How top freelancers do it: Q&A with Gina Roberts-Grey
Successful writers share practical tips for staying busy in the current economy (Part 2 of 5)
Published: August 11, 2011
The economic downturn hasn’t put the brakes on Gina Roberts-Grey’s freelance career. In fact, this year is shaping up to be her best yet. Since 2001, the prolific freelancer from upstate New York has written thousands of articles on topics ranging from health and celebrity profiles to personal finance. She’s been published in top-tier magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, as well as websites like EverydayHealth.com. When the rest of the country was floundering in 2008, she says, “The assignment floodgates opened and they never closed. I’ve had record years ever since.” Here’s the secret to her success.
How did you get started?
I started writing for regional parenting magazines then expanded to national magazines and websites. I still maintain a healthy reprint “side” business. That’s important for two reasons. I always tell people to apply the “green” concept to their writing. You can cut down on hours worked by reselling articles you’ve already written, but also, you should repackage the ideas already in your files. I wrote a piece about treating dry eyes during pregnancy for Pregnancy magazine. Then I wrote a story about what causes dry eyes in seniors for AARP The Magazine. I also did a piece on natural treatment solutions for dry eyes for Alternative Medicine (later named Natural Solutions). That advice also applies to your interviews. Keep an eye open for how you can repurpose the information you already have.What happened to open those floodgates in 2008?
That was the first year I went to the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) annual conference. Honestly, one contact made at that conference has led to tens of thousands of dollars of work. So networking makes a difference?
Absolutely. Connecting with writers and editors in person at a conference builds your network. So do Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. I use those to develop a network of professional contacts that includes writers, editors and sources. It’s helpful to be able to “work” your writer network for editor contact information, but always offer to reciprocate. When I was first breaking into national markets, a fellow writer suggested we swap contact databases. She wanted to enhance her regional reprint contact list and she knew the markets I wanted to crack. I landed my first assignment with Parents magazine within six weeks. That’s not to say you should ask every writer you know to share their contacts, but connecting with someone you can share resources with—maybe help by copy editing her manuscripts or brainstorm pitches—can open doors or spark ideas.Sounds like social media is important to today’s writers. Why?
Aside from developing contacts, it’s an excellent vehicle for self-promotion. If you don’t toot your horn, no one else will. How will anyone looking to hire a writer know you’re available? I’ve had many corporate clients and editors find me via LinkedIn and Twitter. What is a key element of your success?
Not putting all my focus on national publications. Any market that consistently assigns stories to freelancers, that pays on time, and that leads to a good hourly rate is good for your bottom line. Higher-paying markets require more work and time. Any last words of advice?
These days, I’m working nearly 65 hours a week because I’m so busy. I don’t mind because I love what I do. If you have a passion for what you’re doing, it’s not going to feel like work.
Debbe Geiger is a freelance writer in Cary, N.C. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Woman’s Day, Cooking Light, More, Better Homes and Gardens and other national publications.