Posts filed under Freelance

Gretchen Gales: Freelance Writer & Marketing Intern

Name: Gretchen Gales

Age: 21

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English and History, minor in Creative Writing

Current Location: Richmond, Virginia

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer and Marketing Intern at Legacy Navigator

Where do you work and what is your current position?

As a freelancer, I put my eggs in so many baskets, the Easter Bunny is angry with me. Independently, I have had bylines in Ms., The Establishment, Bustle, and more. I’m currently the managing editor of Quail Bell Magazine, an online and occasional print publication exploring the magic and beauty of culture, history, feminism, folklore, and much more. Christine Stoddard and I work together with the other (volunteer, I should add) editors and staff writers to produce the best possible experience for our readers. We recently created more narrowed-down editor roles. We promoted Ren Martinez as the fiction editor, and if you take a peek at some of her work—especially her short stories—it was an easy choice. Archita Mittra is our poetry editor. She’s achieved a lot at a young age as well, including producing haunting, aesthetically pleasing written and art work. Lashelle Johnson is our essay editor and curates essays from diverse voices. She also brings her own voice into the mix, tackling topics about race, gender and more. Erynn Porter, Ghia Vitale, Amy Joyce, Julian Drury, and Melanie Bikowski are our hard-working assistant editors. Quail Bell wouldn’t be the same without our dedicated volunteers.

I am also an intern at Legacy Navigator, a real estate liquidator specializing in grief. It is a very compassionate company. Everyone values your input and we all have fabulous rapport. You see a lot of companies try and cultivate a “family” relationship to improve the company’s morale, but I would say this is the first job where I feel I could be upfront and communicate exactly what I’m feeling at all times. They value their employee’s mental health and respect your limits. I don’t feel the normal urge to be a “yes woman” and agree to do absolutely everything to get on anyone’s good side. In other words, I have had a great internship experience.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first true writing job was working with Christine Stoddard as managing editor of Quail Bell Magazine. I found out about Quail Bell by walking around during an Art Walk and purchased our two anthologies. I read them and immediately fell in love, determined that I would place my work in the magazine someday. Before I was promoted to managing editor, I was brought on board as a volunteer staff writer, then an assistant editor, and finally to where I am today. I essentially help sort through submissions for quality work that speaks to our mission as well as curating pieces for special projects. We love beautiful and haunting pieces. I’m always excited to give the go-ahead to editors about which pieces to accept. We have also been taking the initiative to make more original artwork to pair with submissions so that every piece is unique. The real moral of the story is to spend your last $20 on books, specifically small indie publishers.

“Finding someone who is willing to be a mentor to you is a remarkable experience.”

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

Being mentored by Christine Stoddard was an amazing opportunity. After a summer internship I had initially signed up for went sour—always investigate a magazine AND their editors before accepting an opportunity—Christine generously offered to be my mentor for the summer and teach me all about how to find work and refine my pitches for larger chances of success. She is a superstar, but still makes time to share her own knowledge with fledgling writers. Finding someone who is willing to be a mentor to you is a remarkable experience. I had admired Quail Bell early in my undergraduate career, so getting a poem published in the publication was already surreal. I never would have imagined I would get this far.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I sought out internship opportunities and jumped at interesting opportunities I saw on social media. There are groups for submission calls on Facebook all over the place. Join them and see what you can find. I also went to my first AWP conference this year in Washington, D.C. I had a blast, and hope I can attend again in the near future. It is a writer’s absolute dream. The book fair alone was like trick-or-treating for bookworm adults.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Actively look for opportunities to submit your writing. Just because you’re in college (or fresh out of college) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t already be looking out for submission and pitching opportunities. Yes, that includes your “dream” magazines. Aim big! Most of my bigger bylines were snatched up after I submitted a pitch or draft just to see what would happen. If you don’t know where to start, Submittable just added a Discover feature with filters, so you can find the perfect opportunity for you.

You should also follow a variety of literary magazines—small and large—on various social media outlets. Some people believe that all writers are recluses and anti-social, but that is farther from the truth. I don’t think something like the AWP conference could exist if writers didn’t have a desire to talk to one another about their ideas and projects.

Oh, don’t forget to read. I know time is limited in college and you’re really only focusing on readings assigned by your professors, but I promise it is manageable. Take a moment every day to read a short article or piece that pertains to your writing interests. It can be a source of motivation, inspiration, and a distraction from the normal college-related stress. Plus, you’ll get a sense of what you want your own writing style to be like.

