Eva Holland | Longreads |February 2016 | 25 minutes (6,339 words)
There’s been more talk than usual lately about the state of freelance writing. There are increasing numbers of tools for freelancers: among them, the various incarnations of “Yelp for Journalists.” There’s advice floating around; there are Facebook support groups.
With the exception of one 10-month staff interlude, I’ve been freelancing full time now for seven and a half years. I’ve learned a few things along the way, but I also still have a ton of questions, and often feel as if I’ve outgrown some of the advice I see going by in the social media stream.
So I gathered a handful of well-established freelance writers and asked them to participate in a group email conversation about their experiences and advice. Josh Dean is a Brooklyn-based writer for the likes of Outside, GQ, Rolling Stone, and Popular Science. Jason Fagone lives in the Philadelphia area and has recently published stories in the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Matter, and Grantland. May Jeong is based in Kabul, and has written for publications including the New York Times Magazine, the Guardian, and Al-Jazeera America. (She managed to fit in her contributions to this roundtable while reporting from a remote corner of Afghanistan, so thank you, May.) As for me, I live in Canada’s northern Yukon Territory, and my work has appeared in AFAR, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian, and other places on both sides of the border. Read more…
I’ve always been fascinated by how narrative journalism gets commissioned, reported, and published–but the most perplexing part of the entire system is the continued power imbalance between writers and publishers.
This imbalance persists in spite of the internet “democratizing” publishing. More digital publishers are embracing feature writing, but the process behind the scenes feels stuck in the past–a time-consuming marathon of unanswered emails and rejection. Read more…
Eva Holland is a journalist based in the Yukon who has written for publications including Pacific Standard and SB Nation. Her latest Longreads Original, “‘It’s Yours’,” explores the life (and maybe death) of an internet commenter community, “the Horde,” that Ta-Nehisi Coates helped foster at The Atlantic. I spoke with her via email about her own relationship with internet comments as a freelance journalist, and whether there’s hope for building sustainable communities that are not inevitably dragged down by vitriol and spam.Read more…
A few months ago, a friend considering a freelance writing career asked me how much money I make as a writer. I wanted to say, “You mean, what’s the going rate for a human soul?” But I wasn’t close enough to this friend to be certain she’d realize I was mostly kidding. Instead I said, “This month, I made between $25 and $2,000 for individual stories that were about the same length,” to indicate how unpredictable rates are in an industry that is hemorrhaging money while flooded with qualified candidates.
I’ve produced more than 30,000 words of original and highly job-specific material without pay in an effort to prove myself a capable and good sport to the handful of companies that have reached back out to me from the black hole of resume inboxes to give me a chance.
– Prospective employers demand full-time freelancers to produce inordinate amounts of writing as part of their applications, in addition to the usual cover letter and resumé. From sample tweets to an entire magazine, Alana Massey experienced this firsthand. Read more about her experience and the ethics of freelancing at Pacific Standard.