My Year In Review — 2016

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This past year was my first full tax year of going out on my own. This means I’ll be looking at the work I’ve done over the past year and assessing what stories I enjoyed writing, what publications I value, and what other projects (marketing, social media management, public relations, etc.) enriched my work life. Here’s a little look at my year in review …

Journalism

Locally, I wrote stories for Central Virginia Home, Charlottesville Home, R•Home, Richmond Magazine, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Roanoke Valley Home, Style Weekly, and Virginia Living. I’ve been blogging weekly for The Knot’s site and writing stories for their biannual DC/MD/VA print issue. I just started blogging frequently for the Swedish-American publication Umgås Magazine, and have been enjoying that gig as it combines journalism with my passion for Scandinavian culture. My lifestyle stories also were featured on Racked and The Scout Guide’s blog.

Copy Editing

I’ve continued in my role as copy editor for The Scout Guide, editing their 60-some city publications before they head to the printer. Through Vitamin T, I was connected with Richmond-based Barber Martin Agency, where I helped copy edit print and broadcast advertising copy as a temp worker. Copy editing allows me to embrace my inner OCD nature. My first copy editing gig was at Media General’s Consolidated Editing Center in Lynchburg, Va., and I’m very happy to continue line editing in a freelance capacity.

Marketing / Content Writing

I’m excited to venture further into the marketing and copy writing world. Any agency’s looking for help? I’m here! This year I worked with Wells Fargo, WineCountry.com, NapaValley.com, Sonoma.com, and Shutterfly’s Wedding Paper Divas.

Public Relations

I work 10 to 20 hours a week with the University of Richmond’s Modlin Center for the Arts, where I write music center’s press releases and put together program copy. I’ve also been doing some side public relations for Richmond’s new CURRENT Art Fair and Reynolds Gallery.

Social Media Management

While managing the public relations for CURRENT Art Fair, I also ran their Instagram feed, and realized that social media management is a side gig I very much enjoy. As someone who lives on social media, I see what a powerful tool it is for story-telling and marketing.

In 2017, I’d like to:

  1. Have a more organized editorial calendar
  2. Write for new lifestyle publications
  3. Venture more into the copy writing world
  4. Write more about art, culture, design, food, and travel

A special thank you to everyone who has made 2016 a fruitful and exciting year!

xo, marissa

When To Say ‘No’ To Freelance Gigs

For your sanity, a few affirmative quotes about saying “no.”

Preface: This blog post is my reaction to MediaBistro’s story about saying no to bad freelance gigs. Recently I started being more selective about my freelance work, and by doing so felt liberated by my new “picky” perspective.

If you know me, you know I’m game for anything. This “team player” attitude is praised in the workplace, but being in the freelance world I have found that it is a double-edged sword. While being a “yes” woman has been beneficial — bringing in new work, connecting me to publications, and of course, paying the bills — I have found that “yes” isn’t always the answer.

Since graduating from college in 2009, I have freelanced in some capacity, but it wasn’t until June 2015 that it become my major source of income as I left the full-time workforce. This transition has caused me to say “yes” to (mostly) everything in hopes of creating a broader network and guarantee that I can live a decent lifestyle. Lately though, because of a stressful workload, I have realized that sometimes “no” is the answer.

I was saying “yes” to projects that I didn’t want to work on, and in turn I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and dread. I couldn’t sleep, and I felt overworked. After putting myself through this pain over and over again, I realized I was being crazy. Ultimately, the reason why I left the full-time workforce was to pursue my passion and to put myself in full control of my career path. [RIGHT?!] And, here I was burdening myself with projects. I was saying “yes” to writing stories that weren’t in line with my expertise or passion.

I hit a wall and realized I no longer should feel guilty about turning down work. I needed to set boundaries for myself. For my happiness. For my sanity. For my love of journalism.

I’m still working on it. Every “no” feels like a tiny victory, as I free myself from something that could weigh me down and push me down the wrong path. I remind myself where I’m going and what my destiny is, and in the end this helps me realize if a gig is worth it. That may sound ridiculously (and unnecessarily) existential, but I became a freelancer to guarantee that everything I did, every project I worked on, every story I wrote had some meaning either to the reader, and if not, at least for myself.

