Pros vs. Cons

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I’ve been doing this freelance thing for about a month. Overall it’s been pretty rad.

Pros

IMG_0115-I can work from bed when I’m feeling like crap.

-I can work with my cats within arms reach. Or in my arms.

-Or in bed with cats on me.

-Eating healthy is much easier when my kitchen and food is just a few feet away.

-After a big win, I can take the rest of the day off to have a private dance party.

-If there’s work I’m not interested in, I don’t do it. If there’s a publication that’s difficult to work with, I pitch somewhere else.

-If there’s a project I really want to work on, I can find time in my day for it and maybe even get someone to pay me.

I’m not looking to get tied down to a desk job again quite yet, but not everything is all cats and dance parties.

Cons

-After a big win, there’s no one around to celebrate with me.

-It can be hard to decide when to take a break to eat, so 4 p.m. might be greeted with a rumbling stomach.

-Other times, at 5 p.m. you realize you haven’t brushed your teeth.

-Friends and family have difficulty understanding that everyday is not a “day off.”IMG_0110

-Getting the cats to realize I’m not available for snuggles every second of every day is next to impossible.

-Too much work? Not enough? It’s a balancing act I’ve far from mastered.

Despite the cons, I know I’ve made the right decision every time I remember that I’m self-employed. The giddy, excited feeling almost completely covers up the fear that rent won’t be paid in just a couple short weeks…

Leave it out

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We just finished what was possibly one of my favourite assignments of school: a faith assignment.

I wouldn’t call myself a religious person, but I went to a Mennonite school and took religion courses in university, so I’ve done similar assignments before.

I decided to do something a little different, explore something I knew nothing about.

I wrote about the faith of people who read tarot cards. And it was as fascinating as it sounds.

I learned a lot about tarot cards, readings, “fortune tellers” and even my own faith.

The people I chatted with had a lot of interesting stuff to say, but only so many words can fit on a page.

The article wasn’t about Trevor Thorkelson‘s sense of humour. It wasn’t about how Nancy Gill pulled the exact card she was looking for out of the deck three times during our conversation after shuffling it and without having to search. It wasn’t about the accurate card reading that I received or how I felt around these people.

It was about their faith. So everything else was left out.

When you get really invested in a story that can be so painful to do. You need to think really hard about some information. As interesting as something might be, if it doesn’t relate directly to what the topic is, it has to go. If it doesn’t add anything to the article, leave it out. If it doesn’t move the story forward, keep it for something else.

You can blog about what you leave out or post it on Twitter or Facebook. Use those tidbits of information to promote your article in other ways.

I have many notebooks full of interesting details and surprising facts about people I’ve interviewed that have never made it to publication.

Those notebooks will stay stacked on my bookshelves for a day when story ideas aren’t flowing. Maybe they’ll prove useful.

In this case, I’ll be using my leftover notes from my conversations with Nancy to write a blog post for Makers & Market. Watch for it in the coming weeks if you want to know more about what she told me.

 

Respect your editors time

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I’ve learned a lot about how to be a good freelancing journalist by being an editor. The most important thing I’ve learned is to read everything carefully before asking questions so as not to waste an editors time asking silly questions.

If I’m not sure the due date, word limit or photograph expectations, I read carefully over past email exchanges and any information packages that I’m sent before contacting the editor.

There’s nothing more frustrating than sending a contributor a paragraph of detailed information, only to have them respond directly to that email asking for details that are clearly explained or having a story handed in that doesn’t fit the clearly stated guidelines.

Making time for news

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Something I always forget about is staying in touch with the world.

The most common advice I get from journalists is to always have story ideas. But it’s pretty hard to do that when you don’t know what’s going on in the world.

I listen to CBC radio One in the morning for a half hour (when I make time for the gym…). I see headlines on Facebook and Twitter and read anything super interesting that I haven’t yet heard about. I read the news articles handed into me as news editor for OutWords magazine and everything handed into The Projector before the paper is printed. But by the time I hear about the stories they’re already news.

I have a stack of feminist magazines and zines sitting beside my bed that I haven’t made time to read in months. I’ve sought out and started following feminist blogs on Twitter, but rarely take time to read them. I don’t really keep an eye on events going on or make time to go to them.

Working and spending time with loved ones are both important, but I need to remember that knowing what’s going on in the world helps make work because I have stories to pitch and gives me something to talk about with people and prevents embarrassing situations when I don’t know about major events going on in the country.

My goal for this next week is to come up with a list of stories that would be relevant now that I want to write. I probably won’t write them now because I just don’t have time, but at least I’ll be getting in the habit of always having something up my sleeve.

Getting organized

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It’s kind of like ripping off a band-aid.

The pile up of emails I’ve already read that need to be sorted into folders. Stacks of notebooks, half written in, scattered throughout my apartment. A pile of important papers that I have no where to go gets stashed in my knitting bucket.

The incredible mess that comes with being a student who also works. The incredible stress that comes with having to search beneath piles of clean laundry for anything when you’re a neat freak.

Most days the last thing on my mind is stopping to put things in their place. It’s been so long since I had time to be as organized as I want to be that some things just don’t have a home. But in reality if I took the time to stop working for a couple hours to get my physical and virtual life organized I would save a lot of time and my stress levels would be greatly reduced.

So this weekend while my partner moved his boxes and furniture into my home, I moved things around my home to make my life tidier.

It was painful to do. But man, the relief I feel.

Next time I need to head out to interview someone, I’ll just have to reach into my “cameras, recorders, cords and other fun journalist things” drawer to grab what I need. And, oh look! A full change purse, pencils and pens, and notebooks are there waiting for me too!