5 ways to get paid as a freelance writer

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Last summer, I landed my first job out of college. The pay is good, but I continue to freelance. Why? Because I’m a natural-born hustler. However, in the past few months, I faced some difficult decisions. I let go a client because 1) I wasn’t getting paid enough and 2) The work was no longer fulfilling or challenging. I felt stifled. My decision to leave paid off because I can now focus my attention on the topics I’m most passionate about.

When 2016 rolled around, I set some clear guidelines for myself: 1) Pitch better-paying publications, 2) Do not write for anything less than three digits, and 3) Do not write for free—period. I’m at a place in my career where I want to write smarter. Why write 20 stories a month for $30 each when you can write a fraction of stories for a lot more money?

Since I’ve been writing professionally, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve provided my services for free. Luckily, most of those writing gigs turned into paid ones, but it’s not a chance I’d take today. My time and words are too valuable.

Today I’m spilling all the secrets…and some tea when it comes to getting that fetti as a freelancer. Get comfy and grab a notepad because like Bey said, “Best revenge is yo paper.”

  1. Don’t beat around the bush.

An editor with good intentions will tell you the moment after accepting your pitch whether you will be paid, but don’t count on it. Don’t make the mistake of letting too many emails go by without popping the question. After reaching an agreement about the story’s details, it’s time to get that paper. You can say something along the lines of, “I look forward to writing a great story that you and your readers will enjoy. May I ask, what is your budget for this story?” Tasteful, but you still get your point across. A legitimate publication will throw out a clear amount. Can’t get a straight answer? Take that as a sign and move on.

  1. Do your research. 

One of my favorite websites is Who Pays Writers? because freelance writers can anonymously post what publications pay writers and if so, how much. Type in the publication you want to write for in the search box and watch the results pour in. Not only can you see how much that publication pays its writers, but you can also find out how long it took to receive payment, length of the piece, platform (online, print, etc.), extent of reporting involved, whether there was a contract, etc.

Let’s say you learn that the publication you want to pitch pays $250 per article, but you’re only offered $125. Instead of accepting the first number thrown your way, you can bargain. Who Pays Writers is great because it levels out the playing field between editors and the writers who pitch them.

  1. Always renegotiate. 

Whenever the New Year rolls around, I renegotiate my rates. Lots of folks shy away from asking for a raise. Just do it! The worst your editor can say is no. Not sure how to ask for one? Here’s an example that recently worked for me:

Dear XXX,

As a contributor for XXX, I’ve taken on the long-form features that tackle the tough topics, including A, B, C, D, and my most-recent story that focused on E. But, there is more reporting and investigative work required to complete these types of pieces from researching the topic to conducting and transcribing multiple interviews. As you know, I am currently being paid XXX per article, but I’m asking for a raise that XXX’s budget will allow. I’d like to earn XXX per story. Is this possible? Thank you so much for your consideration. I’ve enjoyed writing for XXX and working with you these past couple years and look forward to many more!

  1. Establish a contract.

Many publications these days prefer to make verbal agreements rather than writing up an actual contract. Why are contracts important? They protect you and the publication you’re writing for. If months go by and you haven’t been paid (this happened to me…I ended up getting paid but still…), at least you can feel secure knowing you’ve got a contract somewhere. Emails are nice, but how well do they hold up in court? I don’t know.

If your editor doesn’t mention a contract, ask for one. It doesn’t have to be long. Most of the contracts I’ve signed tend to be around two pages. Or, draw up your own for a publication you don’t already have a formal contract with using Contractually.

  1. Look at the bigger picture.

Getting checks in the mail doesn’t mean you’re getting ahead. Without dropping names, I’ll give an example. I once wrote for a publication that paid less than $100 per month. I produced close to eight pieces every month and each post was anywhere from 800 to 1,500 words. When you break it down, I was taken advantage of, but you live and learn, right? Always ask yourself: “Is the amount of time I spent writing and researching this story reflective in my paycheck?” If the answer is no, you may want to rethink your situation.

Missing Mama On Mother’s Day? Here’s How to Cope

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It leaves a void that cannot be filled no matter how many years or decades pass by. Losing a mother is essentially like losing your first love, and one of the greatest people you’ll ever know, all at once.

Former journalist and public relations executive L.K. Alexander-Bedford knows this feeling firsthand. She lost her mother when she was only 11 years old.

Now in her early seventies, Alexander-Bedford is the author of Straight from the Heart and Spirit of a Mother, a book full of sage wisdom and advice aimed at women who, like her, struggle with the pain that comes with losing a mother.

