WRITING + CONTENT CREATION
What are the positive and negative aspects of being a writer?
Great question. I think the ups and downs that writers face are the same that those in other creative industries face. Sometimes I have to take work that might not be creatively fulfilling, but that pays really well. Sometimes I come across clients that don't fit my mission and I have to let them go or turn them down. Sometimes (read: often) I pitch my work to publications and editors and they turn me down. Rejection, choices, monetization—these are things every freelancer and business owner has to take into account and deal with on a regular basis. Writers are no different.
Other times, I get to write about things that matter—topics that make my heart sing. And more often than not, I get to work with some really amazing people. I've built incredible relationships (and friendships!) through my creative work and there's no way to quantify how my life has benefited from getting to know such wonderful humans.
Do you think it's important for a content writer to live in a major city in order to acquire business?
Yes and no. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to work remotely with teams spread out across the country (and sometimes the world!). However, there is no denying that being in close proximity to the action is a benefit to creatives. In my experience, even small towns have a creative scene. You just have to be prepared to find it. And if you can't find it, you have to be prepared to help build it. There are so many ways to be a writer or content creator at this moment in time. We all have dreams of writing for large print publications, but there are opportunities everywhere.
Where do you find most of your freelance gigs? Are there particular online sources you look to for writing opportunities?
Most of my freelance jobs to date have actually come from researching a publication, reaching out to editors and pitching story ideas. It's never just about a gig—it's about building relationships. My advice is always to find a publication or outlet you'd like to write for, read it (this is key!), generate a few ideas and reach out to the powers that be. You may get rejected (I get rejected a lot), but there's always a chance that you'll get a "yes."
Also, follow writers, magazines and editors on social media. Twitter is a great place to learn about new publications and opportunities and Instagram is a great way to connect with people who have a penchant for more visual communication methods.
How have you cultivated and grown your writing skills and voice since graduating college?
Consistency is the key. I write a lot. I write for myself (I journal a lot), my readers (the blog) and for others (here and other places). Because so much of my work is for a specific audience, I tend to write to that audience. This means that sometimes I have to work extra hard to keep my writing voice out of the picture. One of the things I offer clients is that ability to write as someone else. I ghostwrite often and, when I worked in marketing and PR, I rarely wrote in my own voice. I think that's a valuable talent to have, but it's important to still cultivate your own voice in some way. The best way to do that is to keep writing for yourself—whether that's a private journaling practice or a blog—just keep writing.
As a writer do you see any major trends occurring in the field?
I think the biggest issue at the moment is getting compensated for your work. Online content is almost always free for the reader, so there has to be a way for publishers to 1.) figure out how they're going to monetize and become a sustainable business; and 2.) compensate those who create said content.
Have you ever worked for free?
Absolutely. Every time I write a blog post that offers valuable content and post it to this site, I'm working for free. Up until recently, my podcast had been completely self-funded. Every time a listener downloaded a new episode, I had essentially worked my tail off to create that content—for free. I hope to continue turning the show into a revenue generator but, my main focus is to continuously create quality interviews and share cool stories.
I've also offered up content to other online publications for free while I was transitioning from marketing to content creation and editorial work. I don't think there's anything wrong with building up a portfolio with free or trade work when you're first starting out. I have also alined myself with publications that may not pay a great deal of money, but that offer other sorts of leverage (read: relationships, exposure and other opportunities to grow my business). I think there always comes a time, however, when writers (and most other creatives, for that matter) need to stop working for free. The catch is that you, and only you, can decided when that time comes.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
I often get asked which tools I use for the various parts of my business. Here are a few I couldn't live without:
- Google Calendar
- My fun DIY washi tape whiteboard calendar
- Google Docs
- Pen + paper
- Microsoft Word (I know, I keep it simple)
- Blue Yeti Microphone
- Audio-Technica Microphone
- GarageBand (Mixing/editing shows)
- Audacity (sometimes for mixing/editing)
- Skype (remote interviews)
- Ecamm Call Recorder (to record Skype calls)
- Simplecast.fm (hosting)
- MelodyLoops (music)
Didn't you launch a start-up once?
