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.

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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 CIO.com 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.