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Steer yourself towards freelance success
Friday, January 13, 2012 (All day)

How do you define success? For freelance writers, it can be measured in many ways: More freedom, perhaps, or the chance to chart your own career course. That may be all the success you need.

But when it comes to cold, hard cash, so many freelancers fall short. In a 2009 survey for PWAC carried out by magazine industry consultant D.B. Scott, 60% of respondents said they earn less than $10,000 a year for their freelance work. By contrast, 64% of the salaried workers in the publishing field said they earn more than $30,000 a year.

There’s a small percentage of freelancers, however, who are doing quite all right, thank you very much. They are the 1%. That’s exactly the proportion, in fact, who reported earning more than $100,000.

Sadly, I’m not one of them. I plunged into freelancing in 2002 when I was laid off from Maclean’s Magazine. My wife was working half-time, and our son was still in diapers. My business savvy was just as infantile. Within a year, I was madly searching for the first salaried job I could find. I only returned to the freelance fold in 2007, when my wife had returned to full-time work and my son was in school.

Still, I’ve always wondered how “high net worth” freelancers do what they do. So last June, when PWAC Toronto’s board sat down to brainstorm seminar ideas for 2011-2012, I suggested “secrets of successful freelancers.” On Tuesday, Jan. 17, Toronto writers Camilla Cornell, I.J. Schecter and David Hayes will reveal what they’ve done to become among the city’s most accomplished, well-remunerated writers. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre at Spadina Avenue and Bloor Street.

In one respect, the “secret” is no secret at all: hard work. Cam told me recently that she wrote more than 50 stories last year for top Canadian consumer magazines such as More, Best Health and MoneySense. I.J. is an award-winning author and a humorist, ghostwriter, popular speaker and communications strategist. And David teaches a course on advanced feature writing at Ryerson University, is the author of four non-fiction books, and has written for respected publications such as Toronto Life, Reader’s Digest and New York Times Magazine.

On Jan. 17, all three panellists will share some of the strategies that have helped them earn comfortable incomes as freelance writers in Toronto. As we begin a new year, all of us at PWAC Toronto Chapter hope their wisdom will help you write long and prosper. Here’s to a successful 2012!

John Schofield is a Toronto-based writer and editor and an executive-at-large on the board of PWAC Toronto Chapter.

- John Schofield

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