Webinar: The Battle of the Bots—Best Bets for Freelancers

As if having to learn how to use ChatGPT wasn’t enough, a new A.I. tool seems to launch every 15 minutes.

The Battle fo the Bots - Best Bets for Freelancers

Some are free, some are freemium, some are hellishly expensive.

If you create or manipulate words for a living, join our A.I. team for The Battle of the Bots and find out which of the popular chatbots might work best for you.

For instance, a LOT of freelancers are looking for the best tool for creating transcripts. We’ll sample a few.

Register today, and keep the bots at bay.

Our Presenters

Dr. Nadine Robinson first learned about ChatGPT from her college students, and works hard to stay one step ahead of them.

George Butters uses multiple bots daily to speed up routine tasks for the Canadian Freelance Guild, and works hard to reign in rogue virtual assistants.

Which one is best for…?

You can register for this webinar right here.

Learn more about the cost and benefits of membership in the CFG on this webpage.

The link to the Zoom webinar will be sent to you via email about half an hour before the start time.

Please check your spam or junk folders if you can’t find the email, and contact organizer@canadianfreelanceguild.ca if you haven’t received the link 10 minutes before the scheduled start time. This webinar will be recorded and posted to the CFG Video-On-Demand site. Once posted, all paid registrants will receive a link and instructions on how to view.

Posted on May 21, 2024 at 5:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT

Find Your True North: With a Little Help from Douglas Gibson, “The Cartographer of Canadian Publishing”

This article about The Cartographer of Canadian Publishing is written by Sheila Pinder, college course facilitator, proofreader, school principal (occasional) and aspiring novelist.

Douglas Gibson

Douglace Gibson, Canadian editor, publisher and writer.

Writers, have you ever questioned yourself? Wondered if you’re writing for the proper audience, in the right genre, market, format for you? Could you, should you, change direction? Would it help you to know that even the late Alice Munro struggled with the same insecurities? On May 9th at Wolf Hall in London, Ontario, I had the great good fortune to speak with Munro’s former editor and publisher, Douglas Gibson.

Gibson was joined on stage by his friend and fellow author Terry Fallis, who introduced his mentor as “one of the great legends of Canadian publishing—he also edited me.” Fallis is a two-time winner of The Leacock Medal for Humour, and the author of nine national bestsellers, the first six of which were edited by Gibson. From his role as a junior editor at Doubleday Canada, Gibson was recruited to fill in temporarily for his boss and remained head of Doubleday’s editorial department until he moved to MacMillan and finally settled at McClelland & Stewart where he edited for the likes of W.O. Mitchell (whom he refers to as simply Bill).

“Bill was a larger-than-life character,” perpetually reworking his last manuscript and the final chapter in particular. “It should have been easy enough except that he was very very slow,” Gibson says. Mitchell would send in messy, hand-written work that was frankly “disappointing. Finally, he sent in the final chapter. Now, editors have to be honest with their authors. In this case, the honesty was very difficult for me.” Gibson visited Mitchell in person, to gently advise that “Bill, I’m no good to you if I’m not honest with you. This last chapter just isn’t good enough.” Bill replied, “Oh, [heck] I know that. That’s why I’m rewriting it now.”

Gibson recognizes “the uncertainty, the insecurity that affects so many writers.” From Morley Callaghan, who insisted that Gibson come straight to his home to read his newest manuscript over “right now, yes, now,” to “the last upper Canadian, Robertson Davies, who as you know looked like God, but was breathing hard before a performance while I was pacing, so I asked him “Butterflies?” and he said “oh yes, always” and then came gliding onto the stage like a galleon,” to Alistair MacLeod who “was writing wonderful short stories but at the rate of one per year,” and ultimately delivered the manuscript for his first novel, No Great Mischief “literally page by page,” we all need a compass to keep our true north in sight.

Douglas Gibson even helped Alice Munro to stay on course. “The first time we met,” says Gibson, “at that point, she was a great short story writer. And everyone, I mean everyone was convinced this was a terrible mistake. They told her she should write a novel. No more short stories. So, she stopped writing short stories and found she couldn’t write anymore. I said to her, ‘Alice, you’re a great short story writer. You must keep writing short stories. And I will keep publishing them forever more.’”

And when she won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, it was Gibson and his wife who travelled to “the heart of Stockholm” on Munro’s behalf, “where everyone, even the cameramen, wore white tie and tails and the windows of the bookshops were filled with Alice Munro titles.” Thank goodness Munro found and followed her true north. Today, she is “revered worldwide as master of the short story” (CBC News—May 14, 2024). Tragically, she passed away at the age of 92, on the very day these words were written.

