2018 year in freelancing review

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Screenshot 2018-12-26 10.10.54.pngThis was my third year as a freelancer and it was my best one so far in a lot of ways now that I look back on it. Some stats:

Number of new clients I added: 22 (!)

Number of those clients I reached out to completely cold, with no intro or connections or anything: 7

Amount by which I surpassed what I invoiced in 2017: Over $30K (!)  

Favorite projects from the year:  

  • Numbers 1 (2, and 3) with a bullet -- my first pieces in the New York Times, which was my primary goal for the year. This piece on new mothers in mourning was my first one and I'm proud of it not only because I really worked my ass over the long haul on the pitch with lots of pre-research going into it, I think it's a story that is under-told. Basically any story about the difficulties new mothers go through is under-told. After that I pitched a story on multi-generational living  (plus sidebar!) to Real Estate, which was another example of staying on top of a pitch and not shrugging and walking away when you don't sell it immediately. From a reporting perspective I was pleased that it came together without very much time wasted on leads that didn't go anywhere or yield much. Personally it was a pleasure to work on a real estate piece that was really about telling family stories, one of which was especially bittersweet, and finding a way to mention that while to some people this is a 'trend,' to many it's a traditional way of life. Awhile ago I worked on a real estate piece for a different client that made me want to pull my hair out so this felt like redemption.  

  • The Wine Goddess in Wine Enthusiast. They say write what you know, so I profiled our neighborhood wine shop owner who is a bitchin' lady with a bum pair of eyes and a Binny's down the street. W.E. was a nice glossy addition to my client list but I also loved getting to know Diana better and shine a light on her business.    

  • Agent Lupus in the FBI: So far by my count I have interviewed no fewer than six people who live on my block for various stories (I highly recommend living by interesting, talented and successful people if you can help it.) Our neighbor Shahna is badass, inspiring, kind and also happens to live with a chronic autoimmune disease and I was glad to tell her story. From the same publication, Folks by Pillpack, I also liked working on this story about a blind hockey player, whom I first read about on an idea-generation expedition to the library to pore through some local newspapers. It was a trip that paid off.  

  • The Media Still Matters in Medium: I have...thoughts about the mass media's relationship with this current administration. Obviously, any suggestion that the American media is somehow an enemy of the state, or that journalists deserve violence of any sort is repellant. However I think there's too much breathless focus on trifling shit like Twitter typos and flying umbrellas and Kanye Weste and not enough on the bigger picture. Anyway I wanted to focus on how the next crop of journalists is being sowed, and talk to journalism educators around the country. It was heartening but moreover just inspiring for me to have a reason to chat with veterans in the field. Also, this is another piece where I had massaged the pitch for over a year before it finally landed. Don't lose track and don't give up!  

  • Red Bull city guide: I worked on a Chicago city guide in an editorial capacity that ultimately got folded into the more general Red Bulletin so I can't really show you the fruits of my labors but there were a lot of great parts to this project, including pegging local writers I wanted to hire, learning more about my town (see: this great piece by Lee Bey on Frankie Knuckles) and a budget with which to pay writers what they deserve, which is rare. Additionally it's always good to try on the editorial hat to appreciate what editors want and need, because that perspective helps when I'm back on the writing end.  

  • A book!   I can't tell you about it because technically it's by the author, whereas I was the ghostwriter. This project came my way this summer, the same time as the Red Bull gig, and once I was done hyperventilating over how I'd get them both done, I realized that it was a really positive experience. I got a crash course in organizing a project like this, realized how lucky I am to have colleagues in the field whom I can rely on for advice and support, and happened to work with an author who is in a field that is very relevant to my interests, so telling their story wasn't just a nice gig, it was very illuminating to me personally.  

It was an unexpectedly great year in a lot of ways and I am already feeling a little pessimistic about whether 2019 can live up to it, but next week I'll revisit last year's professional resolutions and make some new ones that won't rely on "beating" this year, but building on it. If you're reading this, thank you to my good colleagues, editors and sources out there. I truly love what I do and am lucky I get to do it.