  • Use your real name – This will make it easier for employers to find you
  • Have a professional photo – I’m not necessarily talking about ID card photos, but generally avoid using bathroom selfies or car images. Using a clean photo gives you an immense trust and professionalism boost
  • Try to collect them all in one place – The employer managed to find your Facebook, but what about the rest? Create a homepage that contains all the contact information a company might need.
  • Personal Branding – Make sure your social media really represents you and sends a message that stays faithful to who you are. It is also important to use social media to showcase your skills and past projects.

In a piece posted on The Freelancer site in April, Katherine Brodsky sought advice from top editors on what to put in the subject line of a pitch e-mail.

Editors are bombarded with pitches from PR firms and, unfortunately, some freelancers who don’t understand the media outlet’s target audience.

Here were a couple of the responses from editors:

Eric Sullivan, former features editor at Esquire: “At the end of the day, you should think about what makes the story you’re pitching so unique and essential, and focus on that.”

Katie Wudel, articles editor at GOOD Magazine: “Freelancers should just be straightforward, describing what their story is about as simply and plainly as they can.”

Jennifer Ortiz, senior editor at Marie Claire: “Starting a subject line with something like ‘Story Idea:’ or ‘Pitch:’ is a quick way to get lost in my inbox. That’s how publicists pitch, so I assume, at first glance, that it’s a PR pitch and am less quick to open.”

Neil Janowitz, editorial director at Vulture: “When I fall behind on email, my failsafe is to go back and scan for stories that I know had an upcoming peg. If ‘for a movie coming out April 8’ is buried in the email, I’m liable to miss it.”

And if those don’t work, you can always take a more desperate approach!

Writing for the Freelancers Union site, Sonia Basant offered advice on breaking common sorts of writers’ block.

Here were a few samples:

“Consider going slightly off-target or restructuring your piece. Sometimes a midway block indicates that you’re getting to the true meat of your work – ask yourself if you’ve buried the lede, or harken back to your thesis statement. This is another good opportunity to take a break and shake the cobwebs loose before trying again.”

“Get messy. Give yourself free reign to write and save the self-criticism for the editing phase. Journaling every day is a great way to get comfortable with messiness and knock the debris out of your mind.”

“First write down the idea or thought then work on getting the right words. Break out the thesaurus too. It is easier to have the idea right in front of you and then craft the perfect sentence.”

Vancouver-based magazine journalist and documentary film maker Roberta Staley offered some great insights in an interview on the Canadian Media Guild’s Story Boards site.

Her advice for beginning freelancers really resonated:

“You have to work really hard. You have to be ready and expect failure. You can’t take it personally. You have to absolutely follow the stories and create the stories that you want to read that are not being created — that are not out there already. It’s such a cliche, but follow your passions. Create the stories — whether that’s video or whether it’s writing — go out and create the stories that are not being told. The stories that you want to read.

“Because you’ll get so much life satisfaction. And in the great scheme of things, being poor for a short period of time is not going to kill you.”

Writing for Skyword.com, Emma Siemasko offered some advice to freelancers whose business is getting unwieldy. How can you the money you need without becoming frazzled?

Her suggestions included:

  • Raising your rates, which may prove you weren’t charging enough.
  • Narrowing your niche to what you do best.
  • Outsource work when necessary, which allows you to take on bigger projects.
  • Add a partner or create an agency, allowing you to team up on projects. “If your business of one suddenly becomes a business of two, you can scale more easily,” she wrote. “You could partner with another freelance writer to create a mini writing agency, or you could find a freelancer with complementary skills. For example, I often partner with graphic designers and web developers and can imagine partnering with one of them to create a full-service agency.”
  • Produce another product, such as a seminar or book, that makes more efficient use of your time.
  • Take full advantage of technology — such as invoicing software — to become more efficient.

Free-lance writers need to stay focused on making money. Michael Ofei’s valuable September, 2014 post on the The Write Life urges bloggers to take revenue-generating action every single day.

His suggestions include:

Write a blog post: Even if its just for your own person blog, keep writing. The more you write, the better you will get at it. The better you get, the more business you will get.

Send a newsletter for those on your e-mail list. As you build an audience, engage that audience. As Ofei wrote, “Share resources or interesting articles. Ask your readers what they’re struggling with in your niche. Occasionally, throw in a plug for your products or services.”

Pitch a guest post: Writing for somebody else’s blog may not pay directly, but this is a great way to promote your work and expand your reach.

E-mail prospective clients: Never, ever stop looking for new business.

E-mail current clients: Stay in touch. Let everybody know what you are doing. If you are working on a project, update that client.

E-mail former clients: Again, stay in touch. Remain on the radar screen. Circumstances change and work can come back around your way.

E-mail those in your personal network: Again, stay in touch. What’s the point of building a network of you don’t stay connected with people?

Many freelancers are self-publishing these days. They write and edit their own blogs. They write and edit their own e-books. They do not have editors checking their work for accuracy and quality.

The pressure to produce good, clean copy is greater than ever before. Self-editing is critical skill for freelance writers.

Here are some basic suggestions:

WRITE, THEN EDIT

Making quick fixes on the fly is OK. But stopping to rework paragraph after paragraph turns writing into arduous work. Complete the rough draft, then start the editing process for real.

SET YOUR WORK ASIDE

If you are writing a deadline piece, walk away and take a quick break before starting the final editing process. If you are writing a longer piece or working on a book chapter, come back the next day.

“By doing this,” Ali Luke wrote on the WriteToDone.com site, “you make it easier to see your work afresh. You’ll come up with new ideas, and you’ll find that you can spot chapters that don’t fit, plot holes, inconsistent characterization and other big-picture problems.

READ YOUR WORK ON A DIFFERENT FORMAT

Mistakes you miss in a Word document may become more glaring when you print out the copy or plug it into a content management system. Bloggers should re-read their post in the “preview” format and again after publishing them because typos, missing words or incorrect words may jump out at them.

Some writers prefer to print out their stories and edit the hard copy with a pen.

EDIT FOR STRUCTURE, FLOW AND CONTENT FIRST

Do the big picture work before getting caught up in the detail work. “Too often, writers start their editing by polishing up every sentence – and then end up cutting out huge chunks of their material later,” Luke wrote. “It’s much more efficient to do your big picture editing first.”

READ YOUR STORY OUT LOUD

As Jodee Redmond wrote on the Freelance Writing Gigs site, this can help “to get a feel for its rhythm. This technique is a good way to determine where natural breaks in sentences should be, especially commas.”

CUT OUT 10 PERCENT OF YOUR WORDS

Weed out empty adjectives. Make meandering sentences more direct. Shift from passive to active phrasing. Cut out repetitive material. Pare down run-on quotes. Write tight and bright, even in long-form work.

ONE IDEA PER SENTENCE

Reel in your writing. Maintain your flow. Do not go off on a tangent in mid-sentence.

USE SPELL-CHECK, BUT DOUBLE-CHECK

Spell-check software is great, but it won’t prevent your from misusing words. It should catch repeated words, but it may not flag missing words. “Sometimes, spell-check will pick up on words that are actually correct – mine has some bizarre ideas about “its” and “it’s” – so don’t blindly follow every suggestion,” Luke wrote.

READ YOUR WORDS BACKWARDS

Start at the bottom and work your way up sentence by sentence. That keeps you from racing ahead and seeing what you intended to write rather than what your actually typed.

“If you find reading backwards too awkward, then try reading s-l-o-w-l-y,” Luke wrote. “That might mean running a pencil along each line as you read, or increasing the font size so that you don’t see so many words at a time on your screen.”