Fallis notes that “Doug had a unique relationship with his writers.” He called, cajoled, visited their homes, and wrested words on crumpled sheets of paper from their very hands. Perhaps it was a sign of the times, or perhaps it’s testament to the man himself that Gibson “took the wide ranging view of things that editors could and should do. By temperament, I would want to continue to do things the same way.”

Whatever you write, follow your path. Find your north. And if you’re anything like Gibson, along the way you’ll help another weary traveler to find their own.

Posted on May 15, 2024 at 5:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT

3 Social Media Posting Formulas for Service-Based Freelancers

by Robyn Roste

3 Social Media Posting Formulas for Service-Based Freelancers

Having an online presence helps potential clients learn more about who you are, what you do and why they should hire you.

And while most freelancers understand this, it’s still easy to overlook social media as an important piece of any online content marketing strategy.

Regardless of its positive or negative impact, social media is one of the main ways we connect with each other. And it can be a significant business tool for freelancers.

For example, in the last week I received an inquiry through LinkedIn messaging, responded to a call for pitches on Twitter and negotiated an assignment using Facebook messenger.

Despite people’s claims of quitting social media, BroadbandSearch estimates, “the average person will spend more than 3.4 million minutes using social media in their lifetime.”

From a marketing perspective, having a social media presence makes sense. This is where people gather in the digital landscape. For many prospects, social media is the first touchpoint they’ll have with a business and it’s where they’re comfortable interacting.

Being present and active on relevant social networks is a fabulous opportunity to help people as well as share your unique knowledge and expertise. Through authentic interactions, you build trust with your followers. People hire people they trust.

Choosing platforms

Read the rest of this post »

Posted on May 14, 2024 at 5:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

The Born Freelancer on Writing for Inanimate Objects

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

the born freelancer

Yes, I hereby freely admit it: I have written for wood, plastic and cloth that can talk….

I refer, of course, to puppets and so-called dummies.

The noble arts of puppetry and ventriloquism both have long and fascinating histories.

Puppets consist of both hand-puppets and the stringed-marionette variety. Dummies (or “ventriloquial figures” in more refined circles) may also be simply puppets but with their usually hidden human performers plainly visible and who have learned to control their lip movement when their puppets speak.

Think puppets and dummies and you may well think of children’s performers and juvenile birthday parties, etc. While many performers do perform for children, it’s still a large market, there are many more than ever today using puppets and dummies who appeal to strictly sophisticated adult audiences. They may appear in person, in the theatre, in night clubs, at parties or public events like store openings or large corporate events like trade shows. They may appear on TV and online and occasionally even in the movies.

If you have the right sort of sense of humour and can adapt your mind to their unique points of view, you may find yourself in constant demand writing for these inanimate objects. I have spent a number of years doing so, on and off, and have never had more fun or creative satisfaction.

Writing for inanimate objects in general

  • Puppeteers as a group are fascinating
  • Talented, full of good humour and usually highly intelligent, many are thwarted performers who—due to profound shyness—lack the necessary impulse to go on stage themselves. As a result they perform “behind the scenes” allowing their cloth and plastic alter egos to accept the applause.

  • Writing for puppets is a cross between writing for animation and writing live action
  • You can employ the imaginative qualities of storytelling usually associated with animation but it still requires live action constraints and realities (although this may not be as much an issue in a filmed project capable of special visual effects).

  • Writing for puppets ideally requires an understanding of the puppet personality as great as if writing for any stage character
  • All successful performers have developed characteristics for their puppets that allow for organic stories to unfold from (usually) the conflicts between puppets or between dummy and ventriloquist. It isn’t enough just to show up with an impressive puppet. To be successful, it needs a strongly definable personality encountering situations which allow its basic character flaws to emerge quickly and comedically.

Getting started writing scripts for puppets

If you’ve never thought about writing for puppets, and you know of none performing nearby, go online to toy stores. Find one that sells hand puppets and note the various generic puppets available. Choosing two or three, write short sketches for your target audiences (children, teen or adult). When the time comes to try to sell to an actual performer, they can be offered as a generic example of what you can supply. Of course, once commissioned you would customize them or (ideally) write something completely different especially for them.

