Career Focus - The World of Writing

Web Writer - Luisa Sanders

Luisa currently works as web editor for a theatre organisation in Bristol, www.theatrebristol.net but has worked in a similar capacity at Sony PlayStation and www.ebookers.com. She fits her writing around her lively two year old son Luca!

 

The Interview

Name - Luisa Sanders

Location - Bristol

Family - Husband called Gavin and two-year old son called Luca

 

How did you become a web writer? What is your background?

I started out in publishing then moved into new media during the Internet boom of 2000. I just fancied trying something different and it seemed like a good career move as I'd become a little bit bored in publishing. I managed to get a great job at Sony PlayStation, looking after their website. It was all very new and exciting. I really enjoyed the way that working on a website was so immediate, and you could see the results of your work easily by tracking how many users were visiting the site. It was a steep learning curve but hugely enjoyable. I then worked in a similar role at ebookers.com, the online travel agent, before becoming pregnant with my first child.

Did you have formal training?

Not as such. I went on several copywriting and web developing courses when I was at Sony but I very much learnt on the job. I did English at university though, so I think that helped give me some grounding in good written English!

How do you find jobs as a freelancer?

When I came to Bristol I had to do a lot of research to find out about the companies which use freelance writers and web editors, and I then sent my CV and examples of my work to them. Luckily several of those people have asked me to do freelance work for them, and one contact in particular now uses me for regular work. It's a great way to supplement my part-time job – I'm the web editor of www.theatrebristol.net - though it can be a juggling act to meet deadlines sometimes!

Is it hard building up a list of contacts?

I have managed to pick up quite a few contacts along the way during my career and I've tried to stay in touch with old employers. Contact building can be hard, but I've found that word-of-mouth is indispensable. For example, I have lots of friends who work in media-related jobs, such as graphic design and advertising. They might be working on projects for their companies which require some copywriting work so they'd let me know or recommend me to their colleagues. Equally, if you do a piece of work for a company you'd hope they would recommend you to their contacts, so bit by bit, the potential for getting more work increases.

Will websites use new journalists who are just starting out, or do you have to have an established track record?

Websites tend to be less strict than print media, I've found. Companies will always prefer it if you've got some solid examples of your work to show, but they won't be quite as stringent as magazines, for example, where the competition is so high for work that feature writers are expected to have a journalism qualification.

How many hours do you work a week?

I work 18 hours for my part-time job and then around 6-8 hours doing freelance projects, in the evenings and at weekends. It really varies, though. I've worked on some freelance projects which have been huge and have taken me a couple of weeks to complete.

Do you work from home?

Yes, mostly.

How does the job fit round your family?

It can be quite tricky sometimes, especially if I've got a tight deadline and I'm trying to fit in all my mothering duties, too! But I'm very lucky in that I have very understanding and helpful parents who live just around the corner, who can keep Luca entertained while I work on a project. Freelancing offers great freedom, though – much more so than having to work in an office for a company. You can choose how much you work and when you work, which, from a family point of view, is a wonderful position to be in. I vowed never to go back to commuting and working long hours in London after I had my son so combining part-time work with freelancing is a much better option!

What exactly does the role encompass?

The role can be very varied. A job I recently worked on was for a security company who wanted to create a new sales brochure. Their old brochure was very tired looking and the text didn't really sell their company so I was asked to 'jazz it up' and make the copy more fluid and interesting. It can be quite hard to write about things you don't know much about – in this case locks and safes – so you need to do a degree of research and also understand how the client wants to sell themselves to the customer. Other jobs might simply be editing a piece of text for a magazine to bring the length down and correct errors. Some clients give you quite a lot of free reign and commission you to go out and interview a person of your choosing – that can be great fun! In the past I've done interviews - in person and over the phone - with artists, film producers and minor music celebrities. The highlight was going to a press junket and interviewing Will Smith. The hard part is then transcribing reams and reams of tape, editing the copy down and then drawing out the most interesting elements of that interview to suit a web audience.

What is the earning potential?

London rates are usually around £200-£250 for a day's work. I have had to drop my rates slightly since moving out of the big smoke, but it can still pay well. However, like all freelance work, it's not guaranteed income, and you can have good months and bad months, where literally no work comes in.

Do you enjoy the job?

Yes, very much so. I just like making things read well and it's very satisfying to see a piece of your work published.

What is the best bit of business advice you have been given?

Never undersell yourself in job interviews – always go for the benefits and pay packet you really want as it's so much harder to negotiate those things once you're actually in a job role.

Do you have any words of wisdom for Mums (or Dads!) who would like to get into Journalism?

If you have some experience, great – get sending your CV out. If not, you could send your work to various websites or magazines that take unpublished writers' articles. You won't get paid but it will build your portfolio and give you a feel for the job.

 

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