Things I’ve vowed to say no to:
  1. Poor pay
  2. Topics I can’t speak to / am not passionate about
  3. Editors / publications that are hard to work with
  4. Organizations I don’t connect with (for marketing / PR / communications gigs)
  5. New projects when I’m all booked up

I’d love to hear from fellow freelancers (others included!) how you go about accepting and denying work, and why. xo, marissa

New writing gig with The Knot

The Knot magazinesI’m excited as I start a new writing endeavor — working as The Knot’s DC/MD/VA correspondent. How coincidental and serendipitous is it that after immersing myself in the wedding industry for my wedding that I am blessed with this new gig? I’ll be writing real wedding content weekly for their website, along with stories for their biannual (spring/summer + fall/winter) print publication. I’m excited to be working with such a creative and brilliant team of women. Here’s to new chapters!
xo, marissa

What’s new: food writing + The Scout Guide

I have a few exciting journalism moments to report from the past month. I’ll be taking over the Richmond Times-Dispatch‘s weekly “Dining Out” column, which publishes on Thursdays in the Dining section. Each week I will visit a restaurant in Richmond and write about my experience — the food, drinks, service, people, ambiance, consistency, etc. Dana Craig has been writing the column for the past decade and I’m excited to fill her shoes. More from the Times-Dispatch on the transition here. My first column will run Thursday, July 24.

Also, earlier this month, I started copy editing for The Scout Guide, which is headquartered out of Charlottesville, Va. TSG has more than 50 publications in major cities across the country. I’ll be copy editing and fact checking their publications on a freelance basis.

In other news, a few of my Southern Living stories are slated for publication soon. Stay tuned!

xo, marissa

What’s new: Alcohol, art, travel + writing

Since January I have been hustling, learning a new full-time job and writing more freelance copy than ever. I’m feeling inspired, ambitious and hungry for more. There’s a fire in my belly to write new pieces, and more importantly, a drive to break out of my comfortable and habitual writing format.

Here are a few highlights from the past six months:

New job In January I made the very difficult decision to quit my job as Richmond mag’s associate editor and R•Home’s managing editor for a job as communications manager at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. At VisArts I wear many hats: I do public relations, marketing and branding, ad purchasing, graphic design, website and social media updating, among may other things that come my way in the form of communications. I couldn’t completely say goodbye to my former job, so I’m writing for Richmond, R•Home and Richmond Bride magazines on the side. (This reminds me: You should pick up the Summer 2014 issue of Richmond Bride mag to read my Q&A with couture wedding dress designer Aimee Lauren. She is creating exquisite gowns!)

Southern Living stories For nearly two years I’ve been freelancing for Southern Living, and in the past few months I’ve been working on a handful of travel and style stories for the publication. My pieces are slated for publication at the end of the summer and early in the fall. This writing gig is such a blessing. When I was at Boston University’s journalism school I remember seeing a travel journalism class and thinking “What a dream job.” Some days, I take a step back and look at what I’m writing for Southern Living and my heart just explodes. I grew up with the magazine on my parent’s coffee table and my mom taught me how to cook out of SL’s cookbooks. It’s beautiful to have many chapters in my life with this publication.

Paste magazine stories In April I started writing stories on the alcohol industry for Paste magazine. My pieces include features, lists, recipes, reviews and hopefully in the future a few personal essays. To see what I’m writing for Paste, click here.

Virginia Press Awards In early April I attended the VPAs. I knew I won an award but wasn’t sure what for specifically. Turns out R•Home mag won first place for cover design. I’m so happy to share the award with two of my favorite Richmond publishing ladies, Brandon Fox and Lee Hawkins. Lee Hawkins is an amazing, talented graphic designer who is forward-thinking and always knocks it out of the park with her designs at the VPAs. If you’ve ever picked up R•Home off the local newsstand you’ll know what I’m talking about: all Lee’s cover designs are winners.

Art stuff With my new job at VisArts I have been taking art classes. I just finished up a six-week Intro to Woodworking class and next week am starting a graphic design class to better my marketing skills. I’m enjoying these extracurricular classes because I’m using my brain and hands in a new way.

A few other exciting projects are on the horizon. Stay tuned! xo, marissa

What I’m Reading Lately

Marissa's magazines.jpgWhat I’ve been reading lately in the glossy print world …

Shelter
Anthology
Dwell
Elle Decor

Food
Bon Appetite
Everyday Food (sadly no longer going to be published in print)
Local Palate
various Edible publications

Region
Garden & Gun
Richmond magazine – duh
Southern Living – travel and recipes
Sunset – travel and recipes

Lady stuff
Bust
Cosmo – career section
Elle
Marie Claire – career section
Real Simple
Vogue

Health
Delicious Living
Natural Health
Whole Living (sadly no longer going to be published)

Smart Lifestyle
National Geographic
Vanity Fair – news features

Men stuff
M Magazine

What are you reading?

Figuring out freelancing

I’m in the process of transitioning to freelance-only and will make the big change for good on Dec. 1. From then on out I will be working strictly on a contract basis. So far so good as I’m starting to take on projects now. I’m finding a good balance between long-term, bigger projects and assignments with a quicker turn-around. This is helping me with multitasking: researching, writing and pitching — all simultaneously. I’m also finding a balance between writing stories for national publications and regional and city publications.