Interesting fact: Puppets can say things regular human actors can’t. Because they are “make believe” their comments can be on occasion more provocative (depending upon context) and they can “get away” with it. Adult audiences will usually accept comments from a piece of talking plastic as greatly amusing (if performed brilliantly) that would most likely receive open hostility if spoken by a live actor. An interesting psychological aspect of the art.

Start by looking locally for freelance jobs

  • You might begin looking locally for performers still doing live gigs
  • Approach them directly and make your pitch. There is an enormous live performance market to fill. You might be asked to write generic scripts (such as for a birthday party for children or adults) or special occasion material (such as for a specific trade convention) or occasionally a more structured theatrical piece with which to tour and perform in local schools, churches or community centres.

  • Deciding on what to charge the local puppeteer or ventriloquist is hard to judge
  • A specialized work that can be used only once? You might try asking for half their fee and negotiating from there. A work they can use over and over again at various smaller parties etc.? If you hope to have an ongoing relationship with them (as their career grows) you might ask 10 to 20 per cent of their fee per performance. Or settle on a cash figure equivalent to such a percentage over say a dozen appearances. Hopefully by the time they’ve performed it a dozen times they’ll want you to write something new.

No lips were moved in the creation of this subheading

Ventriloquists generally only use only one dummy or puppet at a time although some may have more to “bring out” from behind a box or curtain.

Occasionally, they will have one puppet on both hands and have a three way conversation. They love to demonstrate they can speak without moving their lips so many scripts bring attention to it. Ventriloquists may also do what is called “distant ventriloquism,” which is when they appear to throw their voice. Many scripts may require a scene in which such skills are demonstrated.

Television…the final frontier?

If you see a puppet show on television or online it is easy to grasp the puppets’ chief characteristics and to then arrange a meeting and discuss ideas with them. A TV show may be run hands-on by its producer who will vet all scripts or by the performers themselves who will have the ultimate say in what material they perform. You should be ready and able to approach both with plenty of relevant concepts.

Such material will come under specific writers’ guild jurisdiction and your work will be contracted accordingly.

Sometimes life-like replica puppets have been used on current affairs TV shows to comedically illustrate some aspect of the news. This sort of project is always challenging. Your TV producer will most likely want a heavy satirical edge on the news; the puppeteers may want to explore the same subject in a style unique to themselves.

However, such a gig is to be much sought-after. It practically guarantees more work (if the initial appearance is successful) and as the news is constantly changing. So if you have a strong news instinct combined with a sense of satire do not pass up any opportunities to write for puppets in this context.

Writing for ventriloquists: the takeaway

If you have no experience seeing puppets or ventriloquists, I suggest you go online. You will find many clips of various performances both old and contemporary.

Among my absolute favourites:

  • The Muppet Show, which must surely be the most inventive puppet show on television ever designed for both kids and adults
  • Nina Conti—who is a devastatingly ingenious contemporary British ventriloquist whose comedic art becomes deeply surreal and darkly dramatic when you least expect it. Not for kids!

Between the Muppets’ wholesome family shows and Nina Conti’s psychologically complex adult performances lies a wide world of unlimited creative potential. If you can imagine it, some inspired puppeteer or ventriloquist can make it come to life and impact a whole new generation unaccustomed to such entertainment.

There is a good living to be made in writing for puppeteers or ventriloquists by the hard working, talented and slightly mad. Creatively speaking, of course.

Posted on May 7, 2024 at 5:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Get Access to Access Copyright Royalties

This article about how to access Access Copyright royalties is written by Dr. Nadine Robinson, a freelance writer, professor, and keynote speaker based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Nadine is a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada and the Canadian Freelance Guild. She can be reached at the.ink.writer@gmail.com.

Have you filed your Access Copyright claim for this year? The claim period opened on April 1 and runs until May 31. If you’re not sure what Access Copyright is, read on…

Get Access to Access Copyright Royalties

Get access to Access Copyright royalties

Freelancing can be a tough business where it sometimes feels like no one has your back. Access Copyright (known as CanCopy from 1988 to 2002) is one organization looking out for content creators by compensating them for peoples’ use of their works.

The national non-profit represents over 13,000 Canadian writers, visual artists and publishers, and their works. When work is copied and shared, by educators, students, researchers and corporate employees, Access Copyright sends their affiliates royalties.

If your work appears in newspapers, magazines, journals, and or books, you may be eligible for an annual payback.

Show me the money!

According to Robert Gilbert, Access Copyright Communications Specialist and Affiliate Relations, the average base payment for Payback last year was $51.74.

