My first blog post of 2016 is to share with you great news: my first article in an American magazine has been published!
The article was a lot of fun (and a lot of work) to write—it's about the Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, located in the mountains by beautiful Lake Louise in Alberta. You can find the story in the December 2015 issue of Fresh Cup Magazine, a publication about specialty coffee and tea.
Researching the story meant I had to hike the trail to the teahouse, something I was proud of myself for doing, since I have never hiked in high altitudes before, and I found myself short of breath on the trail. But turning the corner and seeing the teahouse made the journey worth every step—not to mention getting that first sip of hot chai tea.
I invite you to read the article about the experience here: Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse.
Thanks to everyone who helped along the way to make this article a success, especially Susanne Gillies-Smith, owner of the teahouse.
This story will have a special place in my heart forever, since it's the first article I've had published in an American market. I'm happy and thankful—two great things to be at the start of a New Year.
Wishing you all the best in 2016!
There's always someone on the world wide web who will sell something at a loss to get your business.
The "pay less online" movement has encroached on my territory – writing – and the only thing "at a loss" is me — I'm at a loss for words that writers will trade their precious, $1.00 words for mere pennies.
Companies on the net like Elance and Odesk keep a stable of writers, waiting to be assigned to your project — and waiting to be paid next to nothing to do it.
Mostly based in the United States or elsewhere, these companies seemed far removed from me. And then Crowd Content launched in Victoria, B.C. in 2012. And that hit close to home.
Because it's a local company, I looked into it; plus, someone I had done work for said it was a great opportunity for writers. If it was a good fit, I thought I might submit my name to join their stable.
It turns out, their stable is more of a barn. And it's haunted.
This article in the Victoria Times Colonist newspaper indicated to me that Crowd Content's lowest-tier writers (ranked according to experience and feedback) are paid 2.2 cents a word (I checked this stat on their website — it's true). Lest you think their top-tier writers must be around the $1.00/word mark (because they are expected to turn out a few one dollar words per project) you would be – as I was – mistaken.
Their top-ranked, best available writers are paid 12 cents per word (at the time of writing).
Let's do some math:
For a 600-word piece, which, based on my own experience, would take 4-6 hours to complete, not counting research, interviews, and transcriptions, a top writer with Crowd Content can expect to be paid $72.
On the lower end of the scale, a lower-ranked writer can expect $13.20.
I have no words. Not $1.00 ones, and not 2.2 cent ones.
A journalist acquaintance of mine who is out of work at the moment, looked into working for Crowd Content. But nothing has "worked out," he said. Every article that has come his way pays around the $3.00 mark — and the long distance phone calls he'd have to make to complete the assignment would cost more than his paycheck.
And yet, according to this article, Crowd Content has 400 writers in its stable (barn), with 350 on the waiting list.
I know what Charlotte would be spinning in her web if she were in that barn: WTF.
If the writers at Crowd Content, Elance, Odesk, and other such services are happy with the return on their output, I commend them and hope they continue to be motivated to write their very best, cent by cent.
On the other hand, if they are unhappy, here's some encouragement: there are companies and organizations who pay good writers a respectful and earnest wage. They are out there, and they will value what you bring to the table.
So come on out of the barn — you'll be eating roast beef before you know it.
One of the best things about being a writer is getting to meet and interview people doing fascinating things.
It's important to show up to interviews prepared, with knowledge of your subject and an idea of what questions to ask, but it's also imperative you are on your best, professional behaviour — because your interview subject is interviewing you, too!
If you aren't at the apex of your writing career, then chances are your interview subject is better connected than you are, and that means if you do a good job in the interview, you could earn another writing opportunity.
I have two examples to share:
1. Alex Van Tol — author
When I was first starting out as a freelancer, I met young adult author Alex Van Tol at a book launch. She told me the story of how she moved into fiction writing: it all started in an interview she was doing for a magazine article. She was interviewing a local book publisher at Orca Books in Victoria, B.C., and her interviewee said, "Have you ever tried writing a novel? Why don't you give it a shot?"
She did, and has now published six books with Orca and has more on the way. Wow!
2. Jessica Woollard — me!
The lesson I learned from Alex is that you never know when an interviewee can change your life or give you an amazing opportunity.
I was recently interviewing actor Casey Austin for a blog post for Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of Uncle Vanya (read the post here). Because Casey is the co-founder of the Rifflandia Festival, I asked her questions about working in both the music and theatre industries. We chatted a bit about some great bands that played at Rifflandia in the past, and how I was anticipating the 2013 lineup announcement.
A day after the interview, I received an email from Casey inviting me to join the team of writers for the 2013 Rifflandia Festival! Just like that, I will be writing about USS, Hannah Georgas, and Stars.
And who knows where writing for Rifflandia might take me?
In this business, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impression on people with a large network. Don't blow it! Prepare, be polite and professional, and you never know what opportunity will come your way.
Article title page, Wilfrid Laurier Campus Magazine, Spring 2013.
Printed newspapers around the world might be floundering, but glossy magazines have retained their popularity and continue to attract a new audience.
