So a couple of things are going on.
First, and this is going to sound very humblebrag, but I get a lot of emails from people wanting to pick my brain about being a freelance writer. And I actually really love to talk about freelance writing (so much so that I taught about it for Mediabistro.com for several years when we still lived in the city — and I still totally endorse their classes). But just recently (probably after I wrote this post) it sort of got to the point where I can’t reply to them all and do my job.
Second, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we’re supposed to be seeing the rise of women right now — and yet we still have a wage gap for a whole variety of reasons. One is that women tend to be more uncomfortable talking about money stuff. Like how to make it. Journalism suffers from a unique gender problem in that there are lots and lots of women working in the field — but we’re grossly under-represented in byline counts, award tallies and editor salaries because we tend to all get stuffed into a couple of specific boxes. Either we write mostly about pink topics or we write mostly for pink places (and those topics and places don’t get the awards or respect from the rest of the industry).
I spend a lot of time in both boxes, so I know firsthand that it’s entirely possible to do work you find incredibly fulfilling here and occasionally be very outside the box(es). It’s also entirely possible to make a decent living while doing all of the above. But figuring that out has not been what I would call intuitive. In fact, it takes some serious strategery. Because it’s hard enough to make a living as a writer, and then you add in journalism’s gender problem, and it becomes this whole big thing.
SO. Here’s my way of helping with that bigger social issue (and my own overflowing inbox): A new occasional blog series called FREELANCE LIFE where I will write about the nuts and bolts of building a freelance writing business, negotiating pay, and other thorny issues.
If you have questions about writing and the business thereof, I hope you’ll post them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer (either in the comments or in stand-alone posts if things get wordy). And I hope it goes without saying that while I’m feeling motivated to do this in part because I’m steamed up about so many lady journalists earning less/getting less props than dude writers, the information I plan to cover in these posts will not be ovary-specific. If you are a writer, I think you will find it useful regardless of your reproductive organs. I also hope you’ll share your own strategies and ideas about all of this, because hello, I’ve been doing this for seven years, not twenty-seven years, and I still have a lot to learn too.
To kick off this whole concept, I thought I’d start with a list of resources that I find extraordinarily useful on matters of freelancing and writing. (In no particular order or ranking.) Bookmark, share, add your own!
- Mediabistro, again, biased because I used to teach for them, but I still think their How To Pitch series is pretty darn insightful and far more up to date than any “writer guidelines” you’ll find in those Writer’s Market books gathering dust in a back corner of Barnes & Noble. (Don’t. Waste. Your. Money.)
- Broadside, a great blog by seasoned journalist Caitlin Kelly, offers all kinds of very frank and smart advice about writing (interspersed with posts about her own work and other issues – you know I love a good all-purpose writer’s blog!).
- Freelance Folder is not writing-specific, but it does cover all sorts of useful business tools for freelancers of any kind.
- Any blogs written by professional writers whom you admire. Both because you can learn a lot from their actual writing and because following their careers can be highly educational. Caitlin (above), Peggy Orenstein, Melissa Walker, Gayle Forman, Kristen Kemp, Jessica Valenti and Gary Rivlin are a few of mine. (Honestly, that list should be way longer and I should work on giving you the full thing because there are so many I follow and I just can’t come up with them all off the top of my head right now!)
- Never Check Email In the Morning And Other Unexpected Strategies for Making Your Work Life Work by Julie Morgenstern. I am really, really not one for self-help books but I’ve interviewed Julie for articles over the years and always find her so smart and insightful. I read this book last week and was Post-it-noting the heck out of it (that’s what I do when I’m excited about things I am reading). The title suggestion — don’t check email first thing because it kicks your day off all wrong — is one that I initially scoffed at, then tried for a week and am now hooked. (Instead, you’re supposed to spend your first hour or so doing some sort of focused work — i.e. writing. — before you allow all the interruptions to creep in.)
- The New New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft. This book, I should probably re-read once a year. So inspiring to hear other writers talk about their reporting and writing processes, work styles, and so on.
- Submersion Journalism: Reporting in the Radical First Person From Harper’s Magazine. Well, if you follow my work, you get why this book had a big impact on me. If you aren’t interested in submersion journalism, it’s probably less essential to your writing library — but still an excellent collection of amazing writing.
- The Anti 9 to 5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube by Michelle Goodman. I haven’t read her newer book, but I bet it’s also excellent. (Ah! Her blog should also be on the list up top.)
OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS:
- Dark chocolate chips.
- Diet Coke.
- My freelance writer friend Kate, who is my funniest virtual colleague (because when you work from home, you don’t have anyone sitting in the cubicle next to you for gossip and griping and you have to create that for yourself).
- A comfy chair.
- My OPTP foam roller, for stretching out the writer hunchback.
- Several editors and more seasoned writers who act as absolutely indispensable mentors. (Will talk more soon on how you cultivate those.)
- Label Maker.
- Microsoft Excel. (I bet there’s totally some more fun, hip way to make income spreadsheets, but I’m old school like that.)
- Dropbox. (And a back-up hard drive. And any other way you can think of to triple back up your work.)
- My mom. Aka the best business advisor ever. (Sorry, I haven’t convinced her to write a blog yet.)
More soon! Are you a freelance writer or thinking about this career? What questions do you have about making it work?
UPDATE: They just announced this year’s National Book Award winners, and women took gold in both fiction and non-fiction. Hooray for hope and change and baby steps! But we can’t be slacking now — this is just like how 20 women in Congress does not equality make. Because there is also this.
[Photo: This super old school 1900s typewriter that sits in my living room and I never, ever do any actual work on.]