Writing

Hot Leads and Lonely Stakeouts: My Day of Freelancing for the NY Post

The sky wasn’t dark but it was getting there. My phone had 8% battery charge left. My sunflower seeds were almost gone. I was sick to my stomach — with myself, the media, Internet readers. All this bullshit, because of a rumored sex tape.

I thought back to how it began — an email I thought was a prank.

Kevin,

Are you interested in working for the NY Post today? We need a local reporter to cover the Rachel Dolezal story.

Rachel Dolezal, if you remember, is the white woman who pretended to be black. Err, the transracial woman. At the time, she was making national headlines for being ousted by her parents; she was also the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP.

The email I received went on, outlining details of a one-time payment in exchange for eight hours of work. It was signed by an editor/reporter.

Sure, I thought. Yeah right.

Obviously my friends back in New York were making fun of me. See, two weeks prior I had moved from Rochester, NY to Spokane, WA. I was an easy, serendipitous target, as Spokane was steeped in national controversy. I promptly texted my friends and revealed the screenshot: “Ha ha. Very funny guys.”

Really, I was pissed. I was broke and desperate for work after yet another cross-country move — this time post-college. I was living in my parent-in-law’s basement with an interesting amount of credit card debt.

A text returned from my friends. “It’s legit,” they wrote. “We looked the editor up.”

Sweat dripped onto my phone as I hastily replied to the email, my fingers tapping like a jackhammer as if oil hid below my screen: “Yes, yes! God yes! I’m a broke writer in need of work! Will do nude.” I erased the draft, composing myself, returning with tempered thumbs.  

Hello, is this job still available? I have cleared my schedule for the day.

-Kevin

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Launching a Career in Freelance Writing: Leads, Clients and Pay Rates

Like a pack of baby seals conscious of the ever-pervasive and always hungry predator, writers stick together. One question I often hear is, “How can I make money on my writing?”

My answer is usually the same: build a blog, makes business cards, and network until you bleed.

Then I hear: “Shut up — it’s not that simple.”

I say: “Yes. It is.”

Them: “What can I do?”

Kevin: “Whatever they want.”

They say: “What if I’m not qualified?”

Me: “Can you write?”

Them again: “Do pigeons crap in the winter?”

Me: “Weird question, but yes. Then you’re qualified.”

#FreelanceMagic

There are too many obstacles keeping writers from working professionally. The biggest one is insecurity. That’s how it was for me, at least. I had been writing (creatively) since I was 10. Yet, I believed — before I could ever sell my skill — that I needed to be a perfect writer, that I needed to reach some rarefied echelon, some snooty status.

Then I realized: The only way I’d get there is if I started writing. And if I did it all the time.

Then I realized: I didn’t need to be Hemingway to write a business blog. Or advertising copy.

So then: I wrote.

And then I found: Most of my clients couldn’t write a sentence to save their lives. Or they hated the effort it took. Or they just didn’t have the time. Whatever it was, they needed my help for a reason. To them, I was the second coming of Hemingway or (depending on the client) Dr. Seuss. (more…)

Why English Majors Should Pursue Business Careers

As a full-time English major who freelance writes for businesses, I often forget that I am an anomaly. Businesses everywhere are looking for writers and clear communicators; I’m surprised, however, that all my classmates have no idea how desperately they’re needed.

Last week, I was sitting in my creative writing class, killing time before the professor showed, and I overheard a conversation between a few students. They were discussing the frightening realization that college will soon be over, and that their academic security blankets will soon be ripped away, like a determined mother fed up with a binky, et cetera, et cetera.

They talked of the real world:

“What will you do?”

“I have no idea.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

“What will you do?”

“Me?” I paused, searching. “I’ll be looking in marketing, probably Seattle, San Francisco. Pull from my copy editing, blogging, freelance work. I’d love to find something in digital media, though I would settle for pure technical writing. Ideal, for me,” I continued, in the zone now, “a project manager or business development position within a small to mid-range company.”

I stopped because I sensed the whole room was now listening.

