Freelance Success Publisher Jennie Phipps on Adapting to the Market

Jennie PhippsIn addition to blogging about retirement planning for, Detroit-based freelance writer Jennie L. Phipps publishes a weekly subscription newsletter and online community, Ebyline chatted with Phipps about the evolving freelance landscape, how freelancers use social media, and more.

Based on what you’re observed in this new freelance economy (or perhaps on Freelance Success), what separates the successful freelance writers from the struggling ones?
It is especially important in this changing market to be flexible about what you can and are willing to do. I see a growing demand for freelance writers/editors willing and able to manage social media, provide video, take on regular responsibilities that were once purely staff jobs, and mix marketing with their editorial offerings. Doing any of this requires a different mindset than many editorial freelancers held only a couple of years ago.

What social media platforms do you use (if any) and how do you find time to tweet/Facebook/etc. around the actual writing and reporting?
I don’t think it takes very long to post a Tweet or a comment on Facebook — once you’ve made the commitment. But I haven’t embraced either one with much gusto. If there was a clear and reasonable link to my own business profitability, I’d be there. But I haven’t seen it yet — even among clients that profess to be very concerned about traffic.

What was your own most unusual assignment?
This is ancient history. Back in the National Enquirer‘s two-headed baby days, the Enquirer sent me out on a 95-foot motor-sailer looking for Atlantis in the Bermuda Triangle, along with the late language expert Charles Berlitz, a 500-pound psychic and a photographer. We were out for a couple of weeks. And finally, it became clear to me that we had to find something besides bars that sold Jamaican beer, because I had to go home. So we spotted some rocks on the bottom of a patch of sand and Berlitz agreed that they could be stepping stones, so that was good enough for me. The psychic, who must have also had a yen to get back on land, had a moment of enlightenment and we concluded that we had located the magic spot. We set sail for Fort Lauderdale, I wrote the story and collected a handsome check. Life was good.

What changes should freelancers be prepared for (at least open to) over the next several years?
There’s no good reason for writers and editors to be in adjoining cubicles. Especially if this healthcare fiasco can be sorted out, there will be less and less motivation for people to take staff jobs and less reason for companies to offer them. The result of declining staff jobs will be more opportunities for freelancers — and more competition for well-paying jobs.

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About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer whose work appears in, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor,, Parade Magazine, and SELF, among other places. She is the author of The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets and blogs at The Urban Muse.