Saturday, May 4, 2013

Freelancers emphasize the business side

Photographer Jennifer Whitney and journalist Susan Yerkes share freelancing resources

by Paula Christine Schuler

Freelancer Susan Yerkes says branding is a buzzword.

A panel met to discuss freelance journalism focusing on how to brand yourself at 10 a.m. at the Region 8 conference, moderated by veteran freelancer Jacqueline Jordan.  

Jennifer Whitney, Freelance Photographer

Freelancer photographer Jennifer Whitney said 70 percent or more of her work time is spent on the business side. She spends 20 percent of her time taking photos. She said, "Many don't understand that."

Her journey from photojournalist at the San Antonio Express-News to today is a two-year path that began with two clients and now includes The Texas Tribune, The Wall Street Journal, Cooking Channel and National Geographic Traveler, among many others. 

She said she spent almost a year preparing her brand, marketing materials and presentation. She said it was a long process and spent time thinking about who she is and the message she wants to convey. She worked with a designer for the logo, vetting it in black and white, then adding color. 

Whitney said, "It is a constant hustle." She writes thank you notes, adds personal notes to marketing packages mailed to editors and believes in the old school face-to-face style of networking. 

A mainstay of Whitney's branding is the belief that one must make work to get work. She posts blogs and adds photos regularly to her website to present herself as active and working. 

Her website, client list and other information is found at  She updates her portfolios and website bi-annually in addition to frequent content uploads.

Whitney strongly encouraged attendees to learn who they are in themselves, spend the time to package themselves well and from that knowledge grow into learning and knowing the business side of their work.

Susan Yerkes, Freelance Writer and Editor

Freelance Susan Yerkes started by writing for English language papers overseas. She had a story idea, would call editors and go from there. 

"I am terrible as a sales person, but I am good at meeting people and generating ideas," she said.
She told stories of calling editors of high ranking publications and pitching stories. Sometimes they said yes, sometimes they said no. She said, "You have to kiss a lot of frogs." 

She said branding is a buzzword, and one way to brand is how we present ourselves. She said she wore certain clothing and rings today because she wanted people to perceive her as wildly diverse in one package. Personal presentation skills are a big part of how she focuses on branding. She has not set up a website yet, but is in the process now.

The one thing she wanted to convey most of all to the audience was to never stop writing and never let fear get in the way.

Tips and Tools

  • Yerkes talked about Writer's Market, a website that has the most recent information on publishers who accept freelance work. Moderator Jacqueline Jordan, a veteran freelance writer and editor, agreed Writer's Market is an essential tool for finding opportunities to to get started. 
  • WIX is a free and simple website building tool with quick templates that is geared for communications professionals. 
  • American Society of Media Photographers has an abundance of tools including sample contracts for working with clients and a section dedicated to the business side of freelance photography.
  • National Press Photographers Association features a training tab, contract samples and other resources including cost of business calculators. 
  • Panelists agreed with an attendee who discouraged working with content farms such as Examiner, writing ads on Craigslist and Patch. If a freelancer is going to work for little money, do it for a great clip with a respected publication or a nonprofit.
  • Do not work for less than the cost of doing business. Calculate those costs using tools at the above websites. 
  • Have standards. Do not work for people who devalue the work of a freelancer.
Jordan lists extensive achievements of  Whitney and Yerkes

"Freelancing: How to brand yourself"  was one of 14 panels held May 4 at the Society of Professional Journalists Region 8 conference. 

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