We're gearing up for the freelance session! Join journalists Jon Tattrie and Heather Clarke and accountant Robert Dean in just a few minutes.
Session is just starting! Heather Clarke and Jon Tattrie are both freelancers in Halifax (and formerly of the Hfx Daily News) and Robert Dean is a local accountant.
Both started freelancing after the Daily News shut down in 2008.
Clarke: busy mother of 2, prefer to get assignments from editors rather than pitching
Tattrie: learned about taxes, running own operation by taking a business course early on. Seeing freelancing as a business is most effective. Try to ensure diverse client base in case publications change, close, etc.
Tattrie: Flow of work changes throughout the year, like during the holidays and slow periods.
Clarke: build good relationships with editors by submitting copy several days early, writing your own photo captions, etc, helping promote the publication you're filing for, turning down assignments if you're too busy
Dean: Important that your product isn't just about copy, but about good "customer service" (making editors happy)
Dean: Want to start your own business? First question : Why? What is the purpose of your business, beyond just pursuing your passion?
Dean: what are the risks, challenges, time and financial requirements of your proposed business? What are others doing?
Tattrie: went through magazines at library and checked out mastheads. Who's using staff writers and who's using more freelancers?
Tattrie: when he started freelaning, he was 80% pitching and 20% getting assignments from editors. Now he estimates it's 90% assignment and 10% pitching.
Question: how do you negotiate rates with publishers? Agree on rates when starting a business relationship with someone; turn down anyone who doesn't offer enough. Dean adds that you should know your marketplace and market yourself (pitch to places where you want to write)
Question : who do you write for? Clarke : Herald, magazines, about 30% corporate projects. Tattrie: CBC Nova Scotia, magazines, teaching (among others )
Question: how to deal with an advertorial client when they make the news? Both writers say they would not put their byline on a corporate product.
Not all corporate projects are advertorial, they say. Some can be more editorial.
Question: Is it possible to pitch multiple angles of your story to different outlets? Clarke advises against it and instead stick with one outlet per story.
Tax question : work at home or rent an office outside the home? Dean: don't worry about tax considerations, make decision based on what economically works best for you.
Personal reasons to freelance: flexible schedule to allow for travel, family time (Tattrie), not having to pay for child care (Clarke)
Dean: Having your own business can give you freedom. But you're also bound by how much work (and revenue) you have. So it can be stressful. "You're scheduling 24/7," he says.
Clarke: Corporate clients see her work on her website and contact her that way.
Tattrie : What if you get sick, injures and you can't work? Look at building up savings in advance. Figure out how you would deal with such a situation. Clarke has an organized system with contact details for editors, status of stories, etc.
Both writers say they've filed stories while down with the flu because they've committed to finishing them -- it's a matter of maintaining trust.
Question : juggling multiple stories at once? Clarke uses her Google Calendars and schedules her time for each story. She also turns down stories if she has too much going on at a given time. Worth knowing how long it takes for you to finish a story.
Tatttie: tracking the progress of your articles is important, and so is tracking invoices and whether you've been paid. Clarke says she uses a cloud-based service called Fresh Books for tracking invoices.
What expenses can you claim on your taxes? Dean: It comes down to whether there is a causal relationship between what you spend and what you earn.
Dean: So you went to Costa Rica. Did you write a freelance story there? Then that's a causal relationship. But if you did not, then it wouldn't be wise to claim the trip.
Clarke's final thoughts: She's promoting herself as a lifestyle writer, although she still writes for business, etc. Use social media to promote your work and he publications you're appearing in.
Dean's final thoughts : Make a plan and build up a support system (mentors, other freelancers, an accountant )
And that's a wrap from the freelance session! Thanks for following our live blog.