Finally, balance the work you need to do for day to day living with creative work. It is true that you probably will not make a sustainable living on your creative works right after college, and it is an incredibly hard journey to get there. But if you are persistent and work hard, you can find career opportunities that are enjoyable and stable. That means you can more time to focus on your creative endeavors, like that could-be bestseller!

You can check out Gretchen's online portfolio here. You can also follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, and follow her fan page on Facebook.


Posted on November 2, 2017 and filed under Freelance, Publishing.

Nicole Danielle Chinn: Copywriter

Name: Nicole Danielle Chinn

Age: 22

College & Majors: I graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor of Arts in Literary Studies

Current Location: Dallas, Texas

Current Form of Employment: Copywriter

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I'm currently a self-employed freelance copywriter. 

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first couple of jobs were fairly easy to get; they were all either in retail, fast food, or lifeguarding, so the process was pretty simple. Walk in, ask for an application, and wait for a callback. 

Finding my current job took a bit more work. I stumbled accross the opportunity when I was job searching back in November of 2015 and applied for it and didn't hear back. That's when I got my job as a Content Strategist/Copywriter and Social Media Manager at a local digital marketing agency in Dallas. A few months later I found out that I had a friend who knew someone that worked at the company I hadn't heard back from and and was able to put me in contact with the Editor-in-Chief. About a month later, I was offered the option to come on board as a freelance copywriter.  

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career? 

Before I decided to go freelance, I worked as a Content Strategist/Copywriter and Social Media Manager for a digital marketing company during my final semester of my senior year. During that time I was able to really immerse myself in my writing and I was able to refine my writing skills in many different areas thanks to my time in this position. 

What did you do in college to prepare you for your post-grad life? 

Pretend that post-grad life didn't exist and that I'd never have to become an adult? In all seriousness though, I spent my extra electives throughout college dabbling in different subjects that seemed interesting to me. This allowed me to see if maybe there was something out there I wanted to do other than write. In the end, I learned a lot from those classes, but nothing ever trumped my love for writing. 

After I made certain that I really wanted to write, I started looking for careers that would allow me to hone my abilities to the fullest. I tried the whole 'corporate America' desk job thing for awhile, but I ended up feeling very stifled. So, I looked for other ways I could support myself by writing that wouldn't make me resent my craft. Freelancing is the perfect opportunity to do exactly that. 

“ Don’t settle because it seems like the only option. Find your passion and do what you love.”

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree? 

Don't settle. Don't settle for a dead-end job that doesn't allow you to utilize your English degree and everything you've learned and practiced and perfected over the years. I know that when I was in school, I would get a lot of weird looks and chuckles when I told people what I was majoring in, which can feel a little discouraging. I was told I would never be able to find a job with my degree. However, when I was growing up, I was always told to go after what I enjoyed and what made me happy, so I did and I don't regret it for a second. Don't settle because it seems like the only option. Find your passion and do what you love. 

You can connect with Nicole on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter


Posted on August 17, 2016 and filed under Copywriting, Freelance, Self-Employed.

Alaina Leary: Social Content Curator & Freelancer

Name: Alaina Leary

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: Westfield State University, English with a concentration in Writing, Editing, and Media (Bachelor of Arts degree, May 2015); Emerson College, Publishing and Writing (in-progress Master of Arts degree, expected May 2017)

Current Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Current Form of Employment: Full-time, regular, plus I have several ongoing freelance roles

Where do you work and what is your current position?

Right now, I'm working at Connelly Partners / Breaktime Media, and I'm a Social Content Curator on several different client accounts. I'm involved in a lot of different aspects of social media, including community management, content audits, analytics and regular reporting, strategy development, creating posts (writing the copy, contributing design ideas and video concepts), scheduling posts, running social media ads, and working with bloggers, user-generated content, and social media influencers. I also work with some longer form content, including print and online magazines and blogs, and help out as needed with the publicity and PR side of social.

I'm also involved in a few ongoing freelance projects, including Her Campus, Luna Luna Magazine, We Need Diverse Books, Dear Hope, and Doll Hospital. In these projects, I have varied responsibilities, mainly tied into social media, editing, writing, graphic and web design, marketing, and publicity.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first job out of college was at a start-up that owned 19 local websites. I worked mainly on the feature stories program—seeking sources, reaching out for features, interviewing sources, editing content written by our freelance writers, curating photos, writing headlines and subheads, and electronically publishing. I did a bit of copywriting, social media, and community management work as well.

I found that job on Craigslist jobs, which I've always found kind of ironic. I was afraid of using Craigslist to look for work, but at the time, I'd been applying since December of my senior year (more heavily since February of that year). I'd used every career website, but I'd never used Craigslist. So I gave it a shot, and the interview process went so well, so I accepted the position. I really enjoyed working there, and it gave me the opportunity to use more than one skill set, which was fantastic.

