Though Teresa Pitman concedes it's challenging to make a decent living as a writer, the pros seem to outweigh the cons. To Pitman, those pros include the variety of work, meeting and interviewing passionate people, and having the flexibility to spend more time with her kids.
Name: Teresa Pitman
Profession: Freelance Writer
Twitter handle: @whattpwrites
Describe your typical work day, from start to finish
I like to start my day with a walk or weight-lifting. With that darn exercise thing out of the way, I can settle down in front of the computer. Every day is different and flexibility is important for me. I may have interviews or meetings scheduled, or I may spend most of my day writing, editing or revising. Some days there is more staring at a blank computer screen than I like to admit! It’s not unusual for work to leak into the evening hours as well.
When you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
I always loved words and loved reading; I think I always wanted to be a writer. I had a high school English teacher who convinced me that I couldn’t write well, and that’s why I majored in Chemistry at University. But you can’t stop a writer from writing, and I did go on to get a Magazine Journalism diploma as well.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety. I get to write about so many different things. Just today, for example, I interviewed a Theatre Arts professor about a fascinating theatre installation he is building, talked to a counselor who helps people whose pets are ill or injured, did an email interview about teens who ‘borrow’ stuff from their parents, edited an article about the challenges of the growing retail industry in the Baltic states, and worked on revising policies and procedures for a Children’s Aid Society. I meet amazing people who are passionate about what they are doing and I never get bored!
What do you find to be the biggest challenge in your profession?
The biggest challenge is money. Twenty-five years ago, a good rate for a magazine article was $1 a word. Today, a good rate for a magazine article is still $1 a word. Editors often want more research and sources for shorter articles – which means more work for less money. I'm not blaming magazine publishers, who are facing their own challenges and pressures, but it is certainly not easy to make a good living as a writer.
Do you believe you had a "calling" for your profession?
I'm not sure I know what a calling is. I do know that I love writing and it feels right for me.
What are the three most important pieces of career advice you would give to other Canadian Career Gals?
Find your tribe. By that I mean connect with others who can provide you with support and encouragement. Writing is a largely solitary work, and I wish I had joined groups like PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) earlier in my career. That connection with other writers has proven to be so valuable.
If you have children, remember that they grow up very, very quickly. One reason I opted for freelancing (rather than working on staff somewhere as a writer) was to have the flexibility to spend more time with my children, attend their games and plays, and head to the beach on a sunny weekday afternoon. Remember that saying – nobody ever wishes she’d spent more time at the office.
Be strategic about your career. I mention this because it's something I haven't done very well, and I've seen the results achieved by other people who have. I tend to just take an assignment because it looks interesting or fun or I like the editor, but I'd have better success if I had a plan in mind. (On the other hand, I might have less fun, so my way might work, too!)