Almost! It never actually launched for various reasons. You can read more about that story here.
How did you end up writing for ________________?
This is the question that shows up in my inbox most often. Some of my work happens to be very visible (which is really fun!). Other work goes unnoticed (which is usually intentional). When it's visible, people often want the behind-the-scenes dirt. Did you know someone? Were you recommended to them? Are you friends with the editor? Usually the answer to those questions is no. As I mentioned, most of my work with publications has come from me:
- Loving what the publication and/or editor produces
- Believing in the mission of the publication
- Reaching out to show my appreciation
- Asking if I can pitch a few story ideas
- Pitching appropriate ideas for the publication
That's it. I look, listen, research and ask. I should reiterate: you will receive plenty of rejection by following these steps. That, in my mind, is simply part of the process. Sometimes what I think is appropriate for a magazine or online publication may not be what the editors have in mind. An answer of "thanks, but no thanks" simply gives me more information to go on the next time I pitch the publication.
Why did you start a podcast?
I launched Creating Your Own Path in February of 2014 for a few reasons. Prior to starting the show, I had been interviewing creatives on my blog—I'd send over questions and they would send back their answers. While that was an amazing way to get to know some really cool people and share their stories, it didn't quite tick all the boxes when it came to true connectivity. So, launching the podcast was a way to reach out and chat with people in person or via Skype. I wanted to make it more of a conversation and audio seemed to be a great way to do just that.
I was also lonely working for myself from home. Writing isn't exactly a group sport and most of what I do is pretty solitary. While I consider myself to be fairly introverted and definitely don't need to hop from event to event, the podcast is a great excuse to reach out to people I admire and ask them the questions I (and others) have about their work.
Last, but certainly not least, the podcast is a platform for sharing stories. Talking with people who work in various creative fields to help share their stories with those who might need to hear them is incredibly rewarding.
I want to start a podcast. Will you help me?
I'm a graphic designer/writer/editor/producer/etc. Are you hiring?
I would love to hire all of you amazingly talented souls out there, but I'm not currently in a position to do so. When the day comes, however, the first to know will likely be those who subscribe to my newsletter. You can sign up for that here. (No spam. I promise!)
Where did you go to school?
I started my college career at American River College in Sacramento, California. Sacramento's junior college system is stellar and, quite frankly, I had no clue where I wanted to focus my studies after high school. I originally set out for a degree in psychology, but quickly realized that wasn't the right path for me. I felt both invigorated and challenged in my writing and literature classes and decided to shift my focus in that direction. I transferred to California State University, Sacramento and graduated in 2005 with a degree in English and a minor in business administration.
After college, I landed a great job in the marketing department of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership where I was often expected to use graphic design software. While I learned quite a bit on the job, I was also able to take some graphic design courses at Sacramento City College (another amazing junior college here in Sacramento).
Since then, I've taken several online courses to help benefit my role as a creative business owner. Some have directly helped my bottom line and others have been more focused on stretching myself creatively. I think both are important.
I've compiled a large amount of stories, resources and opportunities to leverage a college education after diplomas are handed out in a multimedia e-book.
You've mentioned that you were born with a disability. How has that affected your life?
Well, that's a pretty big question! Being born with a malformed right arm has made me who I am today. With the help of prosthetics, I've been able to do just about everything I could want to do. That said, there are always a few extra challenges here and there. I recently shared a bit more about this part of my story over on Yes and Yes with Sarah Von Bargen!
Where did you adopt your dogs?
I'm so glad you asked! I always check Pet Harbor for adoptable dogs in our area. While I tend to opt for puppies I can train ourselves, there are a ton of adult dogs available for adoption around the world as well.