04/01/16 11:04am


Erin Taylor is $1600 in the hole. And her situation isn’t due to anything unsavory, like a gambling debt or an unpaid credit card bill, but rather unpaid invoices. The longtime hairstylist, who recently left her day job at an on-demand beauty service to become a full-time freelancer, is simply waiting, and waiting, on her clients to pay her for work she completed more than 30 days ago.

“I wanted to work on-set, in fashion and in commercials, because it’s more my cup of tea,” says Taylor. “But I haven’t been paid for a couple of jobs going back as far as December. It’s hard to budget your life when you don’t know when the next payment is going to come”

Luckily for Taylor—and possibly millions of New Yorkers—she is a member of the Freelancers Union, a 21-year-old organization based in Brooklyn and committed to advancing the rights of freelancers. Currently, the union represents more than 300,000 freelancers throughout the United States, offering many of them health and dental insurance, retirement accounts, networking opportunities, educational workshops, and other resources and benefits.

But in 2016, the Freelancers Union could turn one of its long-standing causes into law. After enlisting New York City Councilmember Brad Lander as a sponsor in December, the Union is pushing the City Council to pass the “Freelance Isn’t Free” Act, a citywide ordinance that would finally give recourse to millions of independent workers throughout the U.S. when their NYC-based employers delay or fail to make a payment. (more…)

07/25/13 2:00pm

Screen shot 2013-07-24 at 6.48.00 PM

You’ve got to network. We’ve say it over and over again here at The Freelance Life, but that’s because it can make all the difference. Your run-of-the-mill literary networking means going to weird publishing parties in stuffy midtown buildings or attending happy hours while wearing a name tag (only to suffer through a white wine special), or slugging it out in the trenches (read: cramped uninteresting Murray Hill bars) in the name of meeting people. It means $11 for well bourbon. It means going to parties thrown by folks who are not living the freelance life. But it’s all to a great end, right? One great conversation can be all it takes.

Over the years I’ve found myself attending event after event, trying to decipher what makes one lit party more successful than another. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t always a hefty budget.

05/20/13 2:00pm

Occasionally as a freelancer you have to answer the question “What do I do with this extra cash?” Perhaps your side-career as an underwear model is ramping up or maybe the gigolo business you run from your apartment is becoming more socially acceptable. Maybe, you just got your tax return.  As much as you probably need a seersucker suit or an $800 bottle of wine, you must remember that the freelance writing world is competitive and sometimes the best thing to do with all those poker table winnings is to invest them back into yourself as a writer. Here are five sure bets.

1. A Co-Working Space

We’ve done the math, investing in a co-working space will save you money in the end if you work and drink coffee frequently.  Also, co-working spaces force you to work in a way that coffices don’t. Lastly, major networking moves can be made at these types of places.  But which one do I chose? Worry not, some brave writer at Brooklyn Based compiled reviews of many of the co-working spaces in Brooklyn.

04/16/13 10:01am
What's the email equivalent of the dead letter office?

What’s the email equivalent of the dead letter office?

What’s the hardest thing about being a writer? For some, it’s as simple as writing. I’ve spoken with professional writers who told me that they hate writing.  They describe the actual process as if they’re talking about digging graves. Then they tell me that it’s only the product of the work that they love. I can’t understand that for the life of me. I love to write, I’m happier the more writing I have to do.  For me, what makes writing difficult is everything is I write about on this blog: the whole freelance life. The business. Remembering to write certain things off, networking and emailing people over and over again. I hate rejection. If there is one single thing that I find to be the hardest part of this job it’s un-answered emails.

I could go insane if I still obsessed over every unanswered email the way I used to. I still obsess, but I take certain factors into consideration now. For instance, if your un-answered email was sent to an agency slush pile, it’s less like an email and more like you entered a contest. If you’ve no personal connection to the person you are emailing, don’t expect a quick or un-prodded response. Simply put: don’t expect too much.