All registered affiliates are entitled to the base payment, which represents each content creators’ equal share of 40% of the Repertoire funds available for distribution. (That number has dropped significantly from $175.26 in 2010, since the government added education as a fair-dealing exception in the 2012 Copyright Modernization Act. Access Copyright has been trying to advocate to restore fair compensation since 2012).

There is also a supplementary payment representing the other 60% of the Repertoire funds, that, according to the website, varies depending on “what genre of work you published (books, magazines, scholarly journals and newspapers), how much you published and when you published. In order to receive this supplementary payment, you must submit a Payback claim.” (Source)

Title-specific payments will also be sent directly to you when Access Copyright is aware of specific titles copied, though less than 40 per cent of their licensees file works copied reports.

Who can apply to receive base payments?

Print and some digital content creators, including writers, editors, translators, photographers and illustrators who are Canadian citizens aged 18 or older, and have published work in books, magazines, newspapers or scholarly journals, and have retained reproduction rights can apply to affiliate with Access Copyright. If you reside in Quebec or are already affiliated with another reproduction rights agency (such as COPIBEC in Quebec), you are not eligible to apply.

How do I apply and how long does it take?

To begin the process, begin Access Copyright’s registration process available at https://eportal.accesscopyright.ca/Creator/CRRegister.aspx. After the initial screening, you will receive an email to submit photocopies, photos or digital copies of work you retain reproduction rights to.

Only one work sample (including the cover and copyright page of one published book) is required for a book with an ISBN that is not self-published. Otherwise, three samples from the following are needed:

  1. Cover and copyright pages of self-published books
  2. The first page of your article from three magazines, journals or newspapers
  3. The cover and masthead pages of the issues the three articles appear in

The articles in your samples cannot be from the same publication unless they are in separate issues, and at least one of them needs to be from a publication with an ISBN or an ISSN. Digital publications can be submitted, so long as in the case of periodicals they have an ISSN number.

You are also required to submit two pieces of acceptable identification, to prove your identity and mailing address, along with your Social Insurance Number (SIN) for tax reporting. These can be emailed or mailed.

Within eight weeks, verifiers will let you know if they need any further information, otherwise you’ll get an email when your application is approved. If you haven’t completed your application by the end of the calendar year, all incomplete applications are deleted from the system, and reapplication would be required.

In my personal experience, I was welcomed as a creator affiliate within four weeks, and will now be eligible for next year’s base payment.

When is the deadline to apply to be an affiliate?

While there is no deadline to apply, only creators with affiliation applications approved by the end of the calendar year are eligible for the annual payback payment the following year.

There are no retroactive payments for years you were not a member, but you can add older works when you file your first payback claim, which can increase your supplemental payback going forward.

Do I need to file an annual claim? How do I do it?

If you want to be considered for supplemental funds beyond the base payment, you need to file a payback claim.

You’ll get an email in March to remind you to submit your Payback claim for new works in the claim period. You have from the first business day in April through May 31st to submit your claim at: https://eportal.accesscopyright.ca/login.aspx.

According to Gilbert, for their first claim, creator affiliates are asked to provide, “the approximate number of pages published for each of the claim years (in 2024, it’s 2003 to 2022) in the following categories: books, magazines, journals and newspapers.”

He says payback claims are based on a 20-year period as their “statistical analysis of copying data shows works published more than 20 years ago are unlikely to be copied under our licences.”

In subsequent years, only the most recent year needs to be added to the claim, or any corrections can be made to previously submitted data, going back 20 years.

How and when are payments made?

Royalties are paid through cheque or direct deposit, but affiliates are encouraged to sign up for direct deposit to save costs.

Creator affiliates may receive up to three payments per year. There is the annual Payback payment distributed in November as well as royalty distributions in June and December, provided that royalties have been received for the copying of the creators’ published work for their distribution.

Do I need to declare income from Access Copyright?

Yes, Access Copyright royalties are considered taxable income. Your SIN is required in the application process, to mail out completed T5 slips to affiliates at the end of February each year.

What if you miss the claim period?

Eligible affiliates who miss the April 1 to May 31 claim period for Payback can make a claim or add to or revise an existing Payback claim during the following year’s claim period.

Bottom line

To help ensure that you are more fairly paid when your work is copied and shared, apply to affiliate with Access Copyright.

How do I contact Access Copyright and learn more?

Posted on April 30, 2024 at 5:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: 

4 tips for writing about me pages that work

This article about “about me” pages is written by Vanessa Chiasson, a freelance writer based in Ottawa who specializes in travel and human interest stories.