“As it turns out, I wasn’t right for a senior role, but the recruiter told me not to give up, and I didn’t. I reapplied for another position in March, and she asked me if I’d be interested in joining the team on the client-facing side, as part of the agency.”

I found my current job in an interesting way. I connected with a recruiter at Breaktime Media in January for a senior editor position for an entertainment website that my company owns. I was really passionate about working at the company, but I didn't have quite the experience level that was necessary for the open role. After talking with the recruiter, I was even more convinced that this company was right up my alley. When she and I talked company culture, I tried really hard not to imagine myself getting the job. I didn't want to get too excited. As it turns out, I wasn't right for a senior role, but the recruiter told me not to give up, and I didn't. I reapplied for another position in March, and she asked me if I'd be interested in joining the team on the client-facing side, as part of the agency. I've worked in an agency setting before, and I loved it, so I said yes. The interview process convinced me even more that this was the right fit for me, and I'm so glad that I didn't give up! It just goes to show you that showing particular enthusiasm about a company or a type of role can go a long way—and so can finding a recruiter who you click with!

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

While I was still in college, I worked at a media agency, as I mentioned before. In that role, I wasn't dedicated to one branch, like I am now, because it was a much smaller agency in Western Massachusetts. I started there on co-op and was hired on as staff afterward. That job was crucial to getting where I am today. Not only did I learn a variety of skills and get to use more than one skill while I was there, but I also learned what it's like to work with clients directly, which was extremely beneficial for me later getting freelance work and now, working at an agency. In that role, I had an opportunity to work with writing, editing, graphic design, journalism, video editing, social media, PR, publicity outreach, and even customer service and administrative tasks. And the biggest thing that stuck with me? My incredible relationship with my supervisor, who I still speak with on a regular basis. She was my mentor throughout the process, and we really connected. I can't tell you how important this relationship was for my career development.

“And the biggest thing that stuck with me? My incredible relationship with my supervisor, who I still speak with on a regular basis. She was my mentor throughout the process, and we really connected. I can’t tell you how important this relationship was for my career development.”

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I took on three internships and several other professional development roles, including working freelance with two area nonprofits (Habitat for Humanity and Hope For Limpopo). I took a career prep class that gave me the opportunity to do mock interviews, practice my "60 second elevator pitch," and have my resume and cover letters critiqued. I took several other unique and useful classes, including special topics in freelance writing and advanced prose, which helped hone my skills and sharpen my ability to edit and refine my work.

I was an honors student, and I decided to do an in-depth thesis project on social media's influence on our relationships, which has been really helpful in my capacity working with social media and learning about human behaviors online and why they happen. It also gave me a chance to work one-on-one with a team of advisors, including a main advisor who I met with every week, and who gave me incredibly beneficial constructive criticism. 

I also worked on campus as a writing consultant at the reading and writing center, and as a tutor in almost 20 different subjects. My work as a writing tutor—and in the class I had to take to prepare to become one—was hugely helpful. My professor was adamant that all of us learn the importance of revising, and it actually changed the way I see the editing process for the better. She also inspired all of us to work on campus social justice issues. Because of that experience, along with three fellow writing tutors and the Student Veterans Association, I wrote a proposal for a veterans' center to be created on campus—and it's now in the process of becoming real.

I presented my work at five conferences, which was wonderful for my public speaking and presentation skills, and gave me the confidence I really needed when I was asked back as an alumni speaker for my college's annual English department award ceremony. 

Making connections was the best thing I did in college, though, as much as every professional experience gave me useful technical skills and practice. My work on Dear Hope came directly from the writing tutor veterans' center project, because DH's founder was a part of our four-person group. He and I have remained really close, and we believe in the same things, which is why Dear Hope is a perfect project to collaborate on. My relationships with supervisors and professors in college were also crucial. I still ask my former professors for career and professional advice (they're probably sick of me!), and connect with them about what I'm up to. The only reason I was invited back as a distinguished alumni is probably because I've kept up such strong connections. I've worked with my former professors, Catherine Savini and Beverly Army Williams, on their new website MotherShould? www.mothershould.com, and I've kept in contact with many colleagues and classmates, too.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get a job with an English degree. You can get so MANY jobs with one! In today’s fast-paced digital age, an excellent writer is a necessary skill to get people’s attention and keep it.”

