Tag Archives: freelance writing

Is This Wrong?

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorLet yourself get on a few PR mailing lists and eventually you get flooded with press releases, requests for work, product reviews, an endless supply of e-mail. And on the day you post a “help wanted” ad for a creative person, whether they’re writers, editors, photogs, etc…you can expect an even larger pile to deal with. It’s my own fault, I know.

But I feel slightly guilty when trying to manage all that incoming mail, for one simple reason; I round-file anything that looks even vaguely like spam and aggressively delete emails from the clueless, the hopeless, and the inept. I’m sure they are all nice people, I just don’t have time for them right now. I have deadlines to meet, material to edit, audio to create, mixes and uploads to contend with.

A multimedia freelancer’s life is a very busy one–something a lot of these e-mail senders don’t seem to appreciate. Especially the ones who want me to hire them.

It’s sad, but it’s true. Long, rambling preambles, irrelevant details, people who won’t GET TO THE VERB, as it were. I am guilty of doing this myself, but fortunately, it’s mostly contained to my blog posts.


Lately I’ve been aggressively deleting ALL emails, unread from the moment I encounter the following pet peeve: people who write “free-lance” instead of “freelance”.

Having worked as a freelancer since 2003, I find the use of “free-lance” to be a red flag. A warning sign. An indicator that a degree of cluelessness is very likely present. This is not nice, it is not fair, and likely not even true in some cases. But I don’t care, since pet peeves are not tied to logic, common sense, or human decency.

I’ve even seen the dreadful use of this mangling of the word “freelance” on book covers–books I refuse to review.

There IS a point to all this, somewhere. I suppose the point is that packaging is everything, first impressions are critical, and you should stop hyphenating the word “freelance” if you want to appear like you know the business at all. That’s just my opinion and doesn’t reflect those of other seasoned creative types who are in business for themselves.

But it’s a good object lesson anyway, methinks. Because THAT is how subjective the freelance business can get, savvy?

Joe Wallace writes, edits, produces, and promotes creative multimedia projects. He is very busy and isn’t accepting new assignments except on a very limited basis. He’s currently editing and doing sound design for the indie film project 45 RPM, writing about veteran’s finance issues, and doing social media promotion for said projects.

Today’s Writing Tip: All Right, Already, and Altogether

sig2010All right, already, and altogether are phrases that may confuse writers. When are they one word and when are they two?

Let’s start with all right. The one word version is slang. It’s not acceptable and you won’t find it in a proper dictionary.

Altogether is another story. Let’s say that my uncle died and the family assembled to celebrate his life. We were all together at the funeral. And when I added up the cost of my hotel room in my airfare, altogether the bills amounted to $1000. Both versions are adverbs, but the one word version means completely or entirely whereas the two word version refers to a group of something – people, books, things.

Likewise with already. I had already finished my homework means I had completed it before the due date. But if I was going out for coffee with a group of friends, I could say, “We are all ready.” Another way to think of the latter is, “All of us are ready.”

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor http://tinyurl.com/7wnk5se and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr

This Is a Sort of Writing Tip

sig2010Lately I’ve been seeing the phrases “kind of” and “sort of” in print, and hearing them far too often on podcasts and radio. When is it appropriate to use these terms and when should we leave them at home?

If you have a task at work that is slightly difficult, you can say that it is kind of a pain. What you don’t want to say is this: “I have a sort of project that needs to be finished by Friday.”

The first sentence has “kind of” modifying the word pain, which makes sense. The second sentence has the adjective modifying the word project, which doesn’t make any sense, because we’re not going to have a “sort of” project. We either have a project or we don’t!

Here’s another one. “It’s kind of important for me to show up at the party.” That sentence is fine. If I change it to this, it’s grammatically incorrect: “It’s important for me to kind of be at the party.”

You either show up or you don’t. Kind of and sort of are filler words akin to “like…” (I was, like, so busy.) They seem to be the modern equivalent of saying “um” or “ah,” but you don’t want to discard them altogether, because there are a number of instances where they are the best words of choice.

Sigrid Macdonald is a book coach, a manuscript editor, and the author of three books including Be Your Own Editor. BYOE is available on Amazon in soft cover (http://tinyurl.com/3xkoths) and on Kindle (http://tinyurl.com/3y3nuzb). Or get 20% off the regular price by writing directly to the author.

Sometimes You Have To Tell The Client NO

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorby Joe Wallace

I love my clients. I have just the right amount of them, the projects are diverse and interesting, and I have good rapport with them. Over the long haul, there have been suggested changes, tweaks, alterations to the work flow, content, the usual course corrections that come with any long-term relationship.

And like any long term relationship, there are suggested directions that turn out to be bad ideas, and some that are just plain untenable from the start.

In my early days as a freelancer, I used “the customer is always right” motto until it became apparent to me that, even as a writer (as opposed to a writer/editor/sound designer/social media promoter, blah blah) the clients often turn to me as a subject matter expert and informal advisor–even when they don’t realize they’re doing so. That’s about the time I started saying no to ideas that don’t work, are too ambitious, or just plain bad.

In a sushi bar in downtown Chicago this week, I overheard two lawyers talking shop. Some of the best-ever advice for freelancers came from my shameless “accidental” overhearing of the following paraphrased statement.

“I tell them two things: I say, ‘this is my role and in my professional capacity I will tell you A, B and C about what you’re asking. Now I’m going to step outside my role as your professional and I’m going to tell you what I personally think about this scenario based on my prior experience with it. I do this to let you know that in my professional capacity with you, I’ll give you the advice you need–but I’ll also tell you off the record whether it’s practical in the real world.’ ”

I’ve done quite a bit of that myself, albeit in less direct ways–but I’m starting to think I should take my cues from a lawyer in a sushi bar and start couching it in those terms.