03/29/13 9:14am

twitterpowerI’ve never been any good at Twitter. I find it so constrictive, so futile and so time consuming, yet I understand that it’s not going anywhere any time soon. The following is my attempt at regurgitating what I’ve learned so far about Twitter in order to help my fellow writers, and better this aspect of my freelance life.

Follow @jonreiss for more freelance tweets and check out my blog for a less constrictive rundown of my freelance life.

Having come across some free audible credits I’ve been listening to the book Twitter Power by Joel Comm. I recommend the audiobook version of this for two reasons. Blowing your reading time solely on a book about how to tweet better can cause you to have an existential breakdown, but when you’re walking from place to place listening to it, you don’t feel like such a slave to technology. Also, one version of the audiobook is expertly read by John Hodgman, whose dulcet monotone will lull you into self improvement before you even know it.

03/12/13 2:30pm

kindleI truly believed that it wasn’t going to catch on. “There, there” I’d say to authors with books on the verge of publication, “e-books will never be nearly as big a deal as real books.” Why was I so sure? For a few reasons, but mostly because I’ve always had an accurate cultural barometer, so since e-books didn’t interest me, why would they interest the world?

Here’s another reason why I wasn’t sold: The book is the cockroach of the media world–nothing can kill it.  When newspapers first became widespread, people said it would be the death of the book, same goes for magazines, same goes for TV and same goes for audio books.

Richard Nash of Red Lemonade and Small Demons made a great argument when I interviewed him a while back.  Many of us see the same book cover again and again on the subways and in parks and we wonder what it is that’s got so many people reading it. This is how bestsellers are often made.  When Kindles came out I said they were too ugly, that Amazon was keeping too tight a stranglehold on the market by forcing users to buy directly from their website.  Then, the iPad came out and I still didn’t buy it. “People will not read all their books on that,” I’d say, “that thing is primarily for playing Angry Birds.”

I’ll posit that, up to a point, I was right about the above. Up to a point, that is, because as the technology of e-readers gets better, the e-reader itself becomes more alluring. Still, I’ve resisted them with steadfast dedication.  I simply don’t want my book to come out without a physical copy.  I don’t. You can pump me full of nanotechnology and turn my blood cells into robot dongles, but please, don’t take my books.

Then, I got a Kindle as a gift.

It was totally free, someone somewhere had some kind of hook up. It’s been only about a month, but I’ve certainly re-calibrated my feelings about e-readers.  I’ve thus far read three books on my Kindle. The first two, Nicholson Baker’s House of Holes, and Chad Kultgen’s Men Women and Children, because I wanted to have both books the moment it occurred to me to read them. The third book, Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, because I did not want to pay the full cost of a book which I was reading because of a fleeting fascination with the Illuminati.

I feel as though the books I read on the Kindle are falling into two categories: books I’m reading because there’s some kind of specific knowledge I’m trying to glean from them (I’ve recently loaded a few how to-books on my Kindle), and books that I just can’t wait for. To be fair, the latter category I’m likely to buy the physical copy of as soon as it’s convenient.  Similarly, I believe periodicals could have an awesome future on e-readers. Partly because the price point doesn’t seem to come down as much as it does on books when made electronic.  Similarly, the audio book technology of switching from listening to reading, seems to have a promising future. Amazon neutered a lot of publishers by making the used books marketplace so prevalent. The most redeeming thing about e-books in my opinion, is that you can’t sell a used e-book (though this may soon change, too),  and that some money from e-book sales go into the author’s pocket.

As someone who writes about books as part of my livelihood, I often get send review copies and I’ve started to wish they came with digital versions as well–often I’m working on reading more books than I can carry.

Still there are some books that I simply will not read any other way than on paper. Joshua Mohr’s Fight Song, one of my favorite books of the new year is a great example.  The books that create a world that I cannot wait but envelop myself in, I need to hold them, I need to know what their cover looks like and how the pages are cut.

