The Born Freelancer Talks with Joe Mahoney, Author of Adventures in the Radio Trade

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.

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Joe Mahoney has seen both sides of the freelancing paradigm.

As a CBC Radio employee, engaged in diverse and demanding positions including management, he saw a multitude of freelancers come and go. Recently retired after 35 years with the CBC, today Mahoney faces a new series of challenges as a freelance or self-employed writer, publisher and podcaster.

The Born Freelancer Talks with Joe Mahoney, author of Adventures in the Radio Trade

The Born Freelancer: Hello Joe! Welcome to the world of freelancing. How’s it going?

Joe Mahoney: I’m focusing on my writing career, which I’ve always wanted to do. I love having the flexibility and ability to do that. My mornings are no longer rushed. I have time to walk the dog. There are things that need to get done outside of work that I now have time to do without worrying about an employer. So yes, I do prefer being self-employed. The money isn’t as good…yet…but I’m very fortunate in that I have a pension and a partner who works. And my plan is for the money to get better. If it doesn’t, it won’t be for the lack of effort.

The Born Freelancer: What mistakes do you think you made starting out in your new self-employed career?

Joe Mahoney: Gee, where do I begin? First off, I don’t beat myself up over mistakes. They’re all part of the learning process. I may have made a mistake incorporating my company, Donovan Street Press Inc. It’s a little pricey around income tax time. I’m told corporate tax is challenging to do yourself so I’ve gone with an accountant, which is a greater drain on my self-employed finances than I’d like to see. But whether it’s really a mistake or not remains to be seen.

The Born Freelancer: Any mistakes regarding writing and publishing specifically?

Joe Mahoney: It’s easy to spend way too much money advertising and promoting your work. The problem is you don’t know what works and what doesn’t work when you first start out, so the temptation to throw money at Amazon or Facebook Ads is too great. And you wind up spending more than you make.

The Born Freelancer: What revenue streams are you now pursuing or do you plan to pursue in the future?

Joe Mahoney: My main priority is my writing career. I released a book the day after I retired, Adventures in the Radio Trade. So that part of my plan was a success (though it’s yet to make its money back). I’m trying to finish another novel. It’s in four acts, like the Japanese Kishōtenketsu story structure (introduction, development, twist, conclusion). The first three acts are finished, I just have to finish the fourth.

Cover image of a memoir called Adventures in the Radio Trade

I’m also co-hosting and producing a podcast called Re-Creative with my friend and fellow writer Mark A. Rayner. It doesn’t generate any revenue (so far). The idea was that it would increase our profile and help book sales. Unfortunately, although we enjoy the podcast and plan to continue, it has not boosted book sales appreciably, at least as far as we can tell.

I’m exploring expanding Donovan Street Press Inc., seriously considering publishing books other than my own, as well as producing more podcasts. I’ve prepared a business plan to this end and am talking to a few people. That and my own writing are my two main pursuits at the moment.

The Born Freelancer: Full disclosure: This reporter paid for and thoroughly enjoyed a copy of your memoir of life “behind the scenes” at CBC Radio. I can highly recommend it. How did it come about?

Joe Mahoney: Thank you, glad you enjoyed Adventures in the Radio Trade! I’ve always been in the habit of writing down anything interesting that happened to me. A lot of interesting stuff has happened to me at the CBC, and it all got written down. When blogs became a thing, a lot (not all, but a lot) of that material wound up in a blog. One day a friend, Karina Bates, suggested I turn it into a book, so I did, digging up old notes, and expanding on existing material.

The Born Freelancer: But why self-publish?

Joe Mahoney: I decided to self-publish it because after putting together and publishing both my own collection of short stories (Other Times and Places) and my father’s collection (The Deer Yard and Other Stories) I knew how. Also, I had learned that when other people publish your stuff, through no fault of their own but simply the exigencies of keeping a publishing company afloat, everyone else gets the lion share of the profits (of course, they assume all the risk up front). And after having the rights to my first novel, A Time and a Place, revert to me, I discovered that I REALLY LIKE having the rights to my own intellectual property. Plus, I knew that because I’m basically a nobody, I suspected that no publishing company would be interested in Adventures in the Radio Trade anyway. All that and the fact that by publishing it myself, I have complete creative control. I’m not averse to having someone else publish future work of mine, but I don’t regret publishing Adventures in the Radio Trade myself.

The Born Freelancer: What about the basic process itself?

Joe Mahoney: The process was time consuming but pretty straight forward. Write it, create the index, hire a book designer/cover artist, let them do their thing, upload the files to the distributors of your choice, acquire author copies, attempt to sell it, try not to lose your shirt advertising it. Try to figure out how to turn it from an expensive hobby into something actually profitable. Still working on that last part.

The Born Freelancer: Let’s talk about creativity in general. What inspires you? How do you keep your creativity alive?

Joe Mahoney: I just keep trying to do creative things. I write. I make music (though not as much as I’d like). I make podcasts. I’ve made videos. I do it because it’s fun. I do the business related stuff, like tracking income versus expenses and that sort of thing, and I try to do it properly, but I also try to get through it as soon as possible so that I can get back to the fun stuff, the creative stuff. You will notice that I’m answering your questions the same night I got them because:

The Born Freelancer: Which sounds like an ideal segue! So how do you balance your professional and personal lives?

Joe Mahoney: I practise the three-legged stool school of balance. The three legs are: work, family, hobbies. Without any one of those, the stool falls over. When I work, I focus on work. When I family, I focus on family. When I hobby, I focus on that. My hobby used to be writing. Now that’s work. So my hobbies become music and karate. When it’s time to do family stuff, I give them all my attention. Ultimately, they’re the most important. And I’ve always tried to practise good mental hygiene. Think positive thoughts. I have no time for negativity. Sure, I succumb to it from time to time, but am always aware that I have to bust out of it. My family and I always think of Eeyore. We like Eeyore, but we don’t want to be Eeyores. If we catch someone Eeyoring, we say no Eeyoring!

An illustration of Eeyore the donkey saying "If it is a good morning, which I doubt"

The Born Freelancer: Finally, Joe, what new projects are you working on right now or do you hope to work on in the near future?

Joe Mahoney: I’m helping a couple of friends polish up their novels for publication. And I just finished mastering a CD for a talented harpist friend of mine. That was a lot of fun. My own big project these days is my novel, Captain’s Away. That’s my main focus right now, to get it written and out into the world, either traditionally published or otherwise. Then I will focus on growing Donovan Street Press Inc.

Many thanks to Joe Mahoney for answering our questions so fully and promptly.

Joe’s website contains information on how to order any of his books—as well as some of the funniest mock reviews to be found on any author’s website.

Posted on February 28, 2024 at 6:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: ,

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