It’s been an interesting transition, moving from being what I’d describe as an old-school freelancer, with some on-going relationships and some one-off work, to being part of the editorial team at two separate ventures, About.com and Luxist, and still handling one-off work for magazines and websites. (Although note bene, IRS, I’m still an independent contractor, as my pj’d and unsupervised status late this Monday morning definitely attests.)
At some point in the past few months, I realized that my job has seriously changed. For the past decade or so, my days were entirely focused on magazine articles — my job consisted of pitching stories, frequently really long ones, getting assignments, taking a few weeks of researching/reporting, writing for a week or so, going back and forth (and forth and back) with editors, and finally invoicing and getting a check. That’s what I mean when I explain to people that “I come from magazines.”
I still visit magazine-land for a few assignments, but it feels like going back to college. (Oh, right, I need those extra-long dorm sheets.) These days, my writing efforts are mostly focused on the web. The difference is not merely one of on-screen pixels versus print. I no longer have to pitch ideas, I research and write what I think I should for my outlets. When it’s done, I publish it. That’s right, all you freelance writers following along at home, I have no editor to contend with. I cannot tell you how wonderful that is, to write what I think I should and not be second-guessed by anyone. (Well, besides my readers, more on this in a moment.)
In exchange for these freedoms, I have to do more. I’m now supplying photographs for my stories. I program and code my own work, and for better or for worse, I am my own fact-checker, copy editor and proofreader. But these are all details, the major difference is, I’ve traded an editor for an actual audience. Although I never really thought about it this way, the truth was, I used to write first for my editors, since it was their opinion that mattered the most, it was their approval that I needed in order to get paid/published. Oh sure, there was talk about “serving the readers”, but other than the odd letter to the editor, who really knew what that amorphous reader-blob thought? In fact, I used to be totally shocked when someone would tell me that they read an article I’d written, it just seemed so unlikely, even when I was writing for national magazines with huge circulations.
Now, every day, I can see exactly how many people have read my work, and I have a clearer of what they’ve made of it — do they comment, do they forward, what? It’s all measurable. And while I have no editor, readers are pretty good at pointing out mistakes — sometimes they’re nicer than editors and sometimes they’re not. It’s crazy to feel like I’m starting all over again after all these years. But I’m so glad that I’m a writer during this time of publishing upheaval, because the bottom line for me is this: it’s so so so SO much fun.