Tag Archives: freelancing

Recent conversations with editors

1. via email

Me: not to be hung up on the newspaper era…
…but we have a hell of a front page right now
Editor: you mean the wood?
Me: I mean the whole first page is power-loaded. is “wood” an obscure term even I don’t know?
Editor: front page of a tabloid!
Me: broadsheet til the death!
Editor: Yes, bored to death.

2. via text

3. via email

Me: (sends article)
Editor: Gracias! (Note: I really still don’t understand how wireless internet works. Is that weird?)
Me: Kinda?

Soapbox is in a freelance relationship and it’s complicated

Hey there Soapbox, whatchu been up to lately instead of posting here?
Oh you know, just the usually completely congruous slate of freelancing,

About alligators…:

Consult The Experts: Gator Aid

AlligatorSo you’re in town from Ohio, quietly enjoying your week on the beach and devouring page after page of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” when you glance up to see a GIANT GATOR emerging from the ocean. This, most likely, was not in the brochure. Luckily, Clemson associate professor Richard Blob can help.

Q. Do you think a reality show about alligator wranglers would be a hit?
A. You see some of these videos where people are sticking their head and their arms in there. It’s like, “C’mon! No!” I would not advocate a reality show about alligator wranglers. That’s something that should not be encouraged in any way. Maybe like one episode of “Dirty Jobs” might be enough.

And business trends…:

How to Master Multiple Brand Management (Inc, 10/25)
How to Build a Board of Directors (Inc, 10/20)
How to Open a Business in Miami (Inc, 10/10)

And, uh, free beer…:

What bars do you want… in the Brokelyn Beer Book 2.0!?

beer book(Brokelyn, 10/26) How do we know Brooklyn loves beer? It’s not from digging through your trash, collecting cans (which… we’ll tell you about soon). It’s because when we unveiled the Brokelyn Beer Book back in February, the colorful coupon packets for 25 beers at 25 Brooklyn bars (for $25) sold out in a matter of hours. For those who swooped-in early, it’s been six months of beers on the book. For those who missed out, it’s been one long wait for this moment: the announcement of the second Brokelyn Beer Book! This time, as we prepare this next awesome deal for you, we’re doing it a little differently. We’re bowing to the democratizing power of beer, ignorant of economic and editorial status, and asking: What bars do you want?
READ THE REST and leave good ideas!

And, you know, just running for a state assembly seat in California…: (Monrovia Patch) Tim Donnelly, Republican candidate for California’s 59th State Assembly District, which includes Sierra Madre, spoke Wednesday at a Tea Party rally in Barstow ahead of the Nov. 2 election in which he hopes to best Democratic challenger and former Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Darcel Woods. Donnelley is also facing Tony Tyler, small business owner and candidate for the Libertarian Party as well as Robert Gosney of the American Independent Party.

Wait, that last one wasn’t me! But this guy has been wreaking havoc on my google news alert of late. If he wins, I expect even more confused emails than usual.


Web clip: Cheap, last-minute tax advice for procrastinators


socialism doesn't pay for itself, you know

(Brokelyn 4/9) Let’s see… elaborate April Fool’s day prank involving fake job offer for roommate: check. Annual passive-aggressive spring cleaning e-mail to roommates on the state of the dishes in the sink: check. Last year’s jeans turned into this-year’s cut-offs: check. What else are we forgetting about in Apri… ah gad, taxes! And just one week left!

Have no fear, because you wanna know the big secret about taxes? They’re actually kind of a snap to do by yourself, so long as you don’t have a home, large family or stakes in several multi-national corporations. And there are plenty of places that will help you for free. We talked to a few attorneys and put together some last-minute tax resources to help you and Uncle Sam continue your cease-fire relationship.

READ THE REST because there’s a sweet IRS of WWF fame reference that I’d hate to see go unappreciated.

Freelance whages

In honor of my first full year feeling the burn of April taxes from freelance writing, please enjoy this tax day lulz from the New York Times Op Art:

Only if these were real deductions:

“That/which deduction: deduct $1 for every grammatical error in a sign or poster that you pointed out to someone else.”

“Sherlock Holmes deduction: Deduct 100 percent of the cost of blockbuster movies you didn’t really want to see”

And glad that these aren’t real:

That whole twitter tax formula, and:

“Delayed Adulthood Penalty: Multiply the number of years since your 25th birthday by the number of roommates you currently have and multiply the results by $-10.”

So I would have owed another $200 just from that alone.

[PS–the head of this post references the band Freelance Whales, who, as of last update, were neither whales nor employed on a freelance basis. Try the song “Hannah” because it’s fun and happy and will make your delayed adulthood seem worthwhile.]

Freelancing guidelines, aka finding the only landline in Brooklyn

The following represents my very first encounter with New York City journalism, from nearly a year ago. It was late November, I was sleeping on a couch in Park Slope, guarding the precious few dollars in my bank account with a flaming sword of optimism and seeking employment, any employment, of any kind, writing or otherwise, immediately, and I mean, like, I’ll start in 30 minutes if you need me.