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Do it! Don't let anyone tell you that you can't get a job with an English degree. You can get so MANY jobs with one! In today's fast-paced digital age, an excellent writer is a necessary skill to get people's attention and keep it. You also don't need to be a full-time writer just because you have an English degree. People with English degrees can go to jobs in editing, digital and social media, PR, marketing, publishing, and many other fields. There are no limits unless you create them for yourself by saying that you can't do it.

Also, connect with fellow English majors and ask English grads what they're doing. Get a feel for what you might want to do early on, and try it out via an internship or co-op. Find out what your passions are and go for it! And don't be afraid to ask people in your dream job how they got there and what their advice is!

Visit AlainaLeary.com to learn more about Alaina and her work, and connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


Dan Jolley: Self-Employed Freelance Writer

Name: Dan Jolley

Age: 44

College & Majors/Minors:b University of Georgia, BA in English

Current Location: Ringgold, Georgia

Current Form of Employment: Self-Employed Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work from home—I'm self-employed—and my current position alternates between "on the treadmill" and "on the couch." I write in both locations, though; I have a walking desk set up, where I plod along at 2 miles per hour and type, and on a good day I do about 5000 words and about 15000 steps. That works best for prose, though. If I'm doing non-prose, such as a comic book script or a screenplay or dialogue for a video game, more often than not I wind up on the couch. Usually with one or more cats on me.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I got my first professional writing contract at age 19, after I met a girl in a video arcade and asked her out. On our first date I told her I wanted to be a writer, and that I'd written a number of short stories, and she asked if I'd ever considered writing comic books. I hadn't, but I'd grown up reading them, and I told her as much. She said, "Well, I know a couple of comic book artists. Want me to introduce you?" I told her yes, yes I would like that very much, and she introduced me to Tony Harris and Craig Hamilton. I ended up working with Tony for about the next ten years on various comics projects, one of which got nominated for an Eisner Award, the comics industry's equivalent of an Oscar.

From there I branched out into licensed-property novels, movie novelizations, original young adult novels, some manga-format novel tie-in comics, some children's books, and video games. 

I've been writing more games than anything else for the last several years, but that's about to change, because on May 13 of this year, my first original novel for adults is coming out from Seventh Star Press. It's called Gray Widow's Walk, the first book in the Gray Widow Trilogy. It's the story of Janey Sinclair, a teleporting vigilante in contemporary Atlanta, Georgia, who must face a grotesque, vicious, possibly extraterrestrial enemy.

Then, on October 18, the first book in my new Middle Grade novel series, Five Elements, debuts from HarperCollins. Set in modern-day San Francisco, it's the story of four twelve-year-old best friends who become bound to the magical elements of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water, and have to try to stop a century-old, hideously evil magic user from dominating the world.

Dying Light - PlayStation 4
Warner Home Video - Games

So I guess I'm a little more novelist than game writer now. Well, this year, anyway.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

In 2014 I was fortunate enough to land a job coming up with dialogue, scenarios, and characters for the first-person parkour-vs-zombies video game, Dying Light.

While working on the game, I got to live in Wrocław, Poland for three months, since that's where the developer, Techland, is located. It was a fantastic experience. I got lots of exposure to a culture I might never have otherwise known, made some fantastic friends, and ate way more pierogies than I probably should have. Dying Light went on to sell a bit north of five million copies, so now I can realistically say that my words have reached people all over the world. 

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

College is about a lot more than taking classes. It's a chance to test the adulthood waters without committing a hundred percent, and at least in my view, is an excellent time to make mistakes. (One of the best bits of wisdom I ever heard was, "The older you get, the higher the stakes are when you screw up.") I made a lot of mistakes in college, from partying too much, to making terrible relationship decisions, to endangering a few true, solid friendships. The key there is to learn from those mistakes, because living life and gaining experience will help your writing every bit as much as mastering your command of language. Not much good comes of being a brilliant writer if you've got nothing to write about. (It helps, I've found, to have friends with terribly sordid pasts.)

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Well, this advice is for those who want to be writers, because I got my start as a writer before I left college and haven't ever truly tried to do anything else. But here it goes: absorb as much knowledge as you can, both in class and out. Make as many friends as you can. Listen to as many stories as you can, from many different types of people. Take as many creative writing classes as possible, to be sure, and learn as much as possible from your professors. But be aware, keenly aware, often painfully aware of the world around you, because that's where your stories will come from. Sometimes you'll witness whole sequences of events that you faithfully transcribe; sometimes you'll hear other people's accounts, with which you can then take artistic license; sometimes you'll catch just a scrap of conversation or an image glimpsed from the corner of your eye that will spark an original idea. As Stephen King puts it, when you're a writer, "Everything is grist for the mill."