Tips for Writing About Me Pages that Work

Do you have an “about me” page on your freelancing website? I bet you do.

Do you feel squirmy thinking about that page?

And do you feel you should update it, refresh it, make it less awkward, more dynamic or just…something?

I’m guessing that’s a “yes” too.

“About me” page stress is one of the most common complaints I hear from my fellow freelancers.

And it doesn’t matter what kind of work they do or how long they’ve been doing it. It’s just one of those things that’s constantly weighing on people’s minds. Writing a great “about me” IS important. But there’s something that most folks are doing wrong, and it has nothing to do with the actual writing.

What most people get wrong when they write their about me page

Here’s what most people get wrong: they treat their “about me” page as if the page itself is the goal.

Reality? The “about me” page is a task, an action item—something that needs doing to support a bigger goal.

What IS the goal of an “about me” page?

What, exactly, will that revamped “about me” page support?

Here’s an example. If a travel photographer is keen on securing more press trips, an “about me” page would be one of several items needed to boost their position as a dynamic, adventurous worker.

Another example. A freelancer keen to improve their confidence may view a swishy page as just one part of a more extensive set of efforts that allow them to put their best foot forward.

A third example. A writer eager to make a strong impression on editors might view polishing their “about me” page as one step towards becoming a go-to contributor.

Updating a page or crossing something off your list doesn’t matter if it’s not part of a bigger strategy or serving a higher goal. This sounds like a lofty order, but identifying the goal you’re fighting for makes action items, tasks, and chores much more manageable.

Next time you think about your “about me” page and chide yourself for not updating it, take a breather and ask yourself why it matters.

What do you want more than anything else?

What is your goal for this week, this quarter, and this year?

Now, ask yourself what that page can do to help make those things happen.

Practical tips and common questions about “about me” pages

Should you mention where you grew up or other aspects of your personal life?

If growing up in coastal British Columbia informs your reporting on fish habitat or sets the scene for your mystery novels, it’s well worth mentioning in your “about page” and bios.

But, as a general rule, there’s no need to talk about where you grew up, who your parents were, or what your family life is like now.

Here’s a cool example from the biography of bestselling author Dan Brown:

The son of a mathematics teacher and a church organist, Brown was raised on a prep school campus where he developed a fascination with the paradoxical interplay between science and religion. These themes eventually formed the backdrop for his books.

No wonder Brown went on to write The Da Vinci Code!

One thing to avoid on your “about me” page: Cliches like “Nahla loves spending time with her family.” That’s a given!

Instead, try this on for size: “Nahla loves hiking with her children and their adventures in Algonquin Park inspired her latest travel guide.”

Should I talk about past bylines and clients?

Absolutely! It’s fantastic that you have bylines with The Globe and Mail and worked with the country’s best-known museums. But you shouldn’t open with that. This isn’t about what you’ve done in the past. It’s about what you can do for clients and partners now.

Instead of saying, “Omar’s photography has been featured in the Toronto Star, National Geographic, and Chatelaine,” consider the following: “Omar specializes in macro-photography. He combines his technical skills with a passion for food to create innovative images for recipes, cookbooks and chefs.” The first version talks about who they’ve worked with in the past but the second version talks about who they help and what makes that help so remarkable.

Should I mention my academic degrees?

Sure, if they’re a big part of your work or you’re in a field that demands extra credibility, but it’s not necessary.

A science writer’s credibility benefits from a degree in nursing!

A videographer who often works at festivals can leverage their training in early childhood education to prove how sensitive they are to the needs of families.

However, just like past bylines, you don’t need to lead with this.

What do I do if I’m just starting out?

What matters most is knowing who you serve and why, not showing off all your accomplishments. Lean into the things that made you start freelancing.

Why did you start blogging, editing, or creating social media content? Did your career as an illustrator begin when working the night shift as a security guard and you started sketching to pass the time?

Author Kevin Kwan was a relatively new writer when he wrote Crazy Rich Asians. He leaned into his expat experience to enrich the story and his biography.

Kevin Kwan was born in Singapore and left when he was 11, living in the U.S. since then.

Your career is constantly growing, your “about me” page will reflect that. What works for you today may change significantly in three years or even just three months!

How can I make this process easier?

Collaborate with a friend!

Writing someone else’s page is often much easier than your own. Partner up with a buddy to write and edit each other’s work. Don’t hesitate to take inspiration from another freelancer’s “about me” page, but remember that your story and voice make all the difference in the world. Dan Brown and Kevin Kwan lean into their own experiences, and so should you!

