My favorite work of 2023

  • Posted on
  • in

Hello! I don't update the blog portion of this site that often anymore but I do actually update my work clips on it regularly so I think of this now as a place to talk about work more than anything. Some of you may receive this in your inbox and be like "Wha?" Anyway here's what I've been up to, work-wise because I was ruminating on it in a year-end way. For anyone who is a freelancer, it's been a little over 20 years since I started feelancing out of college.

2023 was an interesting year because it was a huge rebound from COVID and maybe my best financial year to date as a freelancer. However not all that work was interesting, fun or easy, of course. I quit one assignment and received a few emails I let get under my skin. And while it was lucky I got so much work I had less time per week to get it done: my kids switched schools, each were doing different sports, and the days of regularly relying on aftercare until 5, 6 PM were in the past. So many days I aspired to be done working at 3 and very rarely succeeded.

What helped me get it all done is that quite a bit of the extra work was good work. These are some of the bright spots from a busy year as a freelancer:

Inbox Collective: I became aware of Dan Oshinsky as a newsletter expert via the Study Hall newsletter and sat in on a Zoom class he did on newsletter best practices. I saw that he was hiring a new part-time managing editor and I introduced myself--it helped that I had worked with his outgoing editor a few times on things so I wasn't totally out of left field. I got the job as Inbox Collective's managing editor writing, research and proofing stories about newsletters and the people/tools/best practices that go into sending effective ones. This is useful to me as a newsletter writer. Dan has been very easy to work with and pays me a nice hourly salary so that's been a good new income source this year. 

Evil Witches: Evil Witches is my Substack newsletter/community that I run. I ran my own best-of issue here. As a client the newsletter netted me $38,700 this year. That roughly paid out to about $160 per hour so that's quite good although I know I think about the newsletter and do work that's not quite billable for it a lot more than that so it is probably quite a bit lower. I enjoy the work, it can stress me out, and I do not aspire for it to be my lone income source. 

Evanston Roundtable: During COVID I decided I wouldn't pitch stories anymore; I didn't want to spend time pre-researching a story that I might sell. I made an exception, sort of, in this case. The Mexican Shop is a delightful, fascinating shop in my home town that I wondered about for decades. I had dreams about it. Last year on a whim, while in line at a store I emailed the editor of this local publication and said basically "Hey can I do a profile on the Mexican Shop? Here are my clips."

I wish I was as interested in every assignment as I was in this one. I was doing it for myself more than for the pay or for the byline. I took my time interviewing the shop's owner and prior employees, friends of mine who'd also grown up going to the store. In the end I think I earned nothing on the piece since I got a $50 and paid to have my interview with the owner transcribed. But I don't care, it was just fun to answer the questions I always had about how this shop ran and to publish a love letter to it. 

Yale: This gig was so easy and pleasant to get and work on. I sent a letter of introduction to the Yale editor. We had a conversation about my experience and availability. He gave me the assignment to profile a student, just a one-on-one interview. I chatted with her and she was lovely and impressive. The piece was published with minimal edits or drama and I got paid. Now I have a new Ivy League client on my list. Simple and satisfying.  

Chicago Health: This was a pretty straightforward piece about sleep health. For it I interviewed my old friends Wendy and Chris because they both have CPAP machines. They both were honest and funny and gave really good quotes. It was just really enjoyable to do a double-interview and have it turn up a lot of gold on a topic that is so everyday as sleep. 

Better Magazine: A friend introduced me to an editor who needed a writer. They have paid me well for local work that included going to see an awesome play close to me. A win-win I don't normally get: decent pay to enjoy and support local indie arts.

The Gates Foundation: Their newsletter team asked me to consult with them for an hour on things I've learned through Evil Witches and Inbox Collective and I threw in, to make myself feel more legitimate, my experiences working in university development. I was nervous I would feel like a lightweight but I realized I did have some things to share. It was the highest paid hour I've ever worked, as well. Your turn, Jeff Bezos! 

Anyway, I wish I had more exact control over my workflow but the work got done even if more of it had to wait til my 11 year old finished his work late into the night. I'm grateful though this year was a year for picking up more regular/semipermanent clients, that I was able to recover from the COVID slump, and that I had a good mix of clients so that I always had something well-paying or fascinating or honorable to balance out the projects that were not so much those things.

Here's hoping for some good opportunities for us all in 2024!