Meet this week’s “female freelancer” — Daliah Singer, a Denver, Colorado-based journalist. The summer after Daliah and I graduated from college (she from University of Denver and I from CU-Boulder), we met while interning at 5280 Magazine in Denver. We sat next to each other and spent our summer writing and fact-checking stories, along with helping research large packages for the magazine. Daliah went on to work as an editor for 5280 for nearly 8 years before becoming a full-time freelancer.
I’ve always loved reading Daliah’s stories; she’s kept me in the loop with what has been happening back in my old stomping grounds. And as she has become a full-time freelancer, it’s been so exciting to see her byline on sites I love reading like Tasting Table, Time Out and USA Today.
Publications worked with: 10Best, 5280, Alaska, Denver Business Journal, The Denver Post, GearJunkie, Hemispheres, October, Outside, Smarter Travel, Tasting Table, Time Out, USA Today
1. What did you do before you launched your freelance career?
I worked full-time at 5280, Denver’s city and regional magazine, for seven-and-a-half years before going freelance in December 2016. (I’m still a contributing editor at the pub.)
2. How did you get started in the freelance world?
I kind of just jumped in and started pitching anywhere and everywhere. I set publication and monetary goals, read a lot of blogs by people who’d transitioned to freelance, and learned through trial and error. My first freelance article was for Outside’s website, but I spent a lot of my first year writing stories for 5280 and smaller pieces here and there for various websites and alumni magazines.
3. What was your “big break”?
I don’t think I’ve had my big break yet—and I’m also not quite sure what a “big break” will look like for me. I have definitely expanded into more national work this year, with stories in Tasting Table and Hemispheres and a couple of others slated to publish in the next month or so.
4. As a self-employed journalist, what is an ongoing challenge for you?
Time-management and motivation. I’ve played around a lot with my schedule, trying to figure out the best way to make sure I’m on top of a wide range of deadlines (front quick-hit web stories to longer magazine profiles to service packages), while also making time to research, pitch, and do all the admin stuff, such as invoicing and taxes. I’ve also discovered that working from home, alone and without the white noise that comes with an office or coffee shop, doesn’t inspire me. I end up staring at my screen a lot — or spending way too much time on social media. I’m trying to get out of the house more, whether it’s to work somewhere else or just go for a walk and take a break from technology.
5. What is a project you recently worked on that makes you proud?
I’m proud of my recent story in Hemispheres, on a new spirit being made in Patagonia. I came across it AT an event hosted by a friend. I crafted a good pitch, it was assigned, and I spent a lot of time writing it even though it was a short piece. My editor’S BOSS said it WAS one of his favorite drink stories they’ve run in a while. You deal with rejection lot as a freelancer, so to have a story smoothly follow the traditional process was really enjoyable. And it’s cool that there was a magazine with my name in it flying all over the world.
6. How do you keep yourself abreast of trends and news in the ever-evolving media industry?
I’m terrible at this! I’m signed up for newsletters from Folio:, Poynter, Reliable Sources, and a couple of others. I also try to keep up with my friends on social media — I have a Twitter list just for media folks — so I can peek in once in a while and see what they’re talking about. In general, though, I feel like there’s no way to keep up with any news these days. Things are moving too fast. For that reason, I always triple check, via Twitter, LinkedIn, or other means, whether the editor I’m pitching still works for the publication; magazine websites often aren’t up-to-date either!
7. What are some of your favorite tools as a journalist?
Another area where I’m behind. I’ve read a lot of articles about what apps other journalists can’t live without, but sometimes it seems like the technology just creates more work — one more place to record this or that. I rely mostly on a paper and pen, or type notes on my computer if it’s a phone interview. I hate transcribing, so I try to avoid using my recorder unless it’s a sensitive interview, one with really detailed information (like for a health story), or I know it’s going to run super long. I started using Airtable this year to track all of my projects and pitches, and I like it a lot. I use Wave for invoicing. QuickBooks has probably been the most valuable tool because, as I quickly discovered, trying to figure out self-employed taxes on your own is basically impossible.
8. How do you keep yourself inspired to brainstorm and pitch new story ideas?
I find that pitching in the morning or setting aside a particular day of the week to pitch helps. It’s a new day where I can start fresh. You have to have thick skin and not take rejections personally; some days I’m better at taking my own advice than others. There are plenty of occasions where I’ve thought to myself that I’m never going to have an original idea again. Going for a walk or just taking a break from work typically helps. Oftentimes, ideas come to me when I’m chatting with a friend or reading an article or hiking in the mountains. There are stories everywhere, and sometimes it helps to stop thinking that you need to find a story and instead just turn your brain off and let them come to you.
9. What do you do in your spare time to unwind from work?
As a journalist, it’s hard to turn your brain off and stop thinking of story ideas (see above), so I try to unwind with things that require my full attention. I enjoy working out, cooking, watching movies, spending time outside (hiking, skiing, etc.), reading novels (aka, nothing like what I write), and hanging out with friends.
10. What advice do you have for women who want to become a freelance journalist?
Go for it. I’m all about taking risks. But know that it’s a tough path. You need to prepare for a lot of uncertainty and frustration. You picked a tough career and trying to succeed on your own adds another layer of complexity. The freedom to design your own schedule, choose who you write for and what you write about, and create the career you want is a pretty big payoff, though. Just jump in with both eyes open.