Posted on April 23, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: 

Freelancer Organization Tips

by Robyn Roste

Freelancer Organization Tips
When I began freelancing things were straightforward. Someone would ask me for an article and I would write it. I’d write whenever I felt like it and I’d invoice when I remembered.

It sort of worked.

But when I decided I wanted to make a real go of freelancing, I realized I needed a more professional approach. The first step was getting organized.

For me, the benefits of being and staying organized have been remarkable. I am less stressed out, I get my work in on deadline, I’m in sync with my clients and I am able to do my best work.

It took a while to develop the systems and habits I needed to build the business I wanted, one I was proud of and felt good about, but it was worth the effort.

Here are six areas I’ve found key to being organized as a freelancer.

Look at how you use your time

If you’re in a constant state of panic, racing from one deadline to the next and feeling like you’re failing at everything, consider conducting a time audit. You don’t need to get into the minutiae (unless you want to), but do take an honest look at how your days are spent.
Read the rest of this post »

Posted on April 16, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

Support for freelancers growing as industry vets address growing concerns

This article on freelancing, journalism and mental health is written by Becky Zimmer who is based in Humboldt, Saskatchewan. She has experience in farm, community, small business and sports reporting.

Support for freelancers growing as industry vets address growing concerns

We’re freelancers.

Some months we struggle to survive on coffee, sarcasm and rejection letters, while later making our entire year after two intense months of stress, interviews and writing on little sleep.

Any freelancer stuck in the pulls between financial insecurity, difficult subject matter and the stress and trauma of the job can understand how important their mental health is, but what can they do about addressing these issues?

Resilient, curious creatures can still need help

Speaking with Jane Hawkes, she wrapped it up in one succinct thought: “we’re resilient, curious creatures, but sometimes we need help.”

Whether reporting on heinous crimes, war and death, natural disasters, or facing the stress of working for ourselves, journalists are starting to take a stand: everyone deserves to seek and access help.

When Hawkes co-founded The Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma with veteran reporter, Cliff Lonsdale, their focus was on the physical safety of journalists.

Now that discussions around mental health have become more commonplace, compared to 15 years ago, they have been able to take a different approach to treat the well-being of journalists as a hybrid issue of physical and physiological safety, she said.

People understand the risks and trauma of reporting from a war zone, but journalists at all levels face strains and stresses that need to be addressed.

We learned a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic, said Hawkes, when people were faced with numerous financial challenges with very little help available.

The Trauma Therapy Fund for freelance journalists in Canada is the brainchild of Dr. Anthony Feinstein, another Forum board member, but applications were a slow trickle when it was first announced, not the torrent that Hawkes was expecting. Speaking with freelance colleagues after the launch revealed there was some confusion on who the fund was designed for.

They said that (the fund) must be for people who cover war or conflict or do the really difficult stuff like very difficult court trials, etc. And I said nope…There’s no hierarchy in this. We take the view that journalism, at any level, can have an impact on you, especially when you also have the economic insecurity of being a freelancer.

There is no judgment on what people have been through, said Hawkes. Stories can accumulate, especially when a reporter doesn’t have the resources, time, or energy to deal with their mental health from one story to another. It doesn’t always have to be one big traumatic story that sends them to seek help.

Many people do nothing but cover negative stories. Separately, they may not have a huge impact, but over time, the drip, drip of it accumulates and you think I’m in trouble now because I’m not affected by this at all, what’s happening to me? Or, one more story and I can’t do this anymore.

For Dave Seglins, his own experiences at CBC has led him to create a trauma checklist, surveys and resources to help his colleagues in their worst moments.

While he was covering the story of Russell Williams, a Royal Canadian Air Force colonel who would eventually be found guilty of murder and sexual assault, his newsroom wasn’t very empathetic when he developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he said. He eventually went back to work, but he didn’t fully understand what was going on with his mental health at the time.

“That experience in 2010 left me thinking a lot about the industry that we work in and how poorly we deal with people and how poorly we understand the potential risks of some of the things that we do report on,” said Seglins.

Working during the COVID-19 pandemic became another tipping point for Seglins.

Facing one difficult assignment on top of another, Seglins attempts to advocate for his own mental health were unsuccessful when he tried to say no to a historical murder case involving children. While he ended up reporting on the story anyway, the experience opened the door for a conversation about how journalists could be better supported in Canadian newsrooms.