“Also—and saying this got me in hot water when I spoke to some creative writing students at NC State a few years ago, but it’s one hundred percent true—do not, under any circumstances, expect your degree to get you work by itself.”

Also—and saying this got me in hot water when I spoke to some creative writing students at NC State a few years ago, but it's one hundred percent true—do not, under any circumstances, expect your degree to get you work by itself. Use the knowledge you gain as you earn the degree, certainly, but the degree itself is... I wouldn't say worthless, because you learn so many invaluable things while you're getting it. It's just that the credential itself is inconsequential. I've been a professional writer for twenty-five years now, and no editor or publisher or producer has ever, not once, asked me about my education. They don't care. It doesn't come up. The all-important question is, "Can you write, or can you not write?" That's the only thing that matters.

Check out DanJolley.com, follow Dan on Twitter, and check out his Facebook page


Jill Overmyer: Senior Marketing Communications Manager

Name: Jill Overmyer

Age: 35

College & Majors/Minors: BS in English, Professional Writing and Editing emphasis/Psychology minor

Current Location: Dallas, Texas

Current Form of Employment: Senior Marketing Communications Manager

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I am the Senior Marketing Communications Manager for an energy and home services company in Dallas. My main responsibilities are working with executives to develop company-wide communication strategies, establishing messaging and positioning for new products and services, hiring and managing writers and freelancers, developing and executing social media and content management strategies, and writing and reviewing copy. The things I write range from executive speeches to video scripts to brochures. 

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first job out of college was working as the Communications Specialist at the national headquarters of a fraternity. I found that job the old-fashioned way—I saw an ad on CareerBuilder, applied with my resume and some samples, interviewed, and accepted a job offer. 

This was vastly different from the way I found my current position. In fact, I didn't really find my current job. One day I got a phone call from a freelance client (now the Chief Marketing Officer at my company) about an "opportunity" he thought I would be good for. The next thing I knew, I was moving to Texas. 

The vast majority of my career has been in marketing and copywriting, and I found out quickly that marketing and creative teams often go from company to company together. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to develop good working relationships and never burn bridges.

The last few positions I've held followed a similar pattern. They were offered to me through former coworkers or bosses who had moved on to different companies and were in the process of building new teams. The vast majority of my career has been in marketing and copywriting, and I found out quickly that marketing and creative teams often go from company to company together. That's one of the reasons it's so important to develop good working relationships and never burn bridges. 

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

My first freelance job was a turning point for me. I was writing content articles for a few different websites, and I realized that I could make a lot of money as a freelance writer. It opened up new doors as I learned about the different opportunities that were available. For a time period, I worked full-time from home as a freelance writer. I still do some freelance now, but I'm more discerning about which jobs I take. 

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

The entire time I was in college, I worked at my school's on-campus Writing Center as a writing tutor. I learned so much about grammar and the entire writing process, and it also allowed me to enter the job market with editing experience. 

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

I would highly recommend taking advantage of as many opportunities to build up your resume and portfolio in school as possible. This could be tutoring, writing for the school paper, and looking for internships between semesters or tracks. When you graduate with experience, you already have an edge over many other new graduates. 

Also, try to learn about as many of the different opportunities in the field as possible so you have an idea about what you want to go into when you graduate. There are so many different fields and lines of work you can move into as an English major—it really is incredibly diverse. 

I also think it’s important, whether in school or in the job market, to seek out mentors you can learn from. I've been privileged to have some wonderful mentors who have taught me a great deal throughout my schooling and professional career. I'm still in contact with most of them to this day. There are so many people you will come in contact with that you can learn from and collaborate with, and recognizing those opportunities and seeing each job as a learning experience will open up more doors than you realize. 

You can connect with Jill on LinkedIn!


Posted on April 16, 2016 and filed under Communications, Freelance, Interviews, Interview, Marketing.

Judi Ketteler: Freelance Writer

Name: Judi Ketteler

Age: 41

College & Majors/Minors: English Major/Anthropology Minor (B.A. from Northern Kentucky University); I also have an M.A. in English from Miami University of Ohio

Current Location: Cincinnati, Ohio

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’ve been self-employed for 14 years. I work as a full-time freelance writer. That’s meant different things throughout the years. At one time, my focus was primarily writing for magazines. Now, I do mostly content marketing writing and copywriting, working for corporate clients (and some small businesses). I’ve been able to successfully support myself through writing all these years! Not only that, my husband is a stay-at-home dad, and for nearly eight years, I’ve been supporting the whole family!

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.

