Freelancing Again

After a few years of being out of the freelance hustle, I’ve decided to start looking for writing gigs.

I’m not looking to do it full time again; been there, done that, and I’m glad I have the experience. But I want something part-time because–honestly–I’d much rather hustling for part-time gigs I can do from my couch rather than… well, rather than drive to work during rush hour (traffic can be a bitch in Charlotte).

So I’ve been digging out my clips, which entails a fair bit of Googling “Sarah Stone” and “Publication.” And… I wrote more pieces than I remember writing. I really should’ve compiled a list with links as they were published. Or maybe I did but it was lost when I got a new computer. Either way, I’m going to rectify that with help from Excel and Mountain Dew.

Finding freelance work isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and the biggest hurdle is going to be getting that first gig because my most recent clips are from 2016. (Though a couple pieces written back then were just published early last year.) Once I get the first one in the bag, I’ll feel better.

Like I’ve still got it. Which I do. I just need to show that after a couple of years away, I can still meet deadlines and write killer copy.

Have you ever freelanced? Do you have any go-to websites for finding gigs?

Organizing my clips

The pile of newspapers on my desk has grown steadily ever since I started working as a stringer. Whenever I write an article, I pick up a copy of that week’s newspaper for the print version of what I wrote. The stack reached six papers high as of Saturday last week when I finally decided to do something with them.

I knew that I wanted to cut out the articles and paste them into a scrapbook. But first, I needed to copy and scan them. The articles would make up my very first packet of clips to show editors, so I really needed to get that made in order to apply for more writing jobs.

For those of you who’re unfamiliar with clips, they are pretty much a resume for journalists. Clips are published pieces that you’ve written for newspapers or magazines. They show an editor how you write along with showing them that you’ve been published. Most calls for journalists or magazine writers that I’ve found want clips included with the cover letter.

So last Saturday, I sat down at my desk with a pair of scissors and got to work.

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I do have all of this information listed in an Excel database, but writing it down like this was much easier than having to search for it among 60+ other entries.

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I’m actually quite proud of how this looks.

I started by writing down the name of the paper, the volume and number, along with the title of the article and the page numbers. That way I didn’t risk forgetting which article came from which newspaper. Then I started cutting out the articles. They landed, somewhat organized, in a manila folder while the rest of the paper ended up on the floor in a pile.   The next step consisted of copying the articles with my printer/copier/scanner until I had them all on a white backing. This let me write down the information about the paper and the article. My handwriting can vary from pretty neat to chicken scratch; usually it starts off as one before turning into the other. So every time I put the pen against the paper, I struggled to not think toomuch about my handwriting. The more thought involved, the more likely my hand would tremble at the wrong point and make a weird four that looked instead like a nine.

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Three versions: original, digital, and paper copies.

I managed to not mess up anything, a miracle by my standards,and then moved to scanning all of the articles onto my computer. There’s now a nice little folder on my computer desktop labeled “clips” that contains all of the articles neatly labeled with their titles and the date they were published. They’re just waiting for me to send them off to editors.

Since I had the articles already neatly placed in the printer, I decided just to make a copy of each of them. I have a nasty habit of putting stuff down and losing it. The annoying part is that I’m always so sure I’ll find it again. And then, nope. It’s gone.

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Somehow I always end up making a mess when I’m trying to be productive.

So now I have two printed sets of clips, the scanned ones, and the originals waiting to be taped inside a scrapbook. A pretty productive evening, I think.

Do you have clips that you send to editors? How do you organize them?

Freelance Chronicles: Five Red Flags When Looking for Jobs

I’ve been searching for freelance writing jobs for the past few months, and I’ve come across a fair number of job postings that made me think twice about the job. But there have also been times where I was emailing the job poster before I realized that they had skimped on details in the ad. Sometimes the red flags are in the email communications themselves.

Here are five red flags that I watch out for when I’m looking for freelance opportunities.

  1. No Pay/Experience Building/Start-up: A substantial number of advertisements look for writers who are willing to write for free. The poster will say something along the lines of “this is a great opportunity to build your portfolio” or “we can’t pay right now but plan on it when we’re making profits in a few months.” Be careful if you decide to respond to these ads. Start ups may fail, and my articles may disappear along with the website. If I decide to write for free, I thoroughly investigate the poster and website. I look for a reputable organization connected to the website along with a solid track record. Those sites are much more likely to be around for a while.
  2. Book Reviews for Self-Published Books: Authors tend to promote their books on social media, through contests, and on websites specially designed to distribute advanced reader copies (ARCs). A book for review on Craigslist might be a great book, but I research it before Isend an email to the poster/writer. If they post a picture of the book jacket, I read the summary on the back. If there’s not picture, I check to see if it’s on Amazon or another online retail site. I read the first couple pages if they’re available. Obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes are red flags. While I don’t shy away from giving critical reviews, I’m cautious with books that are marketed so informally.
  3. Unreasonable Requests: Along the lines of the last one, I always read through posts looking for manuscript editors or proofreaders a few times before I make a decision. I’ve noticed that these writers seem to not have critique groups or anyone else to provide feedback on their work. They also look for a large amount of work to be done in either a short period of time and/or for not enough money to cover the work. This also happens with publishers looking for a writer to create a substantial piece of work, over 20 pages, for less than $100. I tend to avoid these like the plague because the payment won’t be worth the headache.
  4. Misrepresentation: This doesn’t often appear in the ad itself, but misrepresentation becomes pretty apparent when I start emailing the poster. I recently emailed a woman about her post looking for writers of teen fiction, and I clicked on the link in her signature that took me into her website. A bit of investigation showed me that the app fell into the new adult/erotica genre rather than teen/YA that I’d been led to believe from the posting. The poster may be not be familiar with the terms typically used in the publishing world. That’s a bit of a problem for me because it shows their lack of research. I’d rather not be involved with someone who doesn’t understand the genre.
  5. Not Answering Questions: If I’m interested in the post and looking for clarification before I say yes to the job, I have no problem asking questions. It’s easier to ask questions up front than to be blindsided by those peculiarities once I’m committed. A poster should be more than willing to answer questions. It shows them that I’m interested in the job. But when a poster completely ignores my questions, I become pretty concerned. If they’re not willing to answer questions now, I’m not sure that they’ll be willing to answer questions that pop up down the road. That can be a major problem. I’d rather withdraw then instead of getting myself into that kind of circumstance.

Even if there are no red flags in the post or in the emails, the job may still not work out. I know that I’ve done everything I could at that point to make sure it seemed okay. And I’ll probably notice new red flags to watch for next time. The experience isn’t a complete waste so long as I learn from my mistakes.

Are there any red flags that you watch out for?

What I’ve Been Up To: Book Review Edition

I’ve been busy these past few weeks with a couple of freelance projects. It’s been a bit of an adjustment to make a schedule so that I can get those projects done in addition to mine. I’m still trying to make it work. I have a habit of letting my own projects fall by the wayside in favor of working on my freelance ones. But I’m making progress.

One of the projects is working as a Young Adult book reviewer for a teen website called TypeOneTwo.org. I read and review one book a week, and that’s helping me toward my New Year’s Resolution to read 52 books this year.

Check out my reviews.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson

Running on Empty by Colette Ballard

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The post schedule for this blog is going to be a bit altered in order to accommodate my review schedule, so I’m going to be posting links to my weekly freelance work on Mondays. Keep an eye out for my reviews and other projects.