Posts filed under Freelancing

7: Episode IV: A New Hope

Direct episode download

Jason Snell just left his editorial career of 20 years, most of it spent at IDG, and most of that at Macworld magazine. He's happily retooling his professional life to meet his interests: expanding The Incomparable network of pop-culture podcasts; launching Six Colors, his editorial site featuring reviews and reporting about technology, centered around Apple; and co-hosting the Clockwise and Upgrade podcasts on He tells us about rebooting and starting new things.

Glenn Fleishman, your loyal host of The Periodicalist, is shutting down The Magazine after 18 months of ownership and trying to make it thrive. He's learned a lot that he shares in this episode. He's also recently put The New Disruptors podcast on hiatus after nearly two years of weekly episodes, when sponsorship flagged. Glenn talks about the joy of ending things when the time comes, and some of his thoughts about the future.

Jason and Glenn spend the first half of this episode reviewing why periodicals, including the IDG empire, couldn't escape the innovator's dilemma, and see the freight train of the Internet bearing down on them; and the second half, looking into the limitations of the current methods of reaching readers and listeners. Their conclusion: email newsletters and podcasts still have a lot to offer.

The Periodicalist is an irregularly produced series looking for a sponsor to help underwrite regular production of episodes. We would love to find a partner that wants to feature the podcast as part of their larger efforts at looking forward at the future of publishing. Get in touch if you're interested.

Show notes

  • Pat McGovern was the beloved founder of IDG, genuinely well liked and respected. He died in early 2014.

  • Glenn's long-time editor at the Economist, Tom Standage, wrote Writing on the Wall: Social Media — the First 2,000 Years (2013), which explains the remarkable predecessors of what we think of as modern social networks.

  • This marvelous obituary of Carl Schlesinger, a New York Times typesetter, tells of his role in capturing the last night of hot-lead typesetting at the Times. He later became an amateur tap dancer.

  • Subscribe to Lisa Schmeiser's newsletter, "So What, Who Cares?"

  • Ben Thompson has built a nice business, Stratechery, on writing smart things and offering an affordable subscription to his analysis.

  • The death of the Web/rise of apps news cycle featured the Wall Street Journal's Chris Mims' provocative "The Web Is Dying; Apps Are Killing It"; a rejoinder at Quartz by Zach Steward, "The web is alive and well"; and John Gruber's dissection of Mims' story at Daring Fireball, "Native Apps Are Part of the Web."

  • Marco Arment created the Overcast app for podcast discovery, subscriptions, and listening. I highly recommend it.

  • Monument Valley is a lovely game that recently added an expansion set of levels.

  • The Magazine adopted TypeEngine as its app in the summer; TypeEngine is an periodical publishing platform that pushes to custom apps.

  • Windows 93 is an excellent parody of what Windows 95 would have looked like in 1993, constructed entirely in JavaScript.

Posted on November 23, 2014 and filed under Publishing, Self-publishing, Freelancing.

4: Have Words, Will Travel: Freelancing

Modern publications — print, born digital, and hybrids — survive typically with a small amount of staff and small to large armies of wordsmiths for hire. In this episode, co-hosts Glenn Fleishman of The Magazine and Jane Friedman and Manjula Martin of Scratch magazine talk the freelance life with guest Jen A. Miller, a successful technology, medical, and running reporter. Can people make a living as a freelancer? And what’s the different between a freelance writer and a freelance reporter? Have rates really not gone up at some publications for 30 or more years? And much more.

Sponsor: This podcast is made possible through the generous support of MailChimp, which is underwriting our first six episodes. MailChimp lets you manage email lists of any size. They also make hats for cats and dogs.

Let us know what you think and your ideas for future shows: send email to

Show notes

How has freelancing changed recently?

  • Growing realization that most high-quality reporting is done in-house

Newspapers had 25% or more profit margins, which allowed for:

  • A huge staff
  • Ability to fund investigative journalism
  • Relied on stringers who were spread across the country/world

Freelancing is on-demand and is often paid a better hourly wage than in-house staff

Big publications have stringers do some news reporting nowadays

Taken to court

Contracts now insist on perpetual electronic rights

First North American Serial Rights

Worthwhile to buy non-exclusivity

When you aren’t an employee, the employer is not obligated to take care of you

Pay rates for online work is now much less

  • Jen’s Notes from a Hired Pen
  • Check the per hour rate
  • Jen’s best paying client is 50 cents a word
  • Newbies tend to work for lower rates
  • See yourself as a premium brand

Be sure to define your terms!

Newbies are getting social media/content marketing jobs

Is freelancing now more marketing than writing?


ACA/Obamacare’s effect on freelancers

  • Now guaranteed coverage, if you can pay
  • As a freelancer, you are starting a company of one
  • Today’s high student loan debt is a major issue

Are many publications open with their pay rates?

Rise of digital publications

“Don’t save the newspaper, save the news”

The gig taught Jen that:

  • Her major selling point was being proficient at concise and clear copy
  • Passion projects can be funded by other types of writing

How to specialize?

  • Start by finding your niche
  • Community driven by the internet age
  • Start with something you already know, but with an edge

Art of Nonconformity

Kathleen Tinkel co-produced a fax newsletter for years, MacPrePress, that was extremely valuable and lucrative

The Information by Jessica Lessin

Your blog can be your calling card and an important platform

How to keep up with “the next thing”?

Integrate the global with the specific

Should we get a degree in journalism/writing?

Final thoughts: Make your own path and don’t go into debt

How do freelancers get paid?

Posted on June 18, 2014 and filed under Podcasts, Freelancing.