My first job out of graduate school was a sales job at a trade industry magazine. I found it through a newspaper listing. Searching for jobs online wasn’t really much of a thing yet (this was 1999!). I only took the job because I thought I could work my way into editorial. I HATED the job. I didn’t want to sell banner ads for web sites (remember, this was 1999, and banner ads were all the rage). I only stayed six months. Everything about the job was terrible, except for the people I met! I made friends at that first job that I still have today. So, in the end, something good came out of it!

I started freelancing in 2002, after I got laid off twice in row, six months apart. I had been working as a copywriter at a design firm. I liked the job a lot, but when the economy took a turn for the worst in the summer of 2001, I got laid off. I found another job right away, helping a start-up nonprofit in the tech world with marketing. That job only lasted six months, because after 9/11 happened, the tech world was devastated. Non-profits definitely didn’t have any money!

When I lost that job in spring of 2002, I was 27 years old, and about to buy my first house. I was crushed and had to pull the offer for the house (my layoff literally happened the day after I made an offer)! It turned out to be a blessing, because I was able to take the money that would have been my downpayment, and use it to start freelancing. I had no idea what I was doing at first! I had been writing on the side for the local newspapers. I kept doing that, but then also started pitching stories to national magazines (which paid exponentially better than local publications).

I felt my way along, and soon was writing for many women’s magazines (SELF, Shape, Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Better Homes and Gardens, plus, a smattering of web sites). I also had some agency connections because of my time working for the design firm, so I landed some good freelance copywriting gigs. When the magazine industry took a big hit around 2009 - 2010, I moved away from magazine writing and focused most of my attentions on copywriting. That’s where I am now! I partner with lots of content marketing agencies and web design firms. I have small business clients, too, and I help with everything from social media to branding to advising on web design. I’ve also written a non-fiction book, Sew Retro (2010), and I partnered with a company to co-write another book, The Spoonflower Handbook (2015). I’m currently working with my agent on a young adult novel. 

“It’s been a really great ride so far, and I never imagined that I could make such a good living by writing, including years when I’ve made six figures. I had no idea that ‘freelance writer’ was a job when I was in school.”

It’s been a really great ride so far, and I never imagined that I could make such a good living by writing, including years when I've made six figures. I had no idea that “freelance writer” was a job when I was in school. I didn’t really have any model either. I just made it up as I went along, and found the resources and mentors I needed as I went. 

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I mentioned that I worked as a copywriter at a design firm. That was a really crucial thing, because it’s how I learned the ropes of copywriting. The only writing experience I had coming out of grad school was academic. So, I knew a lot about 19th century women’s fiction, but I didn’t know much about how to write for everyday consumers. I had to learn by doing. Copywriting really is an art. Not all “good” writers can do it. You have to set aside ego and figure out how to clearly communicate to a target audience. I learned to do this by working at that design firm. I never could have freelanced without learning those basics!

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Honestly, I wasn’t much concerned with preparing for post-grad life when I was in college, or graduate school for that matter! I concentrated on learning as much as I could, and getting as much out of every class that I could! Looking back, I can see all kinds of ways that I was building skills in college. For example, deadlines! In my world, I wouldn’t get repeat work from clients if I didn’t know how to meet deadlines. In college, I learned the importance of turning papers in on time—and that skill has served me well! 

Also, the ability to research, to follow a footnote or a thread of something—that curiosity has taken me to some fantastic places, professionally-speaking. I had such great professors in college. They encouraged me to follow my interests and work on developing my own ideas about books, characters, theories, etc. I still use the critical thinking and discernment skills I learned by reading texts and criticism (and then writing about texts and criticism). Critical thinking is a big part of any story or project: knowing what to include (and why), what to leave out, what to edit, when to dig deeper into, when to push back, etc. 

“No time is ever wasted if you are learning new things. Sometimes it’s a seemingly small thing, but you never know how it may play out in your career!”

In terms of the craft of writing, my college and grad school classes definitely taught me the importance of voice. One of my strengths as a writer is my voice—specifically, my ability to craft the right voice for the project. How could I have learned that if hadn’t been exposed to such a diversity of voices, from Virginia Woolf to Herman Melville?

I think there is a social aspect, too: learning to have intelligent, respectful discussions with peers. I was very shy in college, so I probably didn’t really bloom in this area until graduate school. But the ability to contribute to discussions in a thoughtful way—that’s been so important in my career, and it’s helped me network and develop really key business relationships.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

You may stumble upon the perfect job right away, or, like me, it may be a series of stops and starts, and then a bit of luck and timing and going for it. Try to take something from each experience. No time is ever wasted if you are learning new things. Sometimes it’s a seemingly small thing, but you never know how it may play out in your career! Also, do as much networking and connecting with other people as you can. I’m talking face to face conversations! I love social media (especially LinkedIn), and have made quality connections that way, of course. But never underestimate the power of showing up in person and having a good conversation. Sometimes, I think I owe the success of my career to my ability to have a really good conversation with someone.

