Why You Need a Writing Mentor and Where to Find One

3b16501r

No matter where you are in your freelancing career, everyone needs a little help sometime. Finding a mentor can be a good way to break you out of your regular working routine and electrify your mind with new ideas and inspiration. Laura Spencer recently wrote a great post for Freelance Folder, which addresses the best ways to find a writing mentor, and why mentors matter in the first place.

 

 

Check out a handful of her mentoring tips:

Get industry-specific tips. If your mentor works in the same freelancing profession as you do, they may be able to help you identify specific tools and techniques that work well in your field and steer you away from those that are bad ideas.

Learn from secondhand experience. It’s great to learn from your mistakes, but it’s even better to avoid making the mistakes in the first place. In a nutshell, this is often what having a mentor can do for you. Your mentor can tip you off to methods and processes that really don’t work well.

Benefit from expanded network connections. Your mentor likely has a broader base of connections since they have been in business longer. For that reason, your mentor can introduce you to or point you towards individuals and fellow article writers who can really help you grow your business.

And Laura offered a few tips on how to find a mentor too:

Past employer/colleague. For those freelancers who have held a traditional job before becoming a freelancer, their past workplace may be the ideal place to find someone experienced in their field.

Professional association. You can also find experienced freelancers (and potential mentors) in professional associations and business networking groups.

Paid coach. Many experienced freelancers offer paid coaching or mentoring services. If you want to find a mentor who works in your specific niche, this may be the best way to do it.

For the rest of Laura’s great tips, check out her Freelance Folder post Finding a Mentor–A Freelancer’s Simple Success Secret.

Where did you find your mentor? How has your mentor helped you in your own freelancing career? Let us know in the Comments

Ebyline’s Database of Journalist Associations and Freelance Writer Resources

29155r

All freelance journalists need a little help sometimes. Maybe you’re searching for that right source, or perhaps you’re looking for some professional development? As a benefit to freelance journalists and copywriting services, Ebyline has compiled a database of journalist associations; resources and tools; centers, think-tanks and institutes; and government agencies. We hope you can find resources for professional development and organizations that can help you take your career to the next level.

We will be updating the list constantly so make sure to keep checking back as our database grows.

Check out Ebyline’s Journalist Resource Database and don’t forget to bookmark it!

 

Why Using a Smartphone as a Recorder is a Bad Idea

Iphone4

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

dear-john-letter1

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.

How to Become A Freelance Foreign Correspondent

map38

Being a foreign correspondent is one of the most romanticized jobs in the journalism world. The thought of breaking news in far off countries and meeting fascinating other cultures is nearly irresistible to journalists who seek adventure. Ebyline freelancer Beth Dickinson is one of these adventure seekers, she is a foreign correspondent stationed in the Middle East. She has trekked the globe to cover stories in Africa and Latin America, and her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the New York Times, and The New Republic (and many more). She is regularly a guest on NPR affiliate stations, the BBC, ABC News, France24, Sirius XM radio, and Washington’s WTOP. We recently caught up with Beth to hear some stories about working overseas and to get some advice for other freelance journalists who want to break in to foreign correspondent work.

Hi Beth, give us a little background of where you are working now and what you have been up to?

I’ve just spent the summer in Latin America, covering various staging grounds of the drug war. Prior to that, I worked as an editor at Foreign Policy magazine in Washington for three years. I was Nigeria correspondent for The Economist (a stringing gig) in 2007 and 2008.

What countries have you worked in, and which place was the most interesting to cover?

My first love has always been reporting in Africa. I feel alive when I’m working stories there in a way that I’ve never experienced in another region. There’s such a depth of complexity and narrative that is under-explored. Unlike a city like New York, or D.C., where there are hundreds of journalists clamoring for a story, you’ll often find yourself the only person digging around, which is challenging and exciting—and also humbling.

More broadly, I love covering places on the move. When you arrive in a city like Lagos, Nigeria or Santiago, Chile, you can feel the momentum of a place whose best day are ahead. There is a sense that entrepreneurship and global shifts in the economic balance have suddenly made anything possible.

What is one memorable story that you’ve worked on, and what made it so exciting?

I just finished a month in Colombia, reporting a really heartbreaking story about changes in the violence in an impoverished port city called Buenaventura. The city is Colombia’s largest port—but that fortuitous access to the sea has also transformed the area into a battleground for drug cartels and gangs, vying for a piece of the illegal narcotics trade northward to the United States.

Anytime you cover a story like this, you have to constantly be thinking about the safety of your sources and the people you are talking to. It’s very easy to carelessly publish quotes or details about people’s lives that could then be used against them in the future. You have to remember in a case like this that it isn’t about the story, at the end of the day. It’s about the people—and you have to craft your reporting in a way that is fair, representative, and narrative, without it being exploitative.

How do you pitch your stories to editors? Are you pitching blindly, or do you mostly have relationships with editors already?

I have a number of relationships with editors, but I also pitch cold. When I write someone I haven’t worked with before, I find it’s helpful to try and find a connection to that person as an ‘in.’ For example, I’ll ask a fellow journalist or colleague for advice on who is best to contact in an organization. Alternatively, I just try to pitch as surgically as possible. Find the relevant editor and write them directly. I think the best pitches are short and to the point. Editors are busy and they get far too many emails. So they’re not likely to take well to a 1,200 word pitch.

How did you get started as a foreign correspondent?

I wrote an email. During my junior year of college, I reached out to several New York Times correspondents in Africa and asked if I might be able to intern with them. I would find my own funding; I just wanted the chance to learn from their work. I ended up heading to Senegal to intern with Lydia Polgreen, the bureau chief in Dakar. Everything I know about journalism, I learned from her incredible mentorship.

The best way to become a foreign correspondent is to become a foreign correspondent. If you want to write from Yemen or Finland or Brazil, just go there, prove you can write, prove you are easy to work with, and prove that you are reliable, and you will find editors ready to accept your copy. It’s not the most lucrative model at first, but there are lots of creative ways to make it work while you build editor contacts.

For people without extensive language skills, can they still be foreign correspondents?

Yes, though making an effort to learn makes a huge difference. For example, in Nigeria, I spoke a little bit of Yoruba—really not much, but enough for ‘party tricks,’ as I would say. Those few greetings and expressions opened countless doors for me, because it gave a sense that I was invested in understanding the place. Genuine interest is always appreciated.

css.php