They said this is the way it works, you don’t get to turn down an assignment. I said to them, actually, this is exactly how it works. I should feel safe enough to be able to put up my hand…I eventually came back to them and said let’s learn from this because we have to change this kind of approach.

Partnering with Matthew Pearson at Carleton University in Ottawa, Seglins created the Taking Care survey and webinar series to help journalists talk about their own mental health and what they need before, during, and after these stories are filed, or what they can do in times of stress or finding help.

After 25 years as an investigative and frontline reporter, Seglins says helping his colleagues as a “well-being champion” has been another joy of working as a journalist.


Join Hawkes and Seglin at the Canadian Freelancers Guild discussion on April 16 with the live webinar panel discussion, Stress and Trauma at Work: Let’s Have a Conversation.

Posted on April 9, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: 

12 ways to repurpose old content to create new content

This article about repurposing content is written by Vanessa Chiasson, a freelance writer based in Ottawa who specializes in travel and human interest stories.

If there’s one thing that freelancers know, it’s that you can pour your heart and soul into a project, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

12 ways to repurpose old content to create new content

Here are 12 ways to repurpose old content for profit and creativity

Not everything you craft is going to find a home. Brilliant stories will be rejected. Beautiful paragraphs get cut. Blog posts die on page three of Google. You can’t win them all, but you can recycle, reuse and repurpose.

Create a “from the vault” segment in your newsletter using an old, unloved blog post or photo

You get to highlight a “blast from the past” piece for your audience AND you have one section of your newsletter that essentially creates itself.

Create a newsletter “spotlight”

For instance, re-share all your recipes with red ingredients or chocolate as part of a Valentine’s Day spotlight.

Transform old blog posts, images, or videos and create an FAQ section on your website

Use the material to answer frequently asked questions about your professional services. It will be SEO-friendly and might reduce repetitive inquiries.

Create a roundup post

For example, if you have a collection of articles or videos about Atlantic Canada that aren’t getting much traffic, it’s time to repackage them. Create a roundup blog post that packages all those one-off pieces as a one-stop shop for information.

Take an old post off your blog, update it, and then have a friend post it on their site (with a lovely bio showcasing you as the author)

You, in turn, do the same for them. Now you both have fresh content that will reach a new audience, complete with valuable backlinks. (You can do the same thing with stories that just haven’t sold.)

Sell your underperforming blog stories

Just because the article on your website isn’t doing anything for you doesn’t mean you can’t take it down, freshen it up, and sell it to another site. Many publications want exclusive, just-for-them material, so make sure your draft has been thoroughly updated.

Create an e-book

Maybe those under-used interviews and research materials can be transformed into a mini-book. How about old articles you retain the rights to but can’t rehome? E-book!

Reuse old research material as new teaching material

People love to learn, and that desire is not limited by subject matter or style. Do you give presentations or tutorials? You can repurpose your research and create new teaching with it!

You can also use old research material to create videos for social media

Your how-to instructions can become mini video lessons. Your funny stories will come alive when people hear you tell them in your voice!

Tweak an old story draft to give it a new direction

For instance, an article about what to see and do in Paris (with accompanying restaurant suggestions) might resonate more with editors if it was an article on where to eat in Paris (with accompanying tips on what to see and do).

Use that old story, photo series, or interview to inspire a one-act play, a novella, or a script

Why not? When was the last time you took a creative flight of fancy?

Ask AI tools like ChatGPT to suggest ideas

We often don’t see the potential in old material because we are used to considering it in one specific way. Take a step back and have things analyzed through an unemotional lens. If you aren’t comfortable with AI tools, consider brainstorming ideas with a colleague.

Posted on April 2, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT

The Born Freelancer Speaks Out on Speechwriting

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

the born freelancer

Looking back over my 150 posts, there’s one potential profitable revenue stream for freelance writers that I’ve not yet discussed:

Speechwriting

I won’t presume to tell you how to write a good speech. If this interests you, there are relevant books at your public library as well as online resources and continuing education courses available through your local community college.

What I will do today is present some of my top tips and thoughts based upon my own experiences. I hope they will provide you with enough motivation to pursue the subject more thoroughly elsewhere.

Who needs a speech?

Who needs a speech? Everybody (sooner or later)!

Think of any business, organization or public individual. At some time they will need to make a speech. Maybe live, maybe on social media. A select few will insist upon writing their own. However, as most people find speech-making scarier than the prospect of death, you can imagine that writing their own speech is a task most will wish to delegate.

That’s good news for you.

