How much I’ve made freelancing in 2009

Thought it was worth disclosing what I’ve made so far freelancing.

I’ve additionally done some landscaping and other side projects beyond proper freelance writing.

Total? Less than $8,000.

  • December 2008: $650
  • January 2009: $205
  • February 2009: $720
  • March: $1,880
  • April: $1,755
  • May: $250
  • June: $410
  • July: 290
  • August $125
  • September $285
  • October $830

I’m the proud new owner of my own business cards


Once I admitted I was late, I just kept delaying the inevitable — buying business cards.

I got into the full-time, freelance writing back in December, so I ought to have had something right away. I could have passed them out when I spoke at a high school journalism conference and with the many sources I’ve met in my freelancing work since.

Well, now I have them, double-sided cards, as depicted above, though the colors are a bit darker and the text a bit harder to read here than they are when printed. Much thanks to colleague graphic designer Brian James Kirk who did the dirty layout work.

There are those who say business cards are old hat, but, let me answer my own question, they are still absolutely necessary for a freelance journalist even today. Below I share what I did and related learning.

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Every college journalist should be freelancing right now

I am on month five of full-time, professional freelancing. I think only now am I finding the hum and the rhythm of this craft, particularly in the doldrums of a sour economy and struggling print industry.

You’re a college journalist, unsure about the future. So, tell me, why aren’t you trying to make in-roads in freelancing now?

I think it’s a sin if you aren’t at least contributing to your college newspaper – it’s a great, college experience, it’s challenging and a wonderful incubator for insight and vision. But, I think you need to be doing more.

Get that internship, sure, but if you don’t have one, or perhaps even if you do, you should be developing contacts and knowledge for the freelance game – because it’s a better back up than waiting tables.

Continue reading Every college journalist should be freelancing right now

Beware working for friends, freelancers

I apprenticed with a plumber on and off for a couple years at the beginning of my college career.

He’d always tell me, “Don’t do work for friends.”

It rarely ends well. Someone ends up feeling screwed, but no one wants to say it when friendships are on the line. When it comes to soft crafts like writing, it’s even harder to get things settled.

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When does a freelancer's workday stop?

A former boss of mine has taken to calling me around 6:30 a.m. sometimes. I’m not awake, so he’ll leave a message.

“Are you taking a nap or something?” he might ask. “Because I know you can’t still be asleep from last night this late in the day.”

I’m a freelance journalist without much of a strict schedule most days. While on occasion, I’ve gotten an early-enough start between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., I often don’t get up until nine in the morning. While I almost begin working right away, I do, on occasion, not even begin work until ten. A rare exception has seen me doing so later still.

This is obscene to friends, bosses and even some family of mine. It doesn’t much matter to anyone that, despite my relatively late start on the day, I very rarely work less than 10-12 hours a day, often six, if not seven days a week.

I’m just getting my professional freelancing start in a bad economy and a frightened print industry, so – though I’ve made it a point to get back out and have some fun from time to time – my work schedule sometimes borders on obsessive.

I love not needing an alarm clock or needing to commute, but I wonder what my guilt about that drives me to do. When does the workday for a freelance journalist end?

Continue reading When does a freelancer's workday stop?

The four reasons for a freelancer to decide to write a story

I recently posted on the reasons why I love freelancing. Once you know you want the gig, it also helps to know what you’re willing to do.

There are four big reasons to agree to write a story, and every writer should know them – if only so he can decide if that writing gig, even if it’s on the side, is worth it.

They’re worth recognizing, see them below. Continue reading The four reasons for a freelancer to decide to write a story

Redundancy: the art form of the freelancer

“Redundancy” by Will Pate.

I wrote a story for Philadelphia Weekly on theatrical performance commissioned by the Village of Arts and Humanities. I also blogged it for uwishunu and pitched it to friends at KYW News Radio and the Inquirer.

Though KYW covered it on its own, and the Inqy will do the same for another round of the performances, I took a single story and group of interviews and sent out different pitches with separate angles on the same subject.

With a little more effort, I got more pay, clips and contacts — without needing fresh sources.

In the increasingly difficult game of freelance writing, redundancy is a skill you need to know and we all need to improve.

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Why I won't contribute to the Huffington Post and you shouldn't either

I recently finished a story on spec and had my editor balk at the story.

The general rule is freelancers shouldn’t write without a promise of pay, but it was a story I didn’t find particularly challenging, did find interesting and was for a new publication, some reasons that motivate me to take a chance. So, I was more – although perhaps wrongly – accepting of the demand that I write first before I elicited an agreement.

In telling my sources that I was shopping new homes for the story, I got a suggestion from one source, E. Jean Carrol, the venerable Elle magazine advice columnist.

“Send it to Huffington,” she offered, but, “They don’t pay.  It is ALL glory!”

For now, I’m choosing to sit on the story — one in a frustratingly growing class of stories I’ve written and then eaten. Huffington Post, the uproariously popular liberal news and opinion blog, is not getting my work, and it shouldn’t get yours.

Continue reading Why I won't contribute to the Huffington Post and you shouldn't either

How to start a freelance writing career without writing samples

Suppose you’ve started a career in another field and look back somehow longingly on the print industry.

You want to freelance on the side, make some cash and rekindle the love with the sight of your byline by slumming it in the currently self-destructing print industry. But, of course, if you have any writing samples or clips they’re outdated, if not lost, irrelevant or, dare I say, embarrassing.

That doesn’t mean you can’t begin a freelance writing career today.

Get online, start small, aim big and try not to take any work from me, OK?

Continue reading How to start a freelance writing career without writing samples

The cost of the phone interview for freelance journalsits: how do you charge, what do you use?

Updated: 3/9/09 at 8:56 p.m.

Newspapers and many magazines don’t cover freelance expenses, like telephone calls.

What gives? Doing some quick math – and the 15 cents per minute phone call I use from my cell-phone plan to charge those publications that do accept my charges – I expect to spend at the very least more than one hour on the phone per story. Yeah, that’s about $10.

Ten bucks isn’t a chunk of change in the eyes of even the most crippled newspaper, but that does mean I spent more than $100 in additional phone charges last month.

Continue reading The cost of the phone interview for freelance journalsits: how do you charge, what do you use?