“Wow,” some girl said. “Aren’t you an English major?”

This is a problem.

Private academia can often coddle its college students. English majors, especially, are trapped in this bubble: canons, anthologies, theses. We read the world’s greatest literature spanning from Beowulf to Blood Meridian; we explicate and extrapolate; we read between the lines and find messages that the average reader misses; we communicate clearly, or edit and elucidate incoherent documents into well examined ideas with organization and structure.

English majors have no idea how well their skills translate into business.

I’m an English major and a business major, so I have love for both studies. That said, if I had to pick between hiring two different candidates—all things considered—I would choose the English major. Hands down. Every time.

Let’s make some sweeping statements. 

Here’s what I’ve observed about business majors: (more…)

2014: See You Later, Alligator; 2015: Please Don’t Be a Reptile

The end of the year. How did this happen? One minute, I’m drinking champagne, the next, I’m drinking champagne again. One whole year, gone. Whoosh. Bam.

Throughout the year, it is important to take personal inventories. Did you grow? Did you fail? Will you do better? Writers like Peter Bregman suggest you should do this every day, for 18 minutes. For every other person on the planet, we do this once a year during New Years Eve.

It’s human tradition to procrastinate.

For me, 2014 was an incredible year. It was a hard year, of course. The most challenging year of my life, but worth it.

Here’s what I’ll remember

Growing

Literally. I gained 15 pounds. This is a HUGE deal for me. Up until recently, I’ve been the same weight since high school. I thought my wife was shrinking all my clothes in the laundry. Nope.

I don’t want to be huge or anything, but geez. I just want to be comfortable sitting in a chair.

Travelling

My time in the east coast may be coming to a close, so it made sense to make the most of my location. In 2014, I (i.e., my wife and I) embarked on as many road trips as possible. We also traveled a bit by air, seeing both familiar and new states.

On the road we hit Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Toronto, and almost every inch of New York State. Through the air we hit Texas, Washington, Idaho, and California. (more…)

Kevin on the Web: High Tech, Small Business & Fringe

This week, you can find my writing at three different online outlets. What the kids call, “the web.”

RocNext: Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Small Business

First, travel to Rochester’s biggest newspaper, the (Gannet owned) Democrat & Chronicle. I’m honored to join their blogging team for RocNext. RocNext is a small business and entrepreneurship blog. My first post is called “Rockstar Entrepreneurs: Beware the Narrative.”

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NEXUS-NY: “Clean Energy”

Next, hop on over to NEXUS-NY for a look at their brand new magazine called “Clean Energy.” I wrote two articles for them and I couldn’t be happier for how the issue came out. My first article is called “Pure Quantum.” In it, I feature a clean tech startup from Cornell who is manipulating and manufacturing quantum dots for the solid state lighting industry. Whew. It’s more interesting than it sounds, I promise! My second article is an interview with Dr. Stanley Whittingham. In the 1970’s, he discovered the technology which led to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Both articles, as well as the whole magazine, can be viewed for free here.

Also, I was quite intimidated and stressed writing these dense-ish, high tech articles over summer. Seeing them in print is an accomplishment I won’t soon forget. (more…)

Kevin on the Radio: WXXI’s “Connections: The Writers Panel”

Radio debut? No problem.

Today, I was asked to join “Connections with Evan Dawson” on Rochester’s WXXI. The panel consisted of Eric Grode, NY Times writer and Newhouse School adjunct professor, and Andrea Levendusky, a local freelance writer and soon to be published author.

We bulldozed through many topics (e.g., how to improve as a writer, the arguments for and against teaching cursive, what are our favorite “eggcorns“), we answered phone calls, and even shared a few laughs. Before I knew it the hour was gone. Over. Boom. Just like that. And there I was, pouting, like a child given chocolate for the first time: YOU CAN’T JUST TAKE THIS AWAY.

Anywho, I had an amazing time. Thanks to Evan Dawson for the incredible opportunity. Now… who wants to start a podcast with me? Anyone? Hello?

You can stream the broadcast here: Connections: The Writers Panel

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