Today’s guest is Katherine Reynolds Lewis, an independent journalist based in the DC area. After Katherine was laid off in 2008, she started freelancing in the middle of the Great Recession.
What does Katherine love about freelancing? Being self-sufficient, being able to write on a variety of topics and having control over her schedule.
Katherine shares her 3 P’s model that she uses when assessing whether to take on a project: pay, portfolio and passion. Any project or assignment we say yes to should fulfill at least one of those P’s and ideally all three.
As you work on the project, always keep in mind why you are doing the work, which P it falls under. At the end of the work, this model will also help you decide whether it was worth taking on the project or client—and help you assess future projects.
A few years ago, Katherine was setting new goals for what she wanted to do in her career. One of those was to write a long-form journalism narrative article for a big magazine. So, she started looking for opportunities. If successful, the article would be a key piece in her portfolio, that could lead to fellowship opportunities, writing a book or receiving awards.
Katherine tracks her time diligently, and for that particular goal she committed to using some unpaid time to do the research and reporting needed for that article, before she could sell it. The final article called “What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?” was published in Mother Jones magazine and remains its most viewed online article.
That success led to a literary agent and a book proposal with multiple offers. That launched her paid speaking career, and she won awards on her eventual book, “The Good News About Bad Behavior.”
Researching and writing the book also led her to connect with authors and other people she had admired.
Katherine also talked about the mindset it takes to be a successful freelancer: We are business owners. We have to be accountable to ourselves and know how we’re spending our time and our money. Time is our most valuable resource.
Katherine says, “The biggest myth that I hear is ‘Well, something’s better than nothing.’ It’s not … because any time you take a gig that pays poorly or it’s not exactly in your lane, you are moving yourself further from your goal and you are using up that most valuable resource—your time.”
Katherine also encourages freelancers to shift their mindset from supplicant asking for work to thinking of yourself as a valuable partner that your clients need.
Biz Bite: Streak (Gmail plug-in)
Katherine’s Mother Jones article: “What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?”
The Center for Independent Journalists
Episode #128 of Deliberate Freelancer: New Organization Supports Freelance Journalists of Color, with Chandra Thomas Whitfield and Katherine Reynolds Lewis
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