What’s in the Bag of a Freelance Radio Reporter?

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Friends have asked me why I’ve invested so much time and expense in radio gear since I mostly write for print. Simply put, I love turning in fully produced, turnkey stories and radio shows pay more for the effort. Piecing together music, interviews and sound effects is like creating an editorial illustration, which is something that I’ve done for years and enjoy. Both are very visual and conceptual mediums.

Of course, you don’t need as much gear as shown in the photo to freelance in radio, but I plan on doing more in the near future – an eye-opening experience for any freelance writers who want to do more.

A: Marantz PMD670 digital, two-track audio recorder – Marantz makes smaller, lighter recorders now (PMD 660, 661) but they don’t have as many features as the full-sized recorders, and their preamps are a bit noisy. Oade Brothers offers a nice retrofit that really improves noise on all Marantz digital recorders

B: Sennheiser MD46 cardioid dynamic microphone – Great interview mic with low handling noise and a heart-shaped pickup pattern that records from the front and sides. Durable, too. It’s survived a few drops

C: Gooseneck mic stand – Heavy but solid. Cast iron base isn’t easily knocked over

D: Audio-Technica microphone shock mount with hotshoe adapter for use on my DSLR camera

E: Audio-Technica AT835b condenser microphone – Directional mic that’s useful for noisy rooms or to record sound from afar. Very sensitive to handling noise

E: 2 XLR mic cables 5-foot/15-foot for use with the Marantz recorder

F: Sony MDR-7502 field headphones

H: Church Audio preamp – Gives my small recorders a pickup boost when using less sensitive dynamic mics. Also improves the sound on my DSLR when recording video

I: JK Audio Quick Tap – Allows me to record decent quality telephone interview sound for broadcast use

J: Audio-Technica ATR-3350 wired lavalier mic – Great way to get clean and consistent sound from a subject that’s either moving or in a loud room. I’ll use this lav mic with the Olympus LS10 clipped to the subject’s belt or in a pouch

K: Olympus WS-300M digital recorder – It’s small and can plug directly into the
computer like a USB thumb drive. I still use it to record ambient sounds or sound effects like a closing door, footsteps, restaurant noises. A single AAA battery doesn’t give you much recording time

L: Olympus LS10 digital recorder – Great small recorder that I use for all of my print story interviews. It has good preamps so also works very well for radio

M: JVC earbuds – Low profile way to monitor sound

N: Church Audio 1/8” plug-in omnidirectional dynamic mic – Cheapest way to drastically improve recording quality on a small recorder

O: Sony MDR-V6 studio headphones – I use these “cans” while doing sound editing on my desktop computer at home

Not Shown:
1 XLR to 1/8” mic cable for small recorders

Bogen monopod – I use this if I need a boom for the mic. Works alright but heavy. I’ll eventually buy a Rode Boompole

Asus 15” laptop and desktop with Sony Sound Forge and Audacity. Ideally, Pro
Tools is the standard software editor in radio but it’s expensive and has a steep learning curve.

Audacity is free, feature rich and Sound Forge allows me to clean up the work

Sennheiser G3 wireless lav mic – Great wireless system but pricey. I borrow this from a friend when needed

Make the Business Side of Freelance Writing More Pleasure than Pain

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Writers have a driving need to describe, explain, and express. The change of seasons intoxicates. The vibrancy of fall leaf colors attracts and the irony of such beauty coming at the end of the growing season causes inner contemplation. The creative soul could at times exist and thrive in the world of individual and craft; however, for most self-employed writers the creative process must also pay the bills.

Enter Dr. Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory of Motivation. Dr. Vroom’s theory works on the principle of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain. Within this work management theory a writer can find a financially rewarding balance between the creative and the mundane.

Simply put Expectancy Theory asks what you expect the outcome of your tasks will be and offers a formula for how well you will succeed based on your mindset. How well you expect the task to proceed will affect your motivation to begin and complete the task. For example, you pitch an article idea but have heard this editor is slow to respond and is even slower to pay after the article is filed or you have worked with this editor before and have firsthand experience of this fact. The creative part of you loves researching and writing on the topic this magazine covers, but what will be the outcome of the task knowing there may be hazards ahead? By using Dr. Vroom’s Theory, you can work through the emotional part of taking this assignment based on how motivated you will be to begin and finish. Motivation has a distinct effect on your bottom line.

The Theory’s three factors grant insight into how you see an assignment from past experiences and if you perceive the outcome to be rewarding or unsatisfying. Do you see the project as producing pleasure or pain? The factors are: Expectancy, Valence, and Instrumentality.