The trouble with writing for a lifestyle magazine is you only reach a limited audience with every article: decorating divas one month, swashbuckling sailors the next. Rarely both.
As writers, we always want to expand our audience. The more people who read our work, the more opportunities will present themselves.
Alumni magazines for universities, colleges, and even high schools are the ideal fodder for writers looking to reach a broad audience of decorators, sailors, nurses, accountants, CEOs, and electricians.
When you write a profile for an alumni magazine, you aren't limited by subject matter when pitching stories; all you need is to find a story-worthy person. Their background can - and should - be unique, interesting. Once you've found a subject, find out which university she attended, and voila! There may even be a few magazine options open to you; if the person went to a high school with a magazine or attended several universities, pitch to each school.
The first person whose story I pitched to an alumni magazine was Melissa Schaak, a violinist I knew growing up. Melissa's career had steered her in a fascinating direction: she is a "show violinist" with the Exclusive Strings Quartet, based in Belgium. Now that's a story I want to read (and write) about!
What's a show violinist? How did she get to Belgium? Read the article in Wilfrid Laurier's Campus Magazine to find out!
If you're wondering if alumni magazines pay their writers, the answer is YES (or the ones I have written for, anyway). Like with any writing job, make sure you negotiate a contract in advance so there are no surprises.
Alumni magazines offer you a great opportunity to get your writing out to a broad audience. Who knows, your article might be read by another magazine editor or a CEO of a company looking for your skill set.
Another advantage is that alumni magazine editors are not bombarded with story pitches like editors of glossy magazines. You are more likely to get a response with feedback on your pitch and what you can improve for next time.
Find your story subject, and then start pitching university/college magazines. You'll be glad you did.
What a year for writing! I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had these past few months, but seeing my first feature article printed in Victoria's esteemed Boulevard Magazine takes the cake. (Yes, cake, even though my article is in the Health and Wellness department!)
You can find my story, "A Social Running Club Brews a Little Fun with Fitness," on page 76 of the September 2012 issue (pictured left).
The article features the forays of the Victoria chapter of the Hash House Harriers and highlights a few of the characters that make up the off-the-wall group as well as their philosophy, which balances getting in shape with drinking beer—and being politically incorrect. They are a great bunch! I had so much fun researching the story, I'm going to continue running with them.
If you recall, last summer I posted that I was determined to get an article in Boulevard before the end of 2011. Well, I overshot my goal slightly, but that doesn't at all dull the excitement of seeing my byline! --------------------that's me!----------------------------->
I would be so appreciative if you could please read my story about the Hash House Harriers and share your comments with me here on my blog. I'm looking forward to publishing more articles with Boulevard and will rely on your feedback to learn what is working and what isn't! Thanks for celebrating this exciting news with me. On on!
More information on the worldwide phenomenon that is the Hash House Harriers.
More information on the Victoria chapter.
Craigslist is many things to many people. Treasure hunt. Matchmaker. Art project (see Samantha Allen's amazing photography project, the Craigslist Project). To me, it was Lady Luck — it kick started my freelance writing career.
Several years ago, a writer acquaintance told me the first thing I should do to start a freelance career was to get business cards that say "Jessica Woollard, writer." Check. Then I got a website. Check (it looked really bad before this template, believe me!). Then I started reading every non-fiction piece of work I could get my hands on. Check, check, check.
But then... I wanted to write. Sure, I was gaining significant experience through my day job and through some freelance work I'd picked up while still in school. But the Writing/Editing job list on Craigslist propelled my career forward.
I find that people who post legit writing jobs on Craigslist are one of two people: (1) people who need writing/editing for a personal project, or (2) modern, creative professionals with a business venture who need strong writers and want to attract new talent (who will likely produce great work for less).
The #2s are your golden ticket.
Through Craigslist, I picked up three of my favourite writing gigs. First, a gig copywriting for local business Spice Creative. This contract was for a brochure for the Crest Hotel in Prince Rupert. Second, a gig writing creative advertisements for Weddingful (a wedding marketplace). I wrote for Weddingful as they got ready to launch across North America. Pretty sweet exposure, right? And third, a gig travel blogging for Aviawest Resort Club. This was a fabulous gig that lasted nine months until the Victoria resort was sold.
Though they didn't last longer than 10 months, each of these three Craigslist gigs provided me with experience that has bolstered my portfolio. They have made me a legitimate Freelancer. In writing, more is, well, more. The more you write, the better you get. The more diverse your portfolio, the more appealing you are to other companies. The more clients you have, the more people want you.
Now that I'm established, I don't go to Craigslist as often, but I still check occasionally when business gets slow. And I'm eternally grateful for the opportunities it afforded me.
If you're a beginner writer wanting to gain experience, Craigslist offers legitimate writing opportunities that will pay out a little in terms of money, but will pay out a lot in terms of resume building. Sure there are scams, and you must be cautious, but there are also a lot of modern business people looking to take a chance on a new writer.
Three businesses took a chance on me. And I remember them every dollar I make.
Jessica Woollard, freelance writer in beautiful Victoria, B.C.