The point is, having an e-reader has altered my feelings about them.  However, I’m still not on board with switching from paper to digital entirely.  For textbooks, sure, absolutely. You buy a textbook to siphon the knowledge from it and move on, but for “1984,” absolutely not. And for “The Sun Also Rises”? I’d rather eat a sundae out of the kitchen sink.

I’ve always been a believer in not running and hiding from technology, but harnessing it, and understanding how to make it work for me. So it pains me to take a stand against e-readers, but I have one major concern about the effect they will have on publishing, authors, and books in general.

My biggest fear when it comes to e-books lies in the piracy problem.  The Pirate Bay’s e-book section is ever-growing.  I understand completely why people pirate, the problem is the types of people who pirate are often the types of people who buy books, the knowledge seekers, and many of them will go out and buy a book if they can’t find the Rapidshare link for it.  If publishing thrusts the entirety of their revenue into digital books, pirates will descend upon it like locusts. People will never stop reading paper books entirely, unless forced.  So don’t give up. Restructure, the model and print fewer books, but don’t give up on physical books.  I do not believe in replacing books with 1’s and 0’s and the prettiest, most advanced, free e-reading device would not sway me otherwise.

For more on my Freelance Life follow me on Twitter and check out my blog, jonreiss.tumblr.com.

02/26/13 7:43pm

Did you miss "The Vanishers" in 2012?

The internet is a big mush. Curating all that exists on it, be it books, music or video is endless task.  Nobody really understands how to advertise art anymore.  For instance, if you’ve got a new book out and small budget to spend on publicity, where should it go?  Are subway ads effective?  Should you keep that money and just advertise through social networks? To publicize her most recent novel, author Jennifer Belle actually hired actors to station themselves in crowded areas throughout the city and laugh boisterously while reading her book.  But with Kindles and iPads, how can you know what the person sitting across from you is laughing at so boisterously?

Yet, one there is one thing that remains effective at getting folks to buy books: lists.

If I had it my way, I’d make a best of list, for every quarter of the year. As is, even mid-year lists are considered a bit much.  Nonetheless, some of my favorite writers have new books coming out in the next few months, which I will be writing about for BB, so keep an eye out. Before I unveil these new favorites, though, I’d like to look back at the best books of 2012, and give you, and me, a chance to catch up on any required reading you may have missed.

02/11/13 9:25am

Joshua Mohr has a new novel coming out and Jon Reiss is preparing to interview him.
As a freelance writer one of my favorite work-related activities has been interviewing writers, musicians and actors.  I’ve been fortunate enough to conducted interviews of all stripes: firing off questions at Fred Armisen on a red carpet, having a laid back phone conversation with Bad Brains, trying to get a quick quote out Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at a party and having him tell me to basically go and do dirty things to myself.

01/31/13 5:06pm
It's a real shame how little these are actually used these days.

It’s a real shame how little these are actually used these days.

As a new-on-the-scene freelance writer without major connections, it can be very difficult to find freelance writing jobs.  I’ve advocated for writing for free on this blog, especially early on, and especially when it guarantees exposure.  However, getting paid writing work from solid publications is always a challenge.  Most often, these jobs get nabbed after business hours, in bars, clubs or various other mingles.

01/18/13 9:00am

Once again I’m excited to boast of my upcoming reading at The Soundtracks Series where I’ll be telling a story about a song by Operation Ivy.  I’ve done a fair amount of scribbling on this East Bay Punk band in the past, including an interview with the lead singer Jesse Michaels, but this coming Thursday’s story will be far more personal. If you’re not familiar with the series you should check out their website and podcast. I particularly recommend this installment by Hold Steady front man Craig Finn about the Velvet Underground song Afterhours.

This got me thinking, how can you bring this up your column this week without it coming across as shameless self-promotion? Answer: you can’t but you can be charming about it. It also got me thinking, what place does music have in my writing life? The answer is multi-faceted and this week we delve into those facets, take them out, clean them off and make them look pretty.  For more on my Freelance Life check out my blog or follow me on Twitter.