The Born Freelancer Reflects on Reviews

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.



For some, a beginning – or return – to school. (This year being more of a headache than most, thanks to the pandemic.)

For others, like me, September brings forth a plethora of school-era memories…

Some university profs hated my writing style while praising my content. Others thought my content lacking but my style readable. Still others hated both… while a few really liked them.

I was always pretty consistent. So I was praised and condemned for essentially the same basic style, the same level of content, and the same commitment to my work.

It took me ages to appreciate that most comments probably said as much (or more) about their writer’s own expectations and aspirations (for me? for the course? for their careers?) as it did about my work.

One memorable comment came from a much respected prof teaching a history of communications. I had turned in a term paper on the history of radio drama in Canada – which I have also written about on this site – and received in return what I initially took for unwarranted criticism. Accompanying it, a high mark.

Talk about mixed messages.

So I learned early not to take any “reviews” too seriously. Not to completely believe in any praise nor fully accept any condemnation. To extract what insight or knowledge I could without shouldering any accompanying emotional baggage.

This still holds true for me today.
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Posted on September 17, 2020 at 8:13 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

New mentorship program aims to make room up front for BIPOC photojournalists in Canada

A new Canadian mentorship program aims to help photographers from diverse backgrounds make a career in visual storytelling.

Called Room Up Front, the program offers support to early career BIPOC photojournalists and documentary photographers.

Vancouver-based photojournalist Jimmy Jeong said he started organizing Room Up Front because he noticed a disparity between Canadian photojournalists and the people and communities they cover.

“Many of the important stories centre around marginalized communities. It’s about time that these communities are met with someone from shared experiences and understanding,” Jeong told Story Board via email this week.

“Who points the lens is important because their experiences can dictate how they approach stories.”

The program will offer each participant a year of mentorship from established Canadian photojournalists at no cost. Three experienced, working photographers will team up to offer support to groups of five to seven mentees, meeting online bi-weekly to share experiences, set goals and have group discussions.

The program will also bring in guest speakers to teach key skills such as ethics in photojournalism, business skills, copyright, and pitching. At the end of the year, participants will have the opportunity for a portfolio review with photo editors from multiple publications.

Jeong said he doesn’t expect his small, grassroots program to fix all of the systemic issues within the media industry.

“Things have to be changed at the top and among senior levels,” he said. “But this is something I can help with.”

He said getting the mentorship program off the ground hasn’t been easy.

“It really was a concerted effort with heroic advice and talented people,” he said, crediting photographers Hannah Yoon, Michelle Siu, Pat Kane, Amber Bracken and Justin Tang for their help.

“Anyone in Canadian photojournalism will recognize these talented photographers.”

For more information, or to apply for a mentorship, check out the Room Up Front website.

Posted on September 15, 2020 at 8:00 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , ,

WEBINAR: Indie Book Publishing — Lessons Learned

Every book has its own path toward publication. For some, this will be through traditional publishing, for others, independent publishing works best.

But how to make the decision?

Please join us for the webinar Indie Book Publishing: Lessons Learned, on Tuesday,  September 8th from 7pm to 9pm ET.

The presentation and conversation will focus on CFG founding member Sharon Blomfield and author of “The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle” as she talks about her own experience through the publishing journey and the lessons she learned along the way. What worked, what didn’t, and when she knew what decision to make.

A Waterloo, Ontario resident, Sharon Blomfield’s travel writing and photography have appeared in various newspapers and magazines such as the Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Boston Globe, and many other publications in Canada and beyond.

She is passionate about travel – the slow and deliberate kind, for she has found that it brings adventures into her life and people she never expected to meet. She takes readers of her books along beside her to taste and smell the delights of Greek islands life and to sometimes laugh at its peculiarities. She is the author of The Sifnos Chronicles: tales from a greek isle, and Sifnos Chronicles 2: more greek island tales, as well as her blog, The Sifnos Chronicler.

This event has been organized by and for the members of the Guelph/Kitchener-Waterloo chapters of the CFG.  To help raise funds for future programming, these Chapters are also offering attendance to all CFG members and the general public for a small fee. 

CFG members = $5

General Public = $15

Please let us know if you will be attending by registering on this page.

A link to the Zoom URL will be sent to you half an hour before the meeting. Please log in ten minutes before 7pm ET so we can start promptly. You should have the Zoom application downloaded to your computer ahead of time or use the Zoom webpage when prompted.

Please direct any questions to Montaha Hidefi at

Posted on September 4, 2020 at 7:06 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

Forum Freelance Fund competition re-opens

After suspending its 2020 competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Forum Freelance Fund has now re-opened for applications. The fund offers bursaries of up to $2500 to help Canadian freelancers — and foreign freelancers working for Canadian media — pay for hostile environment training.

The new deadline for the FFF is September 14, 2020.

The re-opened competition has longer periods during which courses must be chosen and taken, adjustments that were made to accommodate the complications caused by the pandemic. Winners will have up to 18 months to choose a course, and another 6 months to complete it. Bursaries must first be applied to course fees. The remainder can be used for travel costs.

There is also a separate new competition this year that is offering smaller bursaries for virtual safety courses. There are at least 15 bursaries of $400 available for virtual training courses. Applications for these new mini-bursaries will be awarded on a continuing basis until the funding runs out.

For more information on either of these bursary competitions, see the Forum Freelance Fund website.

Posted on September 1, 2020 at 7:30 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

Review: Two books that will boost your storytelling skills

by Michael Strickland

An increase in my pulse rate accompanies the uptick in my attention. I missed that the first time, in the fall of 2019. Now, less than a year later, I’m watching for the subtlest of changes.

