There’s no such thing as a free(lance) lunch: Stephanie McGrath

There’s no such thing as a free(lance) lunch is a series that asks professional freelancers the questions you want to ask them.  Think of it as having coffee with everyone at the same time. This week: Stephanie McGrath.

Who are you, what do you do? What’s your speciality?

I am a writer, content strategist, friend to fluffy creatures (particularly my dog Monet). I specialize in freelance writing about pop culture and digital lifestyle.

How long have you been freelancing?

While I do maintain a day job, I have been freelance writing in one way or another for about 10 years.

How did you/What made you start freelancing?

I love to write about things that interest me. Those are often frivolous, silly things. I’ve been fortunate in my career in that I have a dynamic, interesting day job and an outlet for my frivolous, fun side.

How did you sell your first piece/pitch your first job?

I try to stay in touch with former co-workers, classmates, friends, people I meet at conferences and so on. My freelance career has begun and continued through fostering these relationships. When someone needs something written, they know they can call me and I’ll get it done. Because I keep in touch with a lot of people, if people I know hear that someone they know needs a writer, sometimes they pass along my name.

What are the pros?

Freedom, flexibility and extra shoe money.

 What are the cons?  

Extra tax headaches, lack of security and a sometimes long wait for paycheques.

Let’s talk networking. Some people think of it as a dirty word. What do you think about networking and how do you do it?

I try to be friendly. I keep in touch. I try to be active in my community. I try to make it known I’m a writer for hire. I’m not pushy, I’m just… constant.

 Is it really who you know when you freelance?

Yes. Absolutely.

 What do you think about the ‘pick your brain over coffee’ invite? Do you do it?

I have done it and will do it again I’m sure.

 Do you think you have to have a certain personality to freelance?

You have to be self-directed and deadline-driven. Nobody is going to remind you to get things done. You also have to be a multi-tasker. If you’re juggling multiple gigs, you have to please everyone.

What are your tips?

Ask for feedback from the companies you freelance for. Try to say “yes” to assignments 90 per cent more often than you say “no”. Read all guidelines provided by companies carefully, so the work you produce aligns with their standards and expectations.

Do you think freelancing is a viable way of making a full-time living?

For me personally, I haven’t been able to make a full time career of writing. That may be because I have expensive tastes, but I believe it’s also because there’s still a bit of a disconnect between the effort required to write and the pay given out for the writing. (Not for everyone, I have been fortunate to work with companies that compensate fairly and for that … THANK YOU.) Freelance writing has given me the ability to take an extra trip or two or go on an extra shopping excursion or two, but it doesn’t pay my mortgage. Maybe someday though … a girl can dream.

You can read Stephanie McGrath’s column at the Chronicle Herald.


Free(lance) lunch is a weekly series published every Monday. If you are a freelancer and want to be featured on Free(lance) lunch, please email [email protected].

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