In a bout of hopeful — but predictably fruitless — effort, I was cold calling various publications around the city to try the stab-in-the-dark attempt at seeing if they were desperate for staff. I placed a call to the related publication below and reached the editor on the first try. I said: “I know this is a crazy question, but do you need any reporters right now?”

His response, not unkindly, was: “Well, you’ve obviously read our paper, so you know. Do we need any reporters? Yes. Can I afford any reporters? No.”

We then talked a little bit about the kind of freelance work he had available. Best case scenario, he said, if you take your own pics and write a decent story, you can get in the low three figures. Standard below that was $80 or so.

I was, as I said, madly desperate for work, and the prospect of making any headway was intriguing. We agreed he’d send me his freelance guidelines and I’d consider some stuff to pitch for the pub, which I’m not going to name here (but is probably pretty obvious to anyone who knows the market, and I’ll gladly entertain guesses on it).

My expectation of the guidelines: a list of common topics the paper covers, issues to avoid, in-house style guides, maybe some niche ethics considerations, etc.

What I got instead was the following. It reads less like freelance guidelines and more like a high school journalism teacher’s first-day syllabus, with basic, 101 rules about AP Style and punctuation.

I decided to post it here after a suggestion from a colleague in the field last week, but mostly because it’s illustrative of the face-palming, anachronistic attitude that has been holding down print. I recounted my favorite parts of this to a reporter friend and he chuckled wildly. “Good luck finding the only land line in Brooklyn to call this guy on,” he said.

Also, it’s been a year and it’s clear I’m not going to write for him any time soon. If nothing else, I do like his understanding that the pub is competing for eyeballs, and some of the advice and comments in here are based in good journalistic sense, of course. But I’ve highlighted my favorites of the rest in bold:

So, you want to write for me?

A primer on how to write for (Editor’s Name)

Most editors are vile, misanthropic, implacable sons of bitches. But at least one editor, (Editor’s Name), tells you that up front. And, better still, (Editor) gives you the tools to write better for him and future editors. The following pages have been compiled over many years — and in no particular order, so it may appear to jump around a bit). So herewith, The Rules:

FIRST AND FOREMOST: Do not call me on a CELLPHONE to pitch a story or ask for a job. It’s rude and, worse, inefficient. Most of the time, I can’t hear a word you’re saying. The only time you should use a cellphone when talking to an editor is a) when the editor calls you on it or b) when there is breaking news that absolutely requires the convenience of a mobile telecommunications device.

Similarly, if you’re pitching me a story and want to show me what you’ve done in the past, don’t send me links to your prior work. First of all, many Internet links are dead. But more important, many old, stodgy editors don’t interact with technology the way you do. If you send me a link, chances are, the web page that comes up will be filled with ads and videos and search bars, etc, that are getting in my way. In the end, I’m going to have to print out the story, so I can read it at a calm moment. Believe me, you don’t WANT an editor to be reading your best work sitting at his computer, where the phone will ring and his other work demands will distract him.

NOW, THE IMPORTANT STUFF: Do not hand in dirty copy. Every word in your story should be spelled correctly. If you spell “fluorescent” incorrectly, it not only means that you were lazy, but it also means that I now have to check every other complicated word, and names, in your story. At the very least, run the spell-check. Continue reading

Writing below minimum wage

An e-mail from a much more successful freelance writer friend (who wanted to remain unnamed), in reference to an article she wrote for a respected NYC magazine:


Counting my time on Friday, Sat and Sun, plus editing time today, this article cost:

25 hours
eight AA batteries
11 subway rides
2 $10 cab rides (partially due to my overzealousness in getting to too many games)

It will earn between $100 and $150.

Minus the $48 in expenses, even if I get $150, that’s $4.08 an hour. I made more than that driving a fucking Fuji Film cart at the airplane convention when I was 15. There has to be a better way.

And the check didn’t come in the mail for another two months after this e-mail.

But then, what else are we to do? Not all of us can be managing editor of the New Yorker by our mid-20s.

Meanwhile, my most promising writing gig now is the one that involves no pay (woo hoooo contributing editor!).  To think there were generations before us for whom writing work was a fairly steady and reliable paying gig. What an interesting time to be alive, but at least some journos out there are still doing the important stuff, even if people aren’t paying attention.

Related: Newstand sales of magazines drop 12 percent (AP)

A freelance drought solution

My reaction to this situation was to get a job at TJ’s and keep collecting whatever scraps of freelance work came along. I was waaay off:

LOS ANGELES (AP)—Chima Simone couldn’t think of a better place to spend the recession than the “Big Brother” house.

“I thought it’d be fun,” said the 32-year-old freelance journalist, one of 13 contestants who will be locked away for the 11th season. “I wasn’t getting any responses to my query letters. I’m not traveling anywhere this summer. I thought `Big Brother’ would be a great way to make a ton of money in a limited time without really having to work for it.”

Simone will be among the houseguests competing for the voyeuristic CBS reality show’s $500,000 grand prize, awarded to the contestant who outlasts the rest while being monitored by dozens of cameras inside a makeshift two-story house on a soundstage.

Also: Big Brother is still going on? Who knew?

[thanks to Jeff Vrabel for the tip.]