I sit up a little bit straighter, pajama-clad legs pushing against the familiar couch cushions, as I brace for a change in my environment. Primal instincts stir, prompting me to pay attention.

It’s probably nothing. But, hey, you never know when something might eat you.

Stories That Stick

As I read Kindra Hall’s book for a second time, preparing to write this review, I appreciate her mastery of the basic business story a bit more. Taking a breath to relax, I slip back between the pages of Stories that Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business.

A great narrative hijacks your attention, transporting you into the story, triggering visceral emotions like love or hate, and imprinting an impression that lasts beyond the final word. I was often reminded of that when reading Hall.

That’s unsurprising. She’s President and Chief Storytelling Officer at Steller Collective, a “hyper specialized storytelling agency.” So while her book offers a great road map to creating quick little tales that captivate, influence and transform, the real delight lies in her non-stop storytelling.
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Posted on August 26, 2020 at 10:00 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , ,

Are you having a CERB summer?

by Steven Threndyle 

It will soon be Labour Day and, as the vast majority of public health officials predicted back in March, COVID-19 is still going strong.

One thing that will end is the $2000 per month Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB), a massive injection of federal money that was dispensed to just about any worker who lost their job or income from mid-March until mid-August.

Unlike Employment Insurance benefits that paid full-time employees must pay into, CERB arrived with remarkably few strings attached.

A fiscal snapshot released by the Government of Canada last week reported that when the pandemic began, roughly 2.9 million people in Canada were self-employed, equivalent to 15 percent of all workers.

By May, 40 percent of self-employed individuals said they had applied to CERB compared to 12 percent of private-sector employees and five percent in the public sector.

So, what comes next for Canadian content creators?
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Posted on August 19, 2020 at 1:00 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: , , ,

Halifax freelancer’s firing an unfortunate reminder to watch what you tweet

An incident in Halifax this week is a sad reminder to freelancers everywhere of the dangers of social media.

A long-time freelance arts reporter had their radio columns at CBC canceled over a crude tweet about the son of Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil.

CBC has in place Code of Conduct and Social Media policies that have been criticized as being too far-reaching when it comes to the right to free speech, not only for employees but for freelancers as well.

While freelancers are not considered to be employees of the CBC, its Code of Conduct makes it clear that the same standards apply to them and other contract workers.

But the precarious nature of freelance work means that independent workers are without the protections afforded by employment standards or collective agreements when they run into trouble over public posts.

The CBC’s Social Media Guidance document offers advice to anyone involved in broadcast journalism:
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Posted on August 14, 2020 at 10:00 pm by editor · 3 Comments · Tagged with: , ,

Pandemic University Offers Special Discount to CFG Members

If you’re looking for some professional development during the last few weeks of summer, you might want to browse the writing webinars available online through Pandemic University.

It’s a pop-up writing school for, and by, locked-down and quarantined writers. They’re offering suites of short and affordable creative writing classes online.

By taking their classes, you’re helping to support artists who’ve suffered financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes are just $20, but CFG has secured a discount for our members of 25%, so they would be just $15.

And, just as with the CFG’s professional development webinars, you’ll also be able to view a recording (and any tip sheets) from the webinar online after it’s over in case you couldn’t make the live session or want to watch it again.

If you are a CFG member and you’d like to take advantage of this discount, check your email for a message that was sent out on August 1 for the discount code. If you didn’t receive that message you can email for the code. For more information about the cost and benefits of membership in the CFG check out this webpage.

Just one more way The CFG is helping you to be the best freelancers you can be!

Posted on August 9, 2020 at 6:00 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT · Tagged with: ,

The Born Freelancer on Knowing When to Leave the Party

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.


In my last column I wrote about using the current crisis as a catalyst for change by moving into freelancing.

Today I want to explore the opposite side of the coin. Namely, using this crisis as a catalyst for change by leaving a freelancing career for a more conventional 9 to 5 one.

Heretical for a site devoted to freelancing?


Perhaps one of the best kept dirty little secrets of professional freelancing is this:

Many of us will need to take a break from it occasionally and some may never return.

To leave or not to leave: these are some questions

Part 1 – money
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Posted on August 5, 2020 at 9:42 pm by editor · One Comment · Tagged with: , , ,

People before protons: How to pitch a science story

by Monte Stewart

Yasmin Tayag, Tim Lougheed, Leah Geller and Mark Lowey

Tim Lougheed has been guarding his secret for years.

If he has his way, editors will never pry it out of him.

“To other people, I will call myself a science writer,” he said. “If I’m selling a story, I will never use that term.”

And Lougheed is adamant that he will not disclose his preferred subject area, either.

“The way to sell a science story is to never – ever, ever – use the word science,” said Lougheed, who is based in the Kingston, Ont., area. “I always lead [the pitch] with the story first.”

“I think: This is just a story. When you’re doing the pitch and you’re coming up with that lede, you put [the idea] together as if it would fit into any category whatsoever and say: This is a really cool story about why this angle does that.”

Such moves have paid off. Lougheed has been freelancing full-time about animal research, microscopes, isotopes, phosphorous, fuels and several other science-related matters for about three decades.

“I started with science, and it’s been very good to me – let’s put it that way,” said Lougheed, who was a staff writer with the Windsor Star, Sault Star and Queen’s University communications department before becoming self-employed in 1991.

New COVID-related freelancing opportunities

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Posted on July 28, 2020 at 8:55 pm by editor · LEAVE A COMMENT