You can see Judi's work on her website, www.judiketteler.com


Posted on February 17, 2016 and filed under Writing, Freelance, Copywriting, Journalism, Publishing, Self-Employed.

Kristian Wilson: Freelance Writer

Name: Kristian Wilson

Age: 25

College & Majors/Minors: University of South Carolina Upstate, BA English with a cognate in Comparative Religion and History

Current Location: Upstate SC

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I'm currently working from home as a writer for two online magazines. I log regular online shifts each week as a Books Feature Writer for Bustle, and I write for LadyClever as an independent contractor. I'm currently gearing up to finish a novel manuscript during NaNoWriMo, but I'll be looking for more freelance work once that's done.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.

I started my blog, Kristian Wilson, Writing, in April 2014. I didn't really know what I was doing at first, as far as narrowing my focus goes, but that actually worked out in my favor. Between my blog and two unpaid websites, I produced a few solid features, which I used as clips to apply for the editorial internship I eventually secured.

While I was interning, I applied for a huge number of jobs I found on telecommuterjobs.net, a site that aggregates all remote job listings from Craigslist. That was in January or February 2015. I didn't hear back from any of them until April, and when I did, three of the online magazines I'd applied to responded within a week! I was sort of overwhelmed, haha, but I managed to type out coherent replies and wound up working for two of them: Bustle and LadyClever.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I sold my first story in March, and I was super excited. It was only $50, to be paid upon publication, but it was my first successful freelance pitch, and I was stoked. I signed all the necessary paperwork, wrote up the article, polished it, sent it off with all the photos and extras to accompany it. Then ... radio silence.

After I didn't hear anything for a while, I sent an email to check in. They'd had some internal change-ups, said my original email had probably been lost in the shuffle, and asked me to resend. I did, promptly. Cue more radio silence.

I'm an English Major Now What?
$14.99
By Timothy Lemire

I've sent several emails and tweets to various contacts with that website, but I've never gotten a response. I stopped sending inquiries in April, after it became clear I wasn't going to get any replies. Because I already signed all their paperwork and sent them the story, they own it. I can't sell it elsewhere, but I also can't get paid until they publish it. I check every so often—they have a policy about filing invoices within 60 days of publication—but so far my essay hasn't turned up.

It was my first story, but it never materialized. I wonder what went wrong sometimes. Mostly I count myself lucky, because I got acquainted with freelance perils early on.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Like any good English major, I read a lot and did research. The director of my senior seminar had us all get a copy of Timothy Lemire's I'm an English Major - Now What?, so that we could see what our options were. That book made me comfortable with putting off grad school until I had more stability. Once I decided that I wanted to go the freelance route, I went to every website I enjoyed reading—which are mostly all about feminism, books, and/or video games—and saved their submission guidelines. I also checked out the most recent Writer's Market volumes from my local library and took notes from them.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Think long and hard about what you want to do, and understand that you can always change your answer. Once you're set on doing something, stay focused, and always question whether or not the commitments and decisions you make are going to benefit you as a professional.

If you want to write, in any capacity, you have to keep your name out there. Take health breaks when you need to, but don't let yourself get stale. You always want to be publishing something, even if it's on your personal blog.

It's OK to tell people who have negative reactions to your college and career choices that they don't know what they're talking about. There's a difference between the jokes students make about hopeless career prospects and the ones people on the outside make when they're trying to tell you that you might as well quit school to manage a restaurant or work in a factory. There's nothing wrong with those choices, obviously, but if they aren't yours, they aren't yours, and there's nothing wrong with that, either.

Check out Kristian Wilson's website KristianWilsonWriting.com and connect with her on LinkedIn! You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram


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 John Essex: Owner, Editor at Peak Medical Editing

John Essex: Owner, Editor at Peak Medical Editing

 Chelsea Phipps: Community Management Lead

Chelsea Phipps: Community Management Lead

 Mollie Turbeville: Content Editor & Freelance Book Editor

Mollie Turbeville: Content Editor & Freelance Book Editor

Posted on November 5, 2015 and filed under Freelance.

John Essex: Owner, Editor at Peak Medical Editing, LLC

Name: John Essex

Age: 35

College & Majors/Minors: Wabash College, Major: Biology, Minor: English (plus 2 years of medical school)

Current Location: Indianapolis, IN

Current Form of Employment: Owner, Editor at Peak Medical Editing, LLC

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at Peak Medical Editing, the company I started and own. I’m happy to report that my boss is a super great guy—very lax with the dress code policy. I’m a medical editor, which means I help scientific authors improve the clarity of their writing for peer-reviewed journals. I also edit various other medically focused projects, including textbooks, which are more fun than you might think. 