The trick for a successful speechwriter is to create a recurring relationship with clients who have ongoing speechwriting needs. The best paying, corporate clients, will be able to afford the best speechwriters and consequently the competition will be fierce. But there will be many other potential clients, from charities and non-profits to local politicians and wedding planners, who may have less expansive budgets but who could remain a constant revenue stream once you have proven your talents and reliability.

Getting the speechwriting job

Getting started is always the hardest part. Once established, word of mouth may become your best means of promotion. But getting those first jobs is tough.

Determine who you might like to work for. Choose a company or individual with whom you can identify. Contact them directly and ask if they need speeches. If approaching a company, you should try to speak to the person in charge of speech-writing. If there is no such person, try the promotion or publicity director’s office. Look at smaller start-ups struggling to establish themselves or causes that you find compelling but that may be battling to find their public voice.

Get to know your client

In order to write an effective speech you will need to get to know your client. Well, superficially at least. Your speech will become their words and so you will be writing in effect as if you are them. What are their speech mannerisms? What is their general demeanour? Your speech will need to be constructed in-line with their established characteristics and mannerisms. Once upon a time this required in-person meetings, but today this can be more easily achieved using Zoom or similar. Naturally, you will build the time you anticipate spending in such preparation into your fee.

Do I have to believe what my client believes?

The old-school professional would probably say no. Wave a cheque big enough in front of the seasoned speechwriter and they will write whatever their client wishes. Personally, I would call that a misappropriation of their talent and would counsel only to write for what you believe in or could believe in. It should make the speech more credible and genuine if you can write it from a simpatico predisposition. (Of course, if who or what you believe in fails to enhance the human condition please feel free to ignore my advice.)

Using humour in speeches

Nothing is more important than the use of humour in a speech and nothing is more misused or abused. Humour in speeches can be used to make the speaker more relatable-to. This will help to make whatever message they have more acceptable. It can be used to disarm a potentially hostile audience, which is why most speeches open with it. If you can get a crowd to laugh you’ve already made friends. But if the style of humour is neither appropriate for your client nor to their audience, nor to the occasion, it can lead to disaster. I can recall a speech delivered by a public official who had somehow decided that the use of inappropriate street slang would amuse their audience. It did not, and the joke ended up going viral culminating with that official being forced out of office. Humour must be used judiciously unless circumstances warrant otherwise, such as writing for a professional comedian, which is a wholly different proposition worthy of separate article.

Specialities

You can be a general speechwriter and become known for your ability to turn a phrase for any occasion. But if you have a specialized knowledge already why not concentrate on speechwriting in that area. It will make your marketing more targeted. Select clients you approach will be impressed with your expertise. If you are passionate and informed about the environment, for example, why not concentrate on those issues and work for clients focused on them. They may even become repeat clients. Your subsequent branding will certainly distinguish you amidst a multitude of speechwriters offering more general services.

What to charge as a speechwriter

Always the freelancer’s biggest question. What do I charge? That’s a tough one to answer. You will probably need to establish your fees on a sliding scale. Major corporations can usually afford bigger fees. Smaller charities or individuals may not be able to pay top tier prices. Do some research online, ask around your network. Check with the relevant unions or guilds. You can always offer discounts. But it’s almost impossible to increase your fee once you’ve stated it. Pro tip: that’s why you can also offer add-ons.

Add-ons

Add-ons allow you to customize a client’s package by charging for additional services you may offer as the work continues. For example, one such add-on service could be coaching. One of your responsibilities as a speechwriter (and a good way of insuring repeat business) is to instil confidence in your client’s ability to delver your speech. Most people hate the idea of speechmaking. You will become a much appreciated (and well paid!) ally if you can give them the confidence they require to really “sell” their speech.

The takeaway

I once wrote speeches for an independent candidate in an election. This semi-professional comedian offered policies that were highly idealistic but wholly unrealistic. They did so with a super-abundance of good-natured humour mocking the traditional parties and without any hope of actually getting elected. At the time I shared their dissatisfaction with the status quo and wanted to support them. So I wrote speeches satirizing the follies of mainstream political rhetoric. I accompanied my client from rally to rally and from TV interviews to candidates’ debates. I learned much about the “behind the scenes” political process. Had I been more of a political animal it might have become a profitable revenue stream. In the end my candidate won close to a hundred votes, cast in peaceful democratic protest, with my speeches having played their part.

It was a powerful reminder to me that words (written even in jest) can move people to take action, for good or ill.

We writers should always be aware of such moral responsibility. No more so than when putting our words into the mouths of others.

Posted on March 26, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,