–Joe Wallace

Freelance Writing About Music

DJ PAISLEY BABYLON gig at Transistor Chicagoby Joe Wallace

I’ve written more music-related material than I can count–from LP and show reviews to critical drubbing and snark about lousy album covers, even some how-to recording advice, I’ve written myself around the block when it comes sound.

My music writing work is based on personal experience as a performer and recording artist, but also as a rabid collector of many genres including dub, electronica, new wave, post-punk, early experimental and industrial recordings, and a genre of LPs I can only describe as “WTF??”

A lot of people want to know how to break into music writing, and honestly, there are a couple of basic things you should do to help yourself–but they are for NO PAY. It’s just the nature of the beast in music writing circles. Get used to it. But it’s best to write for free…for yourself.

I should also caution aspiring music journos that there is NOT a lot of money in obvious places when it comes to writing about music when you DO get paid. A lot of the music business people I know or know of who have made it onto the printed page for a fee are either capitalizing on their earlier success as performers (built in fan base), writing from their direct experience writing, recording and performing, OR they have written about areas on the fringes of music but still connected.

One of my instructors in the Recording Arts program at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Academy has written two books–not strictly about music, but about Tiki culture in America and related topics. His music experiences did help him write these books–apparently whenever he was on tour with the bands he worked with, he made side journeys to find local tiki bars…research for the book he didn’t know he was writing just then.

Back to freelance music journalism.

The best advice I can give to anyone who really, really REALLY wants to write about music for a living is to start now by ramping up a music blog and pouring the reviews on quite liberally. No, you aren’t getting paid, but you WILL be developing your music chops and building an audience–two really important skills to hone as a music journalist.

To make such a blog successful, you should pay a lot of attention to your local and regional music scene. Soon you’ll be getting guest listed on local shows, receiving review copies and downloads and entrenching yourself into the local music scene. There are many other bits of advice I’ve scraped up along the way, but those are two of the best career kickstarter type things you can do in the earliest days.

Networking in your own back yard is so very, very important. But social media and making contacts with other music writers, editors, and PR folks is just as important. View your music writing career like a very long ladder and you get an idea of what to expect in all these areas. One foot goes above the other…one rung at a time.

Joe Wallace is a multi-media professional. He writes, shoots, edits, does sound design and a whole lot more. He is currently too busy to breathe, balancing a full-time freelance writing career with his full-time studies at Tribeca Flashpoint Media Academy in the Recording Arts for Film program there. Wallace accepts new writing work on a very limited basis, but is happy to consider film, broadcast, and online media projects. Contact him: jwallace@joe-wallace.com

Four Essential Components for Finding Your Freelance Zone


Although there are many paths to freelancing success, as ho-hum as it may sound, developing a routine is the keystone of a successful freelance writing career. Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but wise consistency equals profitable productivity. With that goal in mind, it is also imperative that you set up a quiet, comfortable, efficient workspace and spend as many hours as possible in it.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place: The first step in establishing yourself as a successful freelance writer is to create a place of your own in which to ply your craft. Your workspace should be convenient, inviting, and absolutely off limits to everyone except you. While this may be impractical or even impossible in many households, anything less will only create chaos and conflict. Although not ideal, your creative space could be something as simple as a lap desk and a comfy chair in a corner of the living room, a roll-top desk in your bedroom, or even a cozy cubby in a spacious closet. No matter how humble or small, stake your claim on a few square feet of the family real estate and hang up your ‘No Trespassing’ sign.

First Thing in the Morning: Once you’ve marked your territory, it’s time to get started on your routine. As soon as you’re awake in the morning and put your feet on the floor, your private workspace should be the first place you go; although a small detour to the bathroom, with a brief stopover at the coffee maker are perfectly acceptable. Just be sure you don’t get sidetracked along the way. If you have children who begin vying for your attention first thing in the morning, then it’s important that you wake up a few minutes before they do, to focus your mind and get your day started. Even if you don’t begin writing right away, that first focus will set the tone for your whole day.

The Hours: For many if not most freelance writers, time management is the most crucial yet difficult element of their lives. Chances are, unless you fit the perfect stereotype for a freelance writer (you’re single, childless, live alone, do not have a close-knit family, and you’re not romantically involved), life can be both hectic and complicated. And as a freelancer, the people in your life may tend to view you and your workday as endlessly flexible and available to accommodate their every whim. This can be a huge disruption and a source of conflict. But if you truly hope to make a living as a freelancer, carving out several hours a day to focus your undivided attention on writing is an absolute must. Of course, everyone’s schedule, lifestyle, and creativity patterns are unique, so each individual freelance writer will have to arrange an ideal routine. Maybe your best time for writing is during the day while the children are at school. Or maybe you prefer doing your errands and physical activities in the afternoon, and your writing in the evenings when it’s quiet and the cares of the day are behind you. Perhaps you need long, uninterrupted blocks of time and can arrange your lifestyle accordingly. Or maybe you are adept at multi-tasking and can write for a couple of hours between bursts of phone calls and household chores. Whatever suits your creative temperament is perfectly acceptable, as long as it allows you to be abundantly productive.

Last Thing at Night: The last piece of the puzzle is a few quiet moments at the end of the day to develop tomorrow’s agenda. This is the time for setting goals, making lists, jotting down ideas and looking back at what you’ve accomplished today. Waking up with a clear map of where you’re headed each day is a surefire way to facilitate your success as a freelance writer. So, sit down for a few minutes before bedtime each evening and make a to-do list for tomorrow.

*Content for this article is adapted from Celeste Heiter’s Amazon Kindle ebook Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine.