Freelancers Unite: how does freelancing change in the changing media landscape?

Submitted by Marin Heinritz on Sat, 06/05/2010 – 12:17pm

Session Convenor:

Marin Heinritz

Session Reporter:

Marin Heinritz

Discussion Participants:

Marin Heinritz, Kalamazoo College
Hyatt Fathy, Wayne State
Ashlee Wells, U oF M Sociology
Laketa Dumas, R U Ready for Business
Kadidjri Lahab, Rochester
Marcelo Toledo, Ann Arbor
Andrea Silenzi, freelance, chicago
Geoff Samek, Sac bee
Lou Rutigliano, Trinity University
Taleka Johnson
Cambrey Thomas

Topic: If/How does freelancing change with the changing industry

K–Wants to know to contribute and do it effectively, writes about any topic that interests, submits to online publications.  Keep it local it’s OK.  Suite101, Associated Content, looking for more online sites.  Paid based on hits and ads around site.  Paid by paypal.  If it’s local then locals will go to it.  At least 600 words long.

H–how do you present yourself if you’re a freelancer?

M–be self assured, in-your-face, confident.  you have to be bothering all the time until they tell you NO.

Ashlee–are there legal issues when you’re interviewing?

Marcelo–I’m interested in freelancing but it’s sad.  Underpaid.

K–trying to figure out how to get people to come to you when they don’t know who you are.  and to get people to listen.  Interested in blogging and doing something relevant to the community.  Building a reputation where you’re trying to.

Andrea–we face the same challenges as legacy media in terms of credibility.  Lost job in sept.  doesn’t have the discipline yet.  Need advice coming your way, straddling identity as a freelancer.  Maybe being a freelancer translates as unemployed.  We should be proud that we don’t want to affiliate with one news source.

Ashlee–trying to figure out in what capacity I could be a writer.  I’m trying to figure out how to use my talents.

Hyatt–trying to figure out what to do with my degree when I graduate.  Want to learn more about this concept of freelancing.

Lou–professor –looking for ideas for his students –always come to me for ideas and looks for guerilla ways for them to talk to people in online publications.

Geoff–guy in sacramento started a blog covering media and then got hired as a social media coordinator for a local tv stations.  get passionate about a niche and start writing about it and job starts coming your way.  queries not super well received.  they get lost in the shuffle

Andrea–for some freelancing is a bridge to get swallowed up by a larger project.  another way is to say I’m a freelancer .  the economy is pushing us out.  In NYC the freelancers union is considered one of the worst unions in the city and it’s one of the highest concentrations.  member of ass for independence in radio.  they offer a listserve that becomes your office space as a freelancer–a real community.  they offer mentorship programs, stipends for attending conferences, they also now work for corp of pub broadcasting for grants.  Freelancers often have the ideas.

Lou–demand media pays but is there a place where freelancers share–

Geoff–yahoo and aol spend millions a year on freelancers.  aol just bought patch–local level free stuff to build your resume.  one local paid editor and that editor runs a small neighborhood site, then a regional editor that manages.  not really freelancing bc it’s doing it for free.


Ashlee–worried about people stealing ideas.  everyone has to start somewhere.

Andrea–hates seeing social media intern–we want young people to come to our office and teach us but do it for free.

Geoff–we have an intern, she became our social media expert and now we pay her with benefits and she now has an intern.  It can lead to jobs.  so many of our paid staff came from interns.  our managing editor started as an intern two years ago.

K–don’t feel guilty for telling your students to work for free.  Interns won’t go/return to places that treat their interns badly.

Is there mentoring, are people getting feedback?

K–I got a lot of hard feedback.  I did learn a lot.  You have to ask how long am I going to ride this wave?  even the bad stuff is good.  I learned a lot about how to write fast and under pressure, which I don’t like at all.  as long as you get something out of it.

Ashlee–when you’re writing a freelance article, what is the goal? what are some resources?

Lou–one thing you can do s look at what the paper is covering–follow the briefs to see what the editor cares about, look into it further, you can pursue it and flesh it out.  Look, I know you care about it and would cover it if you had the staff.

Andrea–there’s something to be said for imitation.  look at a writer you admire and look at  how they work.  That’s what Ira Glass said.  I also make sure I’m really familiar with the radio show I’m pitching to, so I know what they’ve done.  It would be really embarrassing if I pitched something they’d already done.

Lou–Yeah, familiarity is key.

Marcela–also researching–stroke their ego, know what they’ve done.

Geoff–funny, random anecdote.  Temp worker that got a job from doing good SEO.  He made sure that his resume showed up first on the google search of the CEO he wanted to hire him.  It would be a funny way to get your work.


Bill–support service that supports them.

Harold–a lot of people who offer it but aren’t good

Geoff–you still need to understand the basics of those concepts

social media club, make friends of someone who knows it, basic philosophies
not just people who want your money

social media club, mashable

Lou–devote a month to just learning as much as you can

Geoff–stay on top of it.  There’s not a day that I don’t read 20 different blogs.  it’s really hard to keep up.

L–just knowing the industry is key. now if you know it ahead of time you can meet other people.

Andrea–you can’t just graduate and say I’m going to do just this for the rest of my life.  There’s a real fusion that’s going on .  people wanting to add skills to their bucket but you ned to really be interested.  how is it added into the work that you’re doing?

GEoff–photography is rough.  cameras are getting so great that you’re seeing our amateur photog coming in with really great photos

Harold–photog friend .  most really good photog that are making story are those who can tell a story.  good news for those who can tell story but arent’ nec. photogs.  a series of photos that can sell.

Laketa–how do you get the stories told?  How do you choose which stories to tell?

G–as peole who receive 9 jillion press releases. . . . I just tune them out.  Blog about it on your site and use social media to promote it. Start a fanpage for whatever you’re doing on facebook.  Start tweeting about different things.  Just try to circumvent traditional media.  It’s realy tough and there’s a reason.  There’s just so much. Skip the middle man

Harold–reach out to your network.

Andrea–press releases make me think about when you’re on your own those story ideas are up to you.  I let people know I”m a freelancer and to let me know.  I take in story ideas.  I’ll take ideas.  I can’t guarantee you.  the more I have coming in, the more I can be connected to my community.

Q: how do you stay in touch with your community when you’re a single entity, when you’re a freelancer.

Harold:But you’re not a single entity.  you have your network.  on facebook, etc.

Marcela–you know what he’s doing is making people feel someone cares about them
I used to go to the local newspaper.  It depends on where do you live.

Ashlee–as freelancers why would you ever discriminate against what stories you pick up?

Andrea–as a freelancer you’re still trying to narrow your focus.

G–get involved in the communities and don’t pitch, just get involved and it will happen.

harold–there’s a paradigm, shift–teaching of open space  even big mainstream media are doing things but they’re not.  the reality is they have their niche, their focus, as does everyone else.  that’s just the reality.  If you’re too broad, you end up serving no one.  If you narrow it, then you love that small group, that passion, then you can start growing from there.

G–should freelancers be more open about what they write about?

K–I don’t mind writing about anything.  I’ve been criticized for it.  But it’s like a free education.  I have my interests, but I don’t have an expertise.

Marin–professional dilettantes.  double edged sword.

Taleka–interested in healthcare.  started to read other healthcare writers, and decided I wasn’t really to go marching in that direction, so I have not attacked it in the way that I want.  There’s a formula to each genre.  the circles, the crowd, the audiences are different.

L-how did you learn

Marin–change–used to learn by medium.  no longer that way.  You have to be a generalist.

geoff–huge shifts.

K–trad. media offered you beats, so you got to learn.  You start out shifting around.

Andrea-when you find that spot for your work, you become more valuable to editors. develop that identity.  how do you find your stories.  You can follow trade publications, blogs, talk to friends and family.

L–how do you build your relationships with different media?

Andrea–sometimes as an intern.  but there are disadvantages–

Ashlee–advantages in applying for internships.

Andrea–knowing the show/publications.

Geoff–just be literate.  don’t have spelling, grammar mistakes.  Also, don’t bullshit me.  I see through it in five seconds.  Go in with a humble attitude.  The people I like the most are people who genuinely have that fire.  build a portfolio.  it’s hard work and passion.  hard workers stand out.

how would you advise someone from being an intern to being an editorial assistant?

G–I can’t speak to trad. media.  so the answer is there’s no way.  the best writing is great, but if it’s done by someone who’s not reliable, then there’s no way.

Ashlee–what would you want to see on a blog or a website?

G–what do you want to write? what do you look for?

Ash–pictures, clothes, designers.

G–do it.  You could work for the gilt group–a sample sale website.

T–is it vital to have your own website and market yourself?

Harold–make a friend here, today, and they’ll get you set up in 10 minutes and it will look good.


G–just go to

H–you could start a group, people can meet.

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