Straight from the Heart and Spirit of a Mother is intended to help motherless daughters draw comfort and strength on occasions, such as Mother’s Day, when it can be incredibly difficult to push forward.

“I wanted to be the kind of woman I know my mother would’ve continued to be had she lived,” Alexander-Bedford explains. “I received calls from other women, who told me how much my book helped them, but I didn’t realize that my book was also a savior for me.”

1.    Expect and accept.

Over time, the pain of losing your mother will subside, but you’ll never get over her death. Expect that there will be days when you feel strong and other days when you can barely hold it together because you miss her. Accept that all these emotions are OK. “Your mother’s death is not an easy thing to get over. It takes time and you need to give yourself that time,” says Alexander-Bedford. “However, know that your mother would want you to move on and, with that, expect that your future will be better.”

Read the entire story at [EBONY].

High marks continue for WCC’s charter high school

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When students want to jumpstart their future, they choose the Washtenaw Technical Middle College (WTMC) at Washtenaw Community College.

There, they can earn a high school diploma and a technical career certificate and/or associate degree, saving lots of time and money in the process. It’s one of the many reasons why Metro Parent magazine recently named WTMC as one of the five top-rated charter schools in southeast Michigan. It wasn’t the first general circulation publication to recognize the school’s academic standing. Newsweek Magazine rated it the seventh best public high school in the country in 2014.

At WTMC, students can choose from more than 100 programs at WCC, including accounting, broadcast arts and pre-engineering. Furthermore, students are encouraged to get involved on campus and take part in WCC’s clubs and organizations or start one themselves. They also have access to WCC’s student support services, such as academic advising, career services advising and tutoring.

“We help prepare students so they can become successful in college and the workplace,” said Dr. Karl Covert, dean and superintendent of WTMC. “It’s also an opportunity for them to explore a career path that may be of interest to them. In addition, if a four-year degree is something they want to pursue, they will enter with more than 60 credits.”

Housed in WCC’s Technical and Industrial building, WTMC enrolls 600 students from more than 30 different school districts and five counties. The school has a 96 percent graduation rate and last year, WTMC students completed 11,000 college credits with a grade point average of 3.5.

According to Covert, WTMC is a publicly funded institution that gets its funding directly from the State of Michigan’s “foundation grant” for K-12 schools. He adds that a small amount of federal education funding helps with students who have special needs. As a Public School Academy chartered by the college, WTMC receives state funding on a per-pupil basis, just like every other school in Michigan.

Because WTMC is its own school district, students must first apply to get accepted into the middle college. Afterward, they must take four 80-minute courses during the first semester to assess their skills in math, science, English, and critical reading and thinking. Students attend classes Monday through Friday for 15 weeks in the fall and winter and seven weeks in the spring.

The curriculum focuses on skill development rather than credit completion, emphasizing both hard (academic) and soft (life management) skills. The students, when they have learned and demonstrated college skills, transition into college courses.

Covert emphasizes that having a college class schedule allows students to develop other skills. “In addition to classes, our students are highly involved around campus and within the community itself, so they learn how to prioritize and successfully balance multiple responsibilities,” he said. “When they graduate from WTMC, they’re leaving with lifelong skills.”

WTMC graduate Hannah Metler, who works as a website designer at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor and owns her own photography business, first learned of WTMC through her brother who graduated from the program.

“My experience at WTMC was everything I needed it to be. I wasn’t getting what I needed from my high school, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without WTMC,” Metler said. “The knowledge I’ve gained and the opportunities I was afforded is something I will always value.”

As the largest middle college in the U.S. and the second oldest in the state, WTMC has set the bar high for the past 19 years. The relevant programs of study and realistic preparation for college can’t be beat.

“The quality of education here is superb,” Covert said. “We have a talented, compassionate cohort of teachers and staff and our students overwhelmingly feel fortunate to be here. This is a great opportunity for students.”

To learn more about the Washtenaw Technical Middle College at WCC, visit themiddlecollege.org.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

For Washtenaw, a rosy outlook

Richard Wallace (left) and Dr. George Fulton speak at the Washtenaw Economic Club luncheon. Photo by Lynn Monson

Richard Wallace (left) and Dr. George Fulton speak at the 31st annual Washtenaw Economic Club Luncheon. Photo by Lynn Monson

For the past 31 years, Dr. George A. Fulton, research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy and director of the Center for Labor Market Research, has peered into Washtenaw County’s economic future.

