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Blog » Marisa Wikramanayake


Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming A Freelance Writer: All the frequently asked questions about freelance writing you ever wanted to ask

There is a list of frequently asked questions that people often ply me with when I let them know that I am a writer and I operate a business and work as a freelancer. Sometimes they are curious, sometimes they want to know how they can start doing the same. I thought I would put down the answers to some of them here.

If you have more questions, leave them in the comments.

Frequently asked questions: 1: Do you need to have a licence (in Australia) to be a writer?

If you work from home or are freelancing, you need two to three documents. You need an Australian Business Number (ABN) which is free from the Australian Tax Office. If it will be just you, apply as a sole trader. If you aim to make more than $75,000 AUD a year, you need to register for GST.

You will also need a working from home permit. If you contact the Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) you can get a package posted to you along with the relevant form or you can download it from the website. You can also get it from your local council. You will have to fill this in, provide house plans and details of your business, including any structural changes that you want to make or signs you want to put up, pay a fee and hand it back to the council.

If you are renting and you want to work from home, the landlord has to sign the permit and give written permission for you to use the premises for work.

If you consider yourself to be a hobbyist, then you must download a certain form from the Australian Tax Office and fill it out each time you invoice someone. It’s a form that declares that you have performed the work as a hobbyist. If you want to be an author, get an ABN instead.

If you want to work for a company or organisation full time or part time, you don’t need an ABN or any of these permits and forms. You just need your Tax File Number and your employer employs you just like in any other job.

Frequently asked questions: 2: Do I need a portfolio?

Yes you do. Whatever work you have done, organise your best pieces into one main portfolio and then create different versions. If you are sending in a portfolio of your work to a sports publication, put in the pieces that a) relate to sport and b) match the kind of style, length and format of the articles in the publication. So have several different ones ready and always send out a relevant one with each query. Word/PDF format is good.

Frequently asked questions: 3: Do I need a website?

Not necessarily. You need to decide if it is worth having one. You should use the internet as a tool for promoting yourself and finding work via using email, social media or other means but don’t opt for a website unless you have the time and means to keep it updated. The same with more emphasis for a weblog. It takes time and energy unless you can afford to hire someone to do it for you. There are plenty of places like Contently that you can use to set up an online portfolio to direct people to instead of opting for a website like this one. You can also use free WordPress and other such sites to set up a couple of quick pages about yourself and that can be all that you need as an online presence.

Frequently asked questions: 4: Do I need a particular qualification?

Are there formal qualifications to be a writer? No. It is, however, best to train in any area that you feel you are lacking in. Take advantage of any educational opportunity that comes your way. Train yourself in how to write, how to market yourself, how to do accounts and the subject areas that you are interested in writing about. Take courses, go to workshops and seminars, read books. If you are trying to get into Journalism, take a journalism or communications course. If you are like me, you could instead take an English Literature course and try to convince people to realise that you can still be a journalist regardless but this is a very frustrating experience so proceed with caution. If it works for me, as according to various career guides it should, I will let you know. Seriously though, work on your spelling, your grammar and your style. Automatic spelling and grammar checks on programs do not catch everything.

Frequently asked questions: 5: Do I need to join professional organisations?

The benefits of doing so far outweigh the membership fees. So, yes. Join every single one you can. If you do screenplays, join the Australian Writers Guild. If you freelance, join the Facebook groups, Freeline and the union MEAA. If you are an editor, join IPEd or the CSE. If you are an author, join the Australian Society of Authors and your local and state writing centres and libraries. If you are an indexer or proofreader you can join ANZSI. The list of organisations is long and you can also always join your local chamber of commerce as well.

Frequently asked questions: 6: Do I need business cards?

Are you freelancing? Are you self employed? If yes then yes you do need them like you need air. Pass them out at every opportunity. Nicely. Politely.

A lot of people have tried to move on to other forms of connecting where people have tapped phones together to exchange data but business cards are the most ubquitous means of connecting and exchanging such information. And you can drop them in for raffles and in jars, you can send them along with actual greeting cards if you need to – there are lots of ways to use business cards to connect.

Frequently asked questions: 7: Do I need to network?

See the above two questions. If the answer is yes to both, then you should know what the answer to this one is. If you still aren’t sure, then answer this question: Where do you think most of your clients are going to come from?

Remember that you can network online as well as offline and that there are very different ways to do so. So find the ways to network that suit you but also ensure you reach your clients and your intended audiences.

Frequently asked questions: 8: Is there a certain book(s) I need to read?

There are two answers to this question: a) All of them because reading widely makes you a better writer anyway and b) the Australian Writer’s Marketplace, the Australian Style Manual