Expectancy: You have the assignment. It is penciled in on your calendar but the closer it gets to the time to contact sources to set up interviews the more you dread getting started. Why? What’s causing your hesitation? Check your motivation so that before you pitch this market again you will know whether it is worth your time. Ask yourself is the pain worth the pleasure. Figure your hourly rate and consider time lost due to procrastinating.

Valency: What is your reward for completing this article? If the subject matter is not your specialty and in fact you find it boring, think through what will make completing the article more pleasurable to you. Will you be compensated well, help others with the information in the article, or will writing the article have long-term positive effects on your career.

Instrumentality: After thinking through your motivation for pitching and completing the project now measure the probability of obtaining the desired outcome which is your project will be more pleasure than pain. Use the following equation:

Force (Motivation) = Valence x Expectancy

The Force or motivation you apply to the project is a direct result of the outcome you want (Valence) multiplied by how you fared previously producing the project or a similar project. For example:

1) If you feel the outcome of this project will reward you in ways that will help your career the Valence rate will be high. The same is true of the Expectancy rate. 2) If you do not believe payment for the project is sufficient and completing a similar project was previously unsatisfying then both rates will be low. 3) One rating can also be higher than the other i.e., you feel the Valency of doing the job is low but did have a good experience previously then the rates will vary. The expectancy rate can be high with a low valency rate, as well.

1) Force (64) = .8 (V) x .7 (E)
2) Force (16) = .2 (V) x .1 (E)
3) Force (36) = .6 (V) x .2 (E)

Force in each of these equations measures your motivation to do a job and can help you make a conscious business decision of whether to accept a project. As usual, you will initially figure your hourly rate for a project but factoring in previous outcomes can keep you from taking a project that will become a time drain. Ask yourself is the pleasure worth the pain as a freelance writer. If not, find a project you are better suited doing. You will, at times, have to take projects you are not excited about, but if the outcome is rewarding then you know you have made the right decision and knowing that will produce a positive attitude toward the project.

Why Using a Smartphone as a Recorder is a Bad Idea

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One of the most common questions that I’m routinely asked by new journalists and investigative article writers is what recorder I use to tape interviews. I actually have two small portable Olympus digital recorders (WS-300M and an Olympus LS10) that I’ve been happy with. Both recorders have intuitive controls and good recording quality. I’ve even used the latter for broadcast interviews. Occasionally, I see journalists using iPhones as a recorder, which is fine if you’ve got nothing else. But the many disadvantages are not worth the convenience for the following reasons.

  • Using your smartphone as a recorder will diminish the short battery life that you already have to deal with. A dedicated recorder uses cheap AA and AAA batteries that you can more easily replace on the go.
  • Dedicated recorders typically have blinking recording lights that allow you to see from afar that they’re actually recording.  
  • Smartphones are harder to operate and monitor on the fly than a dedicated device. Try wading through menus on a touchscreen while in bright daylight and running to keep up with an interview subject. Most digital recorders have a single physical record button.
  • Using your smartphone at a press conference or roundtable means that you’re giving up your link to the world until the event is over. Not a good idea if you need to make or take a call, look something up on Google or snap a photo.
  • The biggest issue I’ve seen is how some smartphones can affect electronic devices while sharing a podium or press roundtable. Cell phones transmit regular signals to communicate with local cell towers and these pulses, especially when on GSM or EDGE mode, can be picked up by nearby digital recording devices and it is loud. Your colleagues will hate you for ruining their recordings.

A few tips:

If you do see a smartphone being used as a recorder, place your recorder as far away as possible from the device. But keep the recorder close to the speaker since distance increases how much background noise the microphone will pick up. If you insist on using your smartphone as a recorder, turn the cellular feature off. Inversely, keep your own smartphone away from your digital recorder while doing interviews. Switching the phone to “airplane mode” is the safest precaution that you can take in both instances.

 

 

How to Survive a Break Up with a Freelance Writing Client

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It happens to the best of us. The worst happens. Despite our good intentions and noble efforts, a client “cans” us. Or we decide, due to creative differences, that working with someone is not in our best interest.

Parting of ways is never pretty. But, at least with a personal relationship you can decide to “still be friends.” Or perhaps have “make-up text” afterward.

Client situations can be a bit trickier. Depending upon the reason for the separation, there can either be a great sense of loss or relief.  I’ve had both.

Thankfully, most of my clients have stayed with me for a good deal of time, and the arrangements have been mutually beneficial.  In fact, some have even become friends, resources, referral sources and cheerleaders for my business.

Nonetheless, pop singer Neil Sedaka wasn’t wrong: Breaking up is hard to do.
But you can recover and even reach greater heights if you heed the following timely tips.

