"There's no point in spending your life in the pursuit of something that's easy." - Alice Kuipers

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Interview with Freelancer and Author Extraordinaire: Amy Jo Ehman

It gives me great pleasure to share with you a short interview I did with the very talented writer and journalist, Amy Jo Ehman. She was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule and answer my questions about freelancing. I highly encourage you to check out her website http://www.prairiefeast.com/ and her blog Home for Dinner. Enjoy!

After receiving a degree in journalism, Amy Jo Ehman worked at the Ottawa Citizen, Saskatoon Star Phoenix and CBC radio/TV before establishing a freelance career. She currently works from home in Saskatoon. She writes a food column (Home for Dinner) as well as reviews restaurants in a weekly feature called Taste Saskatoon in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and freelances to various media. Most recently, she filed articles to Zoomer, Nuvo, Alberta Venture, and Prairies North, and filed radio documentaries to CBC and NPR. Her book, Prairie Feast, A Writer's Journey Home for Dinner won the Saskatchewan Book Award and was shortlisted for a Cuisine Canada book award. It's available at bookstores and online at http://www.amazon.ca./

1. What attracted you to freelancing?

I worked in newsrooms for many years (newspaper, radio and TV) but I always had in the back of my mind that I would like to freelance one day. I was attracted to the freedom of working from home on projects of my choosing. As in anything, there are pros and cons, but for me, the pros far outweigh the cons.

2. In your experience, what have you found to be the Pros and Cons?

- I don't wake up to an alarm clock

- Cheap coffee
- I can take time off whenever I want
- Interesting and varied writing projects
- Time to pursue personal interests, such writing a book
- I don't wear makeup to work (a relief to a former TV reporter!)

- I took a significant cut in pay
- No benefits or paid vacations
- Workload ebbs and flows through the year

3. Have you found it difficult to make a living as a freelancer? What are your tips and tricks?

When I started freelancing, I wasn't sure I could make a living at it. My husband told me to try it for six months, and if it wasn't working out, I could find another job. That was more than ten years ago. In order to make a living, I have several projects on the go at all times. I'm constantly researching and pitching new story ideas. It's also important to have my personal finances in order so that I'm not relying on a set figure per month. Freelancing can be feast or famine, but I always have a personal project to turn to in the "down" times. For example, my food blog Home for Dinner. I also used my "free" time to write my first book, and now I'm researching a second book.

4. What can new writers expect should they choose a career in freelancing?

I started freelancing after working in the media for several years, so I had a number of contacts already in place before I set out on my own. That was a great base on which to start. Beginning freelancers may find it hard to open those doors. However, persistence and good story ideas will open the doors eventually. Very few freelance writers make "big bucks" so you should expect to trade some aspects of a consumer lifestyle for the freedom that freelancing brings.

5. What advice would you give to these budding writers?

Turn to personal contacts and referrals at the start. Pitch to media that you know well, with subjects that you know well, so that you can position yourself as the right person for the right idea. Put significant effort into your pitch letters and always maintain a professional tone, even in emails. Always strive to meet and exceed the editor's expectations. Never miss a deadline. Be a strong self-editor. Practice the simple skills of communication and negotiation so that you can manage your freelance career as a competent business professional.

Great advice from a great person. Thanks again, Amy! If you'd like to find out more about Amy Jo Ehman's blog or her book, check out the links provided at the top. Your comments are always welcome, so if you have any thought on freelancing or have any of your own tips, trick or cautions you'd like to share, please do so below in the comments section.

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