Freelance Blog + writing

5 Q's with Stephanie Dickison (& a Book Giveaway!)

Stephanie Dickison is a freelance writer and the author of the recently released book, The 30-Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy About Writing And Working from Home. Stephanie and her publisher have graciously offered free copies of her book to two lucky Urban Muse readers, so be sure to read to the bottom for details on how to win! For now, here's how Stephanie approaches her writing projects and working from home.

Urban Muse: So, Stephanie, tell us how your book came to fruition.
The book happened because throughout my over a decade long career as a freelance writer, I had been a pop culture, book and music critic. While working 2 jobs and writing in the evenings and on weekends, I started working on a book about the recent history of pop music. After 5 long years of research I completed it and started shopping it around. An editor at ECW Press read it and liked the writing style, but thought the book would work better as columns. She asked if I had any other ideas. I had a bunch but I'd always wanted to read a behind-the-scenes book about the writing life, no holds barred, secrets revealed, truths unfurled and photos if possible, and luckily the editor and publisher thought it was a good idea too.

UM: Did you uncounter any surprises as you were working on the manuscript or did it play out the way you'd expected?
As this was my first book working with an editor, what happened with me was what I started out with and how it finished were 2 different things, yet the essence, style, heart and meaning all remained. It just kind of got shuffled and reshuffled until the unnecessary parts got whisked away and what was left was hopefully the good stuff, the funny stuff and the stories that will let people in on the life of a freelance writer and all the havoc and hilarity that follows.

UM: Many of my readers are aspiring freelancers. Any tips for those who are hoping to dip their feet in the freelance pool?
For those wanting to freelance, I say work at it and do it for the love of writing and not for the money. I enjoy freelancing because it allows me to write about a number of different topics in a variety of formats, so I don't feel like I'm "churning out" articles. But as many freelancers will tell you, I think, it is a struggle to keep the work coming in continually and its work to invoice each publication and follow up being paid. You never know when and where your work is coming from and when the money will arrive, so it's never boring!

I started when I had a full-time job so that I could simply apply for the work I wanted without having to worry about the money. Going freelance full-time takes huge guts and faith - somehow you've got to pay the rent/mortgage every month, so you have to make sure you've got enough work to cover it, but not so much that you can't honour your deadlines.

I say follow your heart and your dreams - if you're tentative, stick with doing it part-time while you have a regular pay check to count on. If you want to go full-time, have some savings set aside to get you through the lean times, and be sure that you have a dedicated space set up either at home or at an office - treat your writing with respect and as you would any other job.

I also think reading about freelancing (like my book for instance... ) talking to freelance writers and taking courses about how to set up a home business or writing for magazines etc., can go a long way in helping you with the transition.

And as difficult as it may sound here, it really is the best job in the world. Once you get the hang of being your own boss, perhaps sleeping and writing in the same room (as I do) and writing for a bunch of different outlets and keeping track of them all, I think you'll find it can be extremely rewarding (as I do).

UM: And what about those freelancers who living "the dream" but need to bust out of a rut?
For me, it can be hard if I'm at home writing to deadline for a week or two without much outside stimulation. I try to incorporate daily walks into my schedule, even if it's just half an hour. Crunched over my desk typing like a fiend for 14 hours a day can make for a cranky body and mind. The other thing that I do is I work evenings and weekends, which I am forever trying to change, but with the book, I found I needed the time to work on other aspects of my career - applying for more work, promoting, blogging - but my goal is to not work on one of those days at least.

Ruts happen because we get used to, or stuck, in our routines. Take your laptop to a sunny café, get up early and finish at noon and take the rest of the day off. It is in replenishing yourself with things outside of work that will help you push through the tight deadlines and high demands of running your own business.

In other words, change it up.

UM: In your opinion, what is the best/worst part of freelancing?
There are so many joys and rewards to freelancing, many of which I've already mentioned. I really do feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have this opportunity to do what I love and be mentally and creatively stimulated and satisfied on a daily basis

The hard parts are getting away from it - especially if you work from home, giving up certain social activities for deadlines on long weekends or Sundays, for example, and striving to challenge yourself with each piece and not just whisking something off quickly because it's due or being lazy and writing in your same ol’ patterns.

But really, I think these are fine problems to have. After all, the writing life is the best life of all.

Want to win a free copy of The 30-Second Commute? Leave a comment between now and June 15, 2009. Be sure to include your email address so I can contact the two winners, who will be randomly selected using's integer selector. Good luck!

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5 Q's with Stephanie Dickison (& a Book Giveaway!) + writing