More often than not, he’s been right on the money, pun intended, and this year was no exception. For the 250 local business executives attending the Washtenaw Economic Club’s 31st annual Economic Forecast luncheon at Washtenaw Community College, it was all good news. Fulton told the crowd that the county is approaching full employment.

“The upward trend in Washtenaw County will continue over the next three years,” Fulton said.

Washtenaw County can expect 10,594 new jobs by 2018 and the unemployment rate is forecasted at 2.5 percent, which would be the lowest since 2000, according to Fulton. Also, in the next three years, Washtenaw County is expected to re-gain 73 percent of the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession at the end of the last decade.

Other highlights include:

• Growth in U.S. GDP forecasted at 2.3 percent (2016), 2.8 percent (2017), and 2.5 percent (2018)
• U.S. Light Vehicle Sales for the Detroit Big Three forecasted at 44.2 percent (2016) of total sales and 44.5 percent (2017-18)
• Average Annual Change in Real Wage in Washtenaw County will be 2 percent, with the higher education service industries at 2.1 percent and blue collar at 1.3 percent over the next three years.
• CPI Inflation Rate for the Detroit region to increase from 1.1 percent in 2016 to 2.3 percent in 2017 to 2.4 percent in 2018.

Fulton was joined by Richard Wallace, director of the Center for Automotive Research’s Transportation Systems Analysis group, who shared his insight into autonomous vehicles and the role they will play in the economy.

After playing a video that showed examples of autonomous vehicles, Wallace noted that this sophisticated technology is already here but that it will take some time before most vehicles on the road would be self-driving. “But it’s coming,” he said. “Apple is working on it now.”

“To move forward with this technology, we need a highly skilled and highly trained workforce,” Wallace said.

WCC, along with The Ann Arbor News (MLive), Bank of Ann Arbor, International Transactions Clinic, and Old National Bank, sponsored the event.

The college hosts four Washtenaw Economic Club luncheons throughout the year.

For more information about the Washtenaw Economic Club and upcoming events, visit wec.wccnet.edu.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

A passion for student success

Bill Reichert, 73, is a favorite faculty member of many Washtenaw Community College students. Photo by Lynn Monson

Bill Reichert, 73, is a favorite faculty member of many Washtenaw Community College. Photo by Lynn Monson

Washtenaw Community College Faculty member Bill Reichert, who teaches computer networking and systems technologies, is well-known among students. They really like him and aren’t bashful about saying so.

WCC President Rose B. Bellanca found that out at one of the recent luncheons she hosts for students.

What’s his recipe for success?

“Knowing your material really well and presenting it with enthusiasm; accommodating students while getting to know them personally; and staying current are all things that have worked for me,” he said.

Reichert, a graduate of Purdue University, who majored in mechanical engineering, is all for changing with the times, including conducting on-line classes, which can better work around student jobs, family obligations, etc., but he’s quick to acknowledge that he prefers the face-to-face interaction with his students.

“It’s challenging to try and build a relationship with students through an online course when you hardly see them, if ever,” he said. “There’s nothing like the instant gratification I get when seeing a light bulb go off in someone’s head during a lecture or when a student tells me how much they enjoyed a lab after class.”

Although Reichert’s dedication to help students succeed is relentless – he writes each 30-to-50-page lab from scratch, his passion for teaching came a little later in life.

Prior to joining WCC, Reichert worked as a senior facility engineer at General Motors (GM) for more than 30 years. After first retiring in 1995, he became interested in computers and started taking courses at WCC, earning several associate degrees and certificates in the process.

When Reichert retired from GM for a second time in 1999, WCC seized the opportunity and offered Reichert a part-time teaching position the following year, which he gladly accepted. Less than a year later, he came on board fulltime.

“Making the transition from working 12-hour days seven days a week (at General Motors) to teaching, where your schedule is somewhat less grueling time-wise, takes some getting used to, but I love working at WCC,” Reichert said. “Everyone here is very supportive from the folks in IT to the deans and department chairs to (WCC President) Dr. (Rose B.) Bellanca. It’s a great feeling to be recognized by your peers and praised by your students.”

As for Reichert’s teaching style? He takes a hands-on approach. “While certification tests are certainly important, I feel it’s more beneficial to teach the actual skills they’re going to use in the real world so they’re job ready,” he said.

He even takes the time to incorporate students’ suggestions into his labs, lectures and lesson plans.

At 73, it may be surprising to learn that Reichert doesn’t plan to retire soon. “I feel I have a responsibility to give back by sharing what I’ve learned with students, so they can go on to land great jobs,” he said. “I’ve had students come back years later and share their success with me. As an educator, there’s no greater satisfaction.”

