What freelance writers can learn from Cape Town’s Day Zero

What freelance writers can learn from Cape Town’s Day Zero

As a freelance journalist based in Cape Town, South Africa, the full meaning and impact of Day Zero is revealing itself both incredibly fast (what about this? and that! and the other?!) as well as incredibly slowly (such as the city’s non-release of details about logistics, or queuing for water). What is Day Zero? In […]

Freelance Writer Breakthrough: A new mini course

Register for the Breakthrough mini course (free for a limited time). Want a behind-the-scenes look at the best strategies for reaching your freelance writing goals in 2018? Please join me for a new mini course, which includes some of my best tips to help you build and sustain the freelance writing career you want. We’ll […]

Most popular posts of 2017

Most popular posts of 2017

It’s that time of year when many people, including myself, look back at the year that’s been. Instead of tallying up all the items on my to-do lists that didn’t get done, I’m looking for things I did do. I invite you to try this as well. In 2017 I hit 20 posts in the […]

Favorite freelance writer resources

Favorite freelance writer resources

I’m happy to share these resources with you: my affiliate-free (read: no kickback, just links to things I use and like) list of favorite tools, apps, and programs; a few downloadable guides; and the most popular blog posts. STUFF I USE, LIKE, AND RECOMMEND FOR FREELANCE WRITERS The tools, programs, apps, services, subscriptions, and other […]

​The quarterback, the quiet friend, and “effortless” assignments

​The quarterback, the quiet friend, and “effortless” assignments

(Psst … Registration for Freelance Writer Bootcamp is OPEN. Click here to join the last session in 2017.) Recently I got an email from a new-to-me editor who works at a publication I’d never heard of. If magazines were high school archetypes in a teen movie, and the New York Times was the football quarterback […]

7 ways your environment impacts your writing and creativity

7 ways your environment impacts your writing and creativity

Is your surrounding environment helping or hurting your creativity? As a freelance writer, you may feel like you’re supposed to be able to work anywhere. Maybe you’ve done great work under stressful conditions. But small environmental stresses can build up over time and erode the confidence, stamina, and support that lead to your best work. […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 18: How to leave a conference full of freelance article ideas (but not tote bags full of brochures)

Modern Journalist Toolkit 18: How to leave a conference full of freelance article ideas (but not tote bags full of brochures)

The first time I went to a large trade show as a freelance writer, I wandered around, mindlessly stuffing free tote bags full of every single brochure and pamphlet on display. When I got home I was completely overwhelmed. I had no idea how to coax those stacks of paper (most of which was a […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 17/Digital nomad: Freelancing on the road

Modern Journalist Toolkit 17/Digital nomad: Freelancing on the road

When I saw this VW van in California a few weeks ago, I thought immediately about a recent article about #vanlife. Somebody who thought she could do her job remotely was surprised to find out that she couldn’t work on her computer during a bumpy ride, nor connect for calls in the middle of a […]

Takeaways from the ASJA writers conference

Takeaways from the ASJA writers conference

A few years ago a freelance writer tried to persuade me to attend the ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) conference in New York City. I had lots of practical reasons why not to go: Me: It’s a 24-hour trip each way for me. I can’t afford to take off the days of the […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 14: Saving and organizing clips

Modern Journalist Toolkit 14: Saving and organizing clips

Way back in the day, our freelance ancestors clipped their articles out of paper magazines and newspapers with scissors, and made photocopies to send to editors. They sent the clips (or cuttings) with a system called snail mail. It cost money and it took days–many thousands of minutes longer than the emails and links we […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 13: Typos in Print

Modern Journalist Toolkit 13: Typos in Print

I allow plenty of time for Qs and As when teaching a class, leading a challenge, or working with a freelance writer during one-on-one coaching. But outside of these structures, I am largely working on my own writing. I thought it might be useful if I started answering some of the questions you email me […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 12: What’s in my bag

Modern Journalist Toolkit 12: What’s in my bag

When you’re out on a freelance writing assignment, you want to find a good balance between bringing everything you might need and packing light. I normally like to keep all my gear in a regular backpack. Some of you may disagree, and opt for something that is more stylish or that more plainly says, “Hey! […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 11: Freelancing in the era of Trump with Ray Joseph

Modern Journalist Toolkit 11: Freelancing in the era of Trump with Ray Joseph

“Alternative facts.” Real-time verification. Journalists arrested or alienated when covering the president. If the 45th U.S. president is in power for four years, we have 47 months to go. What does Donald Trump mean for us as freelance writers? Some important insights about working in the new now come from those who have worked in […]

7 most popular posts of 2016

7 most popular posts of 2016

Would you be surprised to hear that this Backstory blog was originally conceived of as a place to post comics about what goes on behind the scenes when writing articles? A few years ago, I was not imagining that I would be making videos, teaching freelance writers how to pitch, leading goal-planning challenges, or even […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 8: Saving time with sourcing services

Modern Journalist Toolkit 8: Saving time with sourcing services

So tell me, are you that incredibly well-connected writer who always knows the savvy, witty person to contact for insight and comment on every story, regardless of topic or audience? Is your contacts list completely up-to-date? Does everyone immediately take your call, or respond within minutes to your messages? No? Me neither. But I am […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 7: Three-minute marketing makeover

Modern Journalist Toolkit 7: Three-minute marketing makeover

The humble email signature is one of the overlooked workhorses of your marketing efforts as a freelance writer. You are more likely focusing on the brilliant idea you’re developing and pitching, but the contact details you provide give you an opportunity to come across as thoughtful and professional—or not. In the worst-case scenario, your signature […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 6: Yusuf Omar on Reporting with Snapchat

Modern Journalist Toolkit 6: Yusuf Omar on Reporting with Snapchat

Yusuf Omar is a cell-phone trailblazer. He finds unconventional uses for apps like Snapchat, Facebook Live, and 360 video for telling serious news stories, most of which are viewed on small screens. Omar is the new mobile editor at the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English newspapers, with a print circulation of more than […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 5: Taking Notes & Recording Interviews

Modern Journalist Toolkit 5: Taking Notes & Recording Interviews

I put fresh batteries into my tape recorder shortly before I hopped on the DC Metro for my interview with Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. I’d pulled a personal favor with somebody who in turn asked for a favor to get me the private face time, and I’d done all my due diligence […]

Modern Journalist Toolkit 4: How to Make a Phone Call

Modern Journalist Toolkit 4: How to Make a Phone Call

Right after I finished this video about making phone calls, my cell phone company announced that it is raising its rates by 40 percent. I’m unlikely to get around such a major price hike by relying on one of the myriad phone apps I’ve tried, such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber. They have a variety […]

Can I quote you on that?

Can I quote you on that?

Quotes aren’t necessary when submitting a query to an editor, which is one reason why including a good one can make a pitch really stand out. A proposal should have the same DNA as the final story. Original reporting brings new insight and life to most articles; even if it’s a given you’ll be speaking […]