Tag Archives: freelance advice

Freelancing In Crowded Markets

Joe Wallace Freelance Social MediaWhere I live in Chicago, there are record stores in practically every neighborhood. I can count ten that I go to on a regular basis from my local shop (the venerable Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square) to places wayyyyy out in the western suburbs. You might think this makes for a very tough market for record sellers to thrive in, and you’d be right. I myself sell vinyl records, but taking one look at the already-crowded landscape several years ago, I decided a storefront was a scary and probably ill-advised investment.

Instead I sell online and at conventions. My choices on where and when to market myself have kept me in business, however part-time, for many years. And that’s something I learned from being a freelance writer. Choosing where, when, and how to offer things in a crowded market isn’t something I was born with, I had to learn over the course of my career. And sometimes that learning was painful.

For a while, I struggled as a freelancer to make ends meet, and found a “secret” place to land gigs and pay the bills–creative temp agencies. But while the money was very good and the people I worked for equally so, I learned that I wasn’t that happy temping, even as a writer. Long-term clients and short term gigs are what I’m all about, but a good number of the creative temp jobs offered to me required on-site work, often out in those far-flung Chicago burbs where some of my favorite record shops are.

I found myself fretting over wasted time spent in traffic–time I easily could have spent actually working instead of driving–and dreading those rush hour commutes every bit as much as I dreaded not paying the bills. In the end, I ditched the temp work and found more long-term clients on my own. I work for plenty of people I have never met face-to-face, and the entire process is far more efficient when I’m not wasting two hours or more of my day behind the wheel waiting for the lights to change.

Finding the work in crowded markets isn’t easy–I’ve had to get very creative about the types of writing and social media work I can do. I realized I had areas of interest that hadn’t been mined to death in the freelance world and I started moving toward writing about them. I also found there are some topics that I have a unique perspective on due to experience and am very qualified to write about, and a great deal of my work lately is informed by those experiences and skill sets.

Mining my own experiences for freelance opportunities is one of the best things I ever did–looking inward to find my own expertise instead of trying to find editors willing to publish my work in other areas, hoping I might be able to tap into something I’m less experienced with has worked better for me over the long haul. For some, the opposite winds up being true. Which one are you?

–Joe Wallace

I’m not late on this post….

420838710095906257_a873bb3665e9I’ve posted this EXACTLY when I meant to, which is exactly two months later than I should have posted this.

So I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus. My apologies. I’m back with a vengeance to share wondrous tales of freelance heroism, hardships and glory!

To begin my tale, I’ve just returned from a trip to New Orleans, whereby I encountered a psychic. Ok, a psychic and a huge amount of booze. But the psychic was the highlight.

As I sat down to have my palm read, the first thing he said to me, while pointing to a little y-shaped crease in my palm, was “I see you are a writer…” Holy telepathy, Batman! Get out of my head!

He followed with “…but you never write for yourself anymore. Only for others. Your writing is out of balance. If you find the time to write for you, the other writing will improve.” Cut to me falling out of my chair. (From shock. Not from booze. I know you were thinking it.)

Of all the things he said to me during my 15-minute palm reading, this stayed with me the most. And whether or not he can see into the future or can read into my soul via my palm, he was onto something. I never write for “me” anymore.

15-year-old me understood the balance: Finish your book report, and then spill your guts to your diary about that “B,” Stephanie, who tried to tell you that your perm looked like fried crap.

20-year-old me understood the balance: Finish your article for the college paper, and then blog about the importance of finding a mini skirt that does double-duty in hiding my new-found pizza gut.

Even 25-year-old me in journalism school understood the balance as I updated my MySpace status with deeply introspective thoughts on the new Rihanna single.

So why doesn’t 3[number deleted] -year-old me understand the balance? All work and no play makes Mandy dull.

So my advice to you, and to myself, is to make as much time for the fun, personal writing as you do for the clients.

Clients are wonderful. They pay the bills, but don’t let them have ALL of your creativity. Reserve some for yourself! Whether you blog beautiful advice to others, or scribble dirty limericks onto Post-it notes, don’t forget why we got into this mess in the first place – because before the clients came along, you simply loved to write. Cheers to that! *hic*


Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional writer/editor for more years than she can remember. You can find her at the bar, where most writers do their best work. 




Today’s Writing Tip: Efficiency

sig2010by Sigrid Macdonald

One way I have found to be efficient in business and my personal life is to take the thing that I want to do least and do it first. Every morning when I get up, I assess what I have to do for work and what I have to do to keep my fabulous recreational life going. And I decide which tasks are fun and easy and which ones are a total bore or difficult.

I take the latter and knock them off right away. That means that by 10 a.m. or 11 o’clock, my day is filled with things I want to do because I’ve already completed the ones I didn’t want to do.

This works for writing as well. There are always some things we enjoy more about writing than others. This varies from person to person. Let’s say you’re writing a novel and you adore writing the action scenes, but you hate fact checking.

As soon as you tackle your work, devote a specific period of time to fact checking. It might be twenty minutes or however long you think you can tolerate. Then get back to writing your action scenes. You’ll feel so much better knowing that the task you dreaded is already out of the way.

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books. Her last book, Be Your Own Editor, is available on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/c3az54r


My Freelancing Motto

book and script editor for hire Joe Wallaceby Joe Wallace

My freelance philosophy is pretty simple. I don’t over-commit, but I do wake up at 5:30 every morning wondering how I’m going to get everything done. It all gets done, on time.

That sounds like I am a total workaholic, spending every waking moment of my day on projects, gigs, and with clients. But that’s not true. I spend plenty of time learning and attending classes. I also travel. But my workload is respectable and actually causes fear in the minds of less-busy people.

I’m happy with that.

The key is that I combine my interests with my work. I love collecting vinyl records, so I sell them online. This gives me a great excuse to buy more records. I love the internet, and a great deal of my work involves online research. I am addicted to cinema, recording, making music, and editing.

So I started working on independent film and video game projects in the Chicago area, doing location audio, sound effects capture, post-production and dialog editing.

To be fair, I have a background in these things. I didn’t start from scratch in media. But it’s not hard to learn what it takes and the world is full of independent film producers now. You can find a way in if you look hard enough. But having the persistence to stick out the lean times in that industry is the same as any other. A true freelancer finds a way to keep at it.

One of the most important things you can do as a freelancer is determine what kind of work you DO NOT want to be doing, and move away from it as soon as it’s financially possible. For some, that isn’t realistic for a variety of reasons. But you CAN work TOWARD doing that. It’s a financial tightrope, but as you become more skilled and confident in your work (and have results to show for it) you can make a determined move towards combining your interests and your work routine.

Joe Wallace is a freelance social media writer and audio professional based in Chicago. His recent projects include video game sound effects and music composition for Shedd Aquarium, location audio, dialog editing, and post-production for the web series Family Values, and location audio for the indie thriller Still. Wallace is set to release his own short independent film, 45 RPM, in early 2014.

What You Can Learn About Freelancing From Vinyl Records

Josie and the Pussycatsby Joe Wallace

When I am not freelancing, I sell vinyl records on Etsy, Discogs.com, and on my vinyl blog Turntabling. Vinyl records is a passion of mine and also an additional revenue stream for me, helping me stay in business as a freelancer and remain generally self-employed.

Believe it or not, the two worlds have a LOT in common. The whole reason I turned to vinyl in the first place, years ago, was because of the freelancer’s need for diverse income sources. Clients come, clients go. Some pay on time, some never do.

So diversifying the income portfolio, as it were, is a must–you want to eat every day? Make sure you have three or more checks arriving at various times in the month. Save up a cushion to deflect the problems created by those late-payers. That’s the message the freelance life has consistently given me since I started in 2002.

But the most fascinating things I’ve learned about freelancing from vinyl records can really be summed up by that Josie and the Pussycats vinyl record you see here. Look at this thing! You probably laughed when you spotted it, right? But here’s a fascinating little piece of data–that record is, at the time of this writing, up for sale on Ebay (not by me) for TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS.

It’s sealed, very hard to find, and somebody might actually pay that $200 to get it. MAYBE NOT–but there’s actually a chance, because of that tricky combination of nostalgia, impulse buying, and the near-eternal appeal of vinyl records for some.

The lessons I take away from this for the freelance life? Pretty simple but very important:

1. Like the vinyl record, your services are worth what people are willing to pay for them. I have been paid $200 an hour or more for my work. I’ve given it away for free, I’ve bartered, I’ve cut people deals. But at the end of the day, you get paid because a client was willing to pay and you were willing to do the work. It can be counter-productive–at least for me–to view freelance work in terms of fixed, unchanging price tags.

2. There is a market for expensive services, and it’s harder to find. In the vinyl market, I have customers willing to pay large dollars for rare, near impossible-to-find records. But I have just as many who simply want good, decently priced vinyl they don’t have to scour the earth to purchase. Balancing the high-paying hard-to-find commodities with lower-priced volume income is key. When it comes to my writing work, some writing has much greater inherent value, and therefore costs more. Some is intended to keep Google’s attention focused properly through steady posting and dependable content. This lower-priced work is not the same research-intensive stuff as the high-priced material, not should there be an expectation that it be anything more than what it is.

3. Go where the market is. I’ve tried selling on Amazon, at fan conventions, on Etsy, eBay, Bonanza, and many other places. When one avenue isn’t working over time, I ditch it and move on to something else. If you’re pounding your head against the proverbial wall in one area of your freelance career, it may be time to look elsewhere for better results. This is a notion that has served me very well since 2002.

There’s more, there’s SO much more…but the last lesson I can impart from my experience selling and collecting vinyl records is knowing when you’re in danger of overstaying your welcome.

Joe Wallace sells vinyl records, writes about military issues and finance, and runs several blogs and social media concerns. Since 2002, he’s written for acres for magazines and the Internet. His credits include American Fitness, Indie Slate, HorrorHound Magazine, and is one of the many essayists featured in a forthcoming book about obscure and under-appreciated horror films. You can reach him by email at jwallace242 @ gmail.

Today’s Writing Tip: Clarity


You know what you want to say but sometimes it’s hard to express.

Try to imagine your reader. Could anything you’ve written be ambiguous? Could it be confusing? Don’t assume that the reader knows what you are thinking. Step back and fill in certain details or clarify to be as precise as possible.

Take this sentence: “That ended her short life in Shadow Lakes.”

What ended her life there? Did she die or simply move? Or did she stay but she never had a decent quality of life afterward?

Think like a reporter and ask yourself all the W’s: who, where, what and why (and, of course, the non-W, how). Once you’re clear about those, convey them to the reader.

“Marrying Stephen ended her short life in Shadow Lakes because they moved into the city right after their honeymoon.”

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books. This is an excerpt from her last book, Be Your Own Editor, available on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/c3az54r