1. Learn from your mistakes. Perform an autopsy of the death of your relationship. Here’s where a little self-reflection and honesty can go a long way. Were you meeting their needs?  Did you take the relationship for granted? Could you have communicated better?
There’s great truth to the expression, “Those who fail to learn from the past are destined to repeat it.”

2. Seek proper closure. When possible try to find out/or give a reason that things didn’t work out. Most people appreciate having an opportunity to come to terms with things.

3. Talk to a trusted friend. Another freelancer who has been there can help you to keep proper perspective, share a laugh, and provide needed words of encouragement.

4. Resist the urge to become a stalker, or calling their phone just to hear their voice. You’re better than that.

5. Recognize that a break-up is not a reflection of your self-worth or creative ability. It could be that “they’re just not that into you.” To each his own. Move on.

6. See if it’s possible to perhaps be considered for future projects of a different nature. Sometimes dismissal can happen due to budget cuts or other factors that could change in the future. Try to stay open.

7. Avoid saying things that you’ll regret. Always exit with dignity, no matter who initiates the break-up.

8. Don’t be bitter be better! Anger can cloud judgment and cramp creativity. Keep a level head and keep learning so that you and your business can grow with fresh article writers!

9. Cherish the memories. Perhaps your client was “your first”, or maybe they helped to finance a beautiful vacation, or inspired you in creative ways. Whatever was the original “draw” be thankful for it and recognize that everything has a season.

10. Never accept shabby treatment. In the words of Dr. Phil, “We teach people how to treat us by the things we accept.”

11. Start seeing other people. Get out and network. Make phone calls. Keep yourself busy. Ask your friends to hook you up. Before you know it, you’ll be back into the swing of things again.

…All because you followed these tips and your heart.

5 Essential Marketing Tools for Freelance Writers

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Whether you like it or not, freelance writing is all about marketing. You need to not only market your services, but also market the idea of who you are and what makes you different than the millions of other freelancers out there. Writer Leo Babauta ruminates on the 10 Essential Marketing Skills For Freelancers in blog post for Freelance Switch: “As a freelancer (or potential freelancer), you live and die by your ability to sell your services. And unless you’ve got some kind of agent or marketing firm doing your marketing for you, you’ve got to be your own marketer. If you’re like me, that doesn’t come naturally.” Babauta has a point. Freelancing is all about doing-it-yourself, so if you want to push your career to the next level, here are 5 tips on how to market DIY style:

Blog. It’s been said many times before, but the blog is the new resume. If you don’t have a blog, learn how to start one up. And don’t just rant about politics and talk about your cat. Make your blog look professional, write about things that would look good to potential clients, and offer your services to others (with contact info, of course). If you are a designer, be sure that the design is clean and creative. If you are a photographer, the photos should knock them out. If you’re a writer, have only your best writing on your blog. In all cases, have a simple, clean layout with well-written words. If you’re not good at this yet, constantly learn and refine. Look at other professional blogs for inspiration, then tweak. Then edit some more.

Collaboration. One of the best ways to market yourself  as a freelance writer is to collaborate with others. Instead of only working by yourself, offer your talents on a project. If you’re a writer, offer to collaborate with other bloggers — if you give them some free writing (do a guest post), you have just reached a wider audience, and you’ve developed a relationship with another blogger. You can do the same with whatever service you offer — offer it up for free (or at a discounted rate) so you can develop relationships and reach a wider audience.

Listings. Be sure that you’re on all the freelance job sites, or at least the ones that apply most to the service you offer or the market you’re aiming for. You don’t have many words to make a pitch, so offer a few words to differentiate yourself and a link to your blog if possible.

Business card. Don’t go with anything tacky or overly complicated. Keep it simple, professional. The fewer items on your card, the better. Really, all you need is your name, your service and your email address, but you can put a slogan or logo if that works for you. Also, some have argued that the new business card is to simply say “Google me”. If so, be sure that you’ve researched your Google results thoroughly.

Email skills. This is how I do most of my marketing, in combination with the blog and collaboration ideas listed above. I’ll simply email someone to see if they’re interested. I’ll do a short pitch about myself and my services (a short paragraph) and make them an offer. If they write back, great. If not, you can either follow up or move on to the next one. Don’t be too pushy. Again, be professional, and offer a link or two to show samples of your work. People don’t have a lot of time to read emails, so be sure to keep it short. Be friendly and professional. And make them an offer they can’t refuse (not a “Godfather”-style offer, though).

To read the other 5 of Babauta’s tips, check out the full article at Freelance Switch.

How do you market yourself as a freelance writer? Any successes? Any failures? Let us know in the comments!

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