To prepare for freelancing full time, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about how to be a successful freelance writer and how to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit within myself. I’ve always associated the word entrepreneur with money, finance and business — things I’m terrible with. (When I see numbers, I feel like I’m trying to read letters with beer goggles on. It’s confusing for me.) But as it turns out, entrepreneurial means being a self-starter, self-motivated, etc. — and I am those things! (Minus anything having to do with money.) Through my research, I’m finding that there are a few parts of freelancing that make me a little nervous though.

Sunday night I felt a wave of anxiety hit. I spent the entire weekend cloistered in our apartment, reading, sitting on my laptop and glued to the TV watching zombies (Walking Dead + Call of Duty zombie mode), and realized that the next day was Monday and I’d be in my apartment again — alone, in the silence, working by myself. Panic hit and I realized that freelancing and working from home was going to be hard for me. I’m a loud extrovert who thrives on human interaction. How the heck was I going to be OK at home, alone, working every day when I get my energy from people? The idea of rolling out of bed, putting on my glasses, throwing my hair up and brewing a pot of coffee being the only part of my morning routine scared me. An entire pot of coffee later it would be 1 p.m. and I’d still be alone at home in my pajamas, writing, editing, pitching. And then at 4 p.m. maybe I’d decide to go to the gym or for a run. My day would be peppered with frequent breaks for fresh air and dog walks in my jammies. Maybe I’d walk to the mail box. Maybe I’d get dressed in real clothes. Maybe I’d grab coffee with a friend. That depressed me.

So, as these anxieties came to a head, I did what any other Gen Y kid would do — I looked for solace in my Twitter feed. And then, as if the Twitter gods heard my prayers, @forbes tweeted these 104 characters of inspiration: 7 reasons you should try freelancing. (Click here for blog post.) I clicked on the link and was instantly hooked. The journalist Susannah Breslin, who blogs regularly for Forbes, was doing a “30 days of freelancing” series. Perfect timing. I got so excited when reading her blog that I backtracked and started reading her entire series from the beginning (so far it’s a 19-part series). It was fantastic because she said everything with such frankness. For instance, freelancing is great for a certain type of person, and oftentimes it’s awful and you will fail. She laid everything out — the good, the bad, and the really bad.

One of her posts in the series mentioned what type of person should be a freelancer — someone who can handle failure, who is a self-starter and an introvert. My stomach dropped when I read the word “introvert.” This was my main hang up and here she verified it. I woke up Monday morning and emailed her my concern.

I’m 25 and am the editor of a regional women’s publication. I’m moving to freelance-only in the next month and so far I’ve been working hard to multi-task and rake in work before I take on freelancing full time.

My big hang up is that I’m a loud extrovert and I get my energy from people, interacting with humans and honestly, commotion. (I was that weird kid in college that used to study in the cafeteria.) I’m a self-starter, am great at taking rejection/failure and criticism, but am finding the worst part of freelancing is the silence … and being at home. I don’t want to have to go to a coffee shop every day and work from there (I can a few days a week). I also don’t want to have to throw down cash to belong to one of those office workspaces you rent. Do you have any exercises/activities you can suggest for the extrovert freelancer?

Susannah got right back to me via email and then responded to my problem via her blog entitled, “I want to work from home but I’m a big mouth.” (Click here to read the blog post.) Two things. First off, awesome title. Secondly, she really figured me out quickly. Susannah made me realize I can make it work. I just need to figure out how to tailor freelancing to my extrovert personality.

And on upside, on days when I’m cloistered in my apartment at least I have my dog and cat to talk to … (right?) … and Stacey and Clinton from What Not To Wear.

My first story

A decade ago, when I was 14 years old, I decided I was going to get a jumpstart on my dream of being a journalist. I didn’t want to wait for college; I was far too eager to wait four years. Also, my 60-student-per-grade day school didn’t have a school newspaper, so I had no choice but to pursue a journalism internship in town and hope I was given a chance. I had to scratch that itch. I had to find out if journalism was as romantic and exciting as the movies made it look.

So, I sent out an email from my Yahoo! account that had my birth year in the address — 1987. “Great,” I thought. “They’re going to see that I’m 14 and want nothing to do with me.” The magazine was Gulfshore Business, a publication based out of my hometown, Naples, Fla. I ended up getting the internship and spent my summer updating online archives and the magazine’s visitors’ annual publication. I also got to write my first story — a piece on business executives titled, “Great Getaways: Area execs head around the world for some R&R.”

I pulled out this story the other day when shuffling through all my clips in attempt to update this site. It’s been years since I read the story. Reading old clips is going back in time. It’s like reading old journal entries. Although, unlike old journal entries, this story makes me proud, not embarrassed.

This is the story’s lede:

With hectic schedules, hordes of e-mails and phone messages, and crucial meetings, area executives obviously can’t help but anticipate getting away from it all — at least for a few days. Some head to exotic locales; others escape to second homes. Those who force themselves to shut off the computer and not answer every call say they return rejuvenated and ready to delve back into business. We asked our local executives: Where are your favorite places to get away?