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

Back in college, when people would hear I had a biology major with an English minor, they would ask, “What the heck are you going to do with that combination?” I would say, “I don’t know, something.” I doubled-down on the science and went to medical school. After completing the basic medical science courses (not without a lot of prayer and struggle), I left. I knew I wanted to find something that would combine my love of writing and English (thanks to my mom, a retired English teacher) with my medical background. That’s when I became very familiar with job search websites. The programmers at those search companies must have thought it hilarious that when a user input “science” and “writer,” the output would be “TV EXTRAS WANTED!” 

Most of the jobs I was looking for required 3 to 5 years of experience. Yahoo! let me apply a search filter based on years of experience. I had 0 years of experience, so I checked the experience filter marked “0-1,” and all jobs but one fell away: a report writer for a contract research facility in Ohio. That’s not actually true—all science writing jobs fell away but the report writing job, followed by several pages of TV acting work (which, to my surprise, was in mysteriously high demand in the Midwest). 

I interviewed and got the job, moved to another state and worked there for 5 years. The job involved taking research findings and writing toxicology reports that would eventually go into FDA files for new drugs. I gained plenty from that first professional job: humility, discipline, and how to work in a corporate environment. I also met my wife there, a stunning chemist who introduced me to Harry Potter

Fast forward through a job as a medical writer (the details of which I’m saving for the next question), and I became the Editor in Chief of two scientific publications: American Pharmaceutical Review and Pharmaceutical Outsourcing. It was there where I realized many scientific researchers sometimes need help conveying their ideas in English. My favorite part of my job as Editor in Chief was helping authors revise and sharpen their work, getting the best out of their manuscripts. I was not as enthused about the part of the job where I had to fend off influence from sponsors and do extensive traveling. My wife and I had just had a baby boy and I wasn’t keen on being away from them as often as the job was asking. 

I started looking at working for some of the editing companies out there, but I realized I had enough clout and experience under my belt to work for myself, so I started my own company and finally figured out what I could do with that strange combination of a major in biology with a minor in English.  

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

Before my Editor in Chief days, I was a medical writer back in my hometown of Indianapolis. There I learned how to take complex medical information and tell a compelling story for an audience of physicians and scientific leaders. Using published scientific literature, clinical trial data, and advice from researchers, I wrote PowerPoint slide decks that would be presented at medical meetings, scripts for videos, and several journal manuscripts. 

I met some of the smartest people I’ve ever known at that job. For 3 years, I worked closely with the senior medical editor, learning all the nuances of the American Medical Association style. As luck would have it, my cubicle was next to hers, so asking questions was super convenient. She graciously answered hundreds of my questions, knowing that the more informed I was as a writer, the easier her job would be editing my work. (Pro Tip: When you get into the professional world, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t know something.) I edit my current clients’ work like she edited mine: constructively and instructively. She provided examples that helped me grasp certain rules, knowing that I could apply that knowledge in my next project. I do that now for my clients: I want to help them become better writers and impart little tips to improve writing beyond what is currently on the page. The world will always benefit from knowledgeable people who can clearly communicate. As an editor, it’s my job to help experts share their knowledge with the world.   

“Combine your degree with another field like business, marketing, science, or any other professional area that may interest you and you’ve got rock star potential anywhere.”

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

In college, I split my time between science and English courses. I loved the assignments and discussions in my English classes. I had fun with my essays in my junior and senior years, letting some humor slip in where I felt brave enough. There was not as much room for personality in the science classes, although I enjoyed them for other reasons. 

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Here’s the dirty little secret about an English degree: it’s applicable everywhere. The ability to communicate clearly is the missing ingredient in many professional avenues. Combine your degree with another field like business, marketing, science, or any other professional area that may interest you and you’ve got rock star potential anywhere. 

While you’re in school, immersed in your world of literature, grammar, and writing, you can lose sight of the fact that many people are unfamiliar with that world, so you might assume everyone has your abilities. That’s not true. Other people might be experts in math, science, and business, but their knowledge and expertise is useless if they can’t string a useful sentence together to get their messages out. Enter the English Majors: rugged navigators for a world in need of clean writing and proper grammar, come to save the world through clarity of thought. 

You can see John’s website at www.PeakMedicalEditing.com. Drop him a line there or on Twitter @JohnEssex3

Posted on November 2, 2015 and filed under Freelance, Editing.