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

An artistic touch by WCC students

Students and visors check out displays at this year's Student Art Show. Photo by Jessica Bibbee.

Students and visitors check out displays at this year’s Student Art Show. Photo by Jessica Bibbee

The Washtenaw Community College Student Center was transformed into an art gallery when more than 100 pieces of student art were recently on display at this year’s Washtenaw Community College’s Student Art Show.

Works encompassing 2D, 3D and digital arts from a wide variety of WCC courses were selected, including Life Drawing I (ART 127), Ceramics II (ART 128), and Black and White Photography (PHO 129).

The artwork was on display from March 3-31, and a reception was held on March 16 with awards announced later that evening. WCC faculty, staff and students, along with community members were among those in attendance.

First place winners were: Irene Mokra (2D Art – Life Drawing), Adam Rogozinski (3D Art – 3D Design), and Karolina Kocovska (Digital Media Art – Photography).

Michael Benedict, art faculty member from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School; Siyang Ziui Chen from the University of Michigan – MFA; Christina Czaja, art educator at Lincoln Consolidated Schools; Tom DeMay Jr., principal owner and co-creative director of Octane Design firm in Royal Oak; and Lynne Settles, visual arts teacher from Ypsilanti Community High School all served as jurors at the art show.

“The art show is about and for the WCC art students. We wanted to give our students a professionally juried show. An objective look at a subjective subject,” said Belinda McGuire, WCC art faculty member. “Our students have displayed tremendous personal growth through their art. The art faculty, staff and administration at WCC are extremely proud of the volume and quality of art that our students produced.”

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

WCC’s Chinese ‘ambassador’

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Photo by Jessica Bibbee

Take a look around at nearly every Washtenaw Community College campus event and chances are, you’ll see economics major Nina Pu there smiling, greeting and engaging with the crowd.

Pu, who works at the WCC Student Activities Office (SAO), has only lived in the U.S. for two years, but her English is nearly perfect.

After calling Shanghai, China home for nearly 20 years, Pu’s husband accepted a job offer that would take them 12,000 miles across the world to Maryland. Less than a year later, it was time to move again, this time to the Ann Arbor area where Pu’s husband accepted another job offer.

Taking ESL courses here and in Maryland certainly helped, but Pu credits her love for American television shows, such as “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” for picking up English so fast.

“It’s not enough just to take classes,” she said. “If you want to efficiently learn a new language, you have to push yourself, and that doesn’t always mean speaking with someone else in that language. In my case, watching television and having it on in the background helped tremendously.”

Although Pu has come a long way since her first days in the U.S., the self-proclaimed people person remembers a time when communication was a problem. So, she started a campus ESL Club. The decision to do so came almost immediately after a lunch with WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca.

“Dr. Bellanca asked us, ‘What would you do if you were president,’” Pu recalled. “I explained to her that I still kept in touch with the people who were in my ESL classes and noticed that many of them were still stuck in the introduction class. I proposed the idea of having an ESL Club because I think it would help them want to socialize more and learn English faster.

“She was extremely supportive and encouraging. We’ve had a few meetings so far and all were well attended.”

According to WCC’s ESL Club website, the organization strives to promote ESL students’ social integration and cultural assimilation through language learning and American cultural exchange. There are movie and game nights and local field trips, but there’s a small catch: Students are required to speak English only during these events.

“As Club President, my hope is that by speaking English outside the classroom, students will start to build interest in the language, which helps them learn faster,” Pu said.

Being a full-time student, SAO employee and ESL Club president, Pu has her hands full but doesn’t mind.

“My job at the Student Activities Office means a lot to me because I discovered that I have a creative side. Creativity isn’t encouraged back home,” she said. “I also overcame my fear of communicating with people in English.”

One of Pu’s first assignments at SAO? Making more than 100 phone calls to students when registration rolled around – something that terrified her then but not anymore. “I look forward to it now,” she said.

Next January, Pu will transfer to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she’ll pursue a bachelor’s in economics with a minor in business. And it seems that her work at SAO is rubbing off – she’s deciding on whether to become a businesswoman, marketing manager or event coordinator for a college, but confident she’ll “figure it out soon.”

“WCC has and continues to be a wonderful place to start my college journey,” Pu said.

“During my time here, I found myself because I didn’t know who I was in China. I’ve begun tapping into my potential and can’t wait to see what else I can accomplish.”

The ESL Club meets monthly in the Business Education building. The next meeting is scheduled on Wednesday, April 20 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. For more information about the ESL Club, visit orgsync.com/130757/chapter.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.