CAMP 2016: Freelancer Free-for-All: Top ways to diversify your opportunities

Panelists for the “Freelance Free-for-All” workshop.

Story by Laura Onyeneho, 2016 JAWS Fellow | Photo by Erica Yoon, CAMP photographer

Being a freelancer has its perks: There is no better feeling than being able to control your own work schedule and pay on your own time. But it also has its downsides: You have to find ways to earn a constant stream of income or battle between following your passion and paying those bills on time.

In one of the three Freelance-for-All panels at JAWS CAMP, Mary C. Curtis, Deborah Douglas and Mona Gable shared tips on how to diversify your freelance career opportunities.

1. Do a self-inventory

“I refuse to be in a box, and be told that I can’t do things,” said Deborah Douglas.

Being able to learn a new skill set is an asset in freelancing. “Develop a curiosity for how things work,” she said. “Get it done, or I will get it done for you.”

2. Cross-pollinate with your friends

“There is so much you can learn from other people, said Deborah. “You can bring your common-sense approach, but there is always someone who has a different way of seeing an idea that you can learn from,” she added.

3. Master the art of saying NO!

Deborah said that sometimes “we stretch ourselves thin,” and not everything is worth doing. Mary Curtis said that she had said “yes” to everything because she had feared at one point that she would “never find a job.” “You got through moments when you tell yourself ‘what should I be doing?’ but things work out themselves,” Mary added.

4. Be open to other types of outlets

Mona Gable said she had to constantly adapt to the “changing journalism landscape.” When the magazine industry failed, she took on blogging to continue her focus in feminism, science, culture and travel. “Blogging led me to work with the Huffington Post,” she said. “I wasn’t getting paid much teaching,” and found another way.

5. Learn to sell your brand

Once you find what your passion and interests are, Mary said it is important to “sell your unique voice.” It will make you feel confident about your work if you able to own what you what you are skilled at doing.

6. Don’t look down on corporations

We all are journalists, but don’t put your nose up at corporate, said Mary. Working with other business means that “they pay well,” and “pay on time.”

7. Self-care is important

Freelancing can have you juggling multiple projects and deadlines all at the same time. It can leave you burned out. “I go to the gym,” Mary said. Taking care of your health is number one.

8. Search for other means of income

On top of being a freelance writer for magazines and online publications, Deborah worked as a communications strategist, adjunct professor and a website developer. She read a quote by Maya Angelou that “Nothing will work unless you do.” Mona said universities with alumni publications are a great resource for publication. “Have a steady income so you know the money is coming while you do passion projects,” said Mona.

9. Find a way to break in

Mona said that when she first broke into the business, her first piece was on “review on a Chinese restaurant.” Moderato Michele Weldon mentioned social media as an important tool to get industry people to view your work. “Tweet at people,” she said.

10. Create a work/life balance

Find out your priorities. Mona said her main focus was her family. “I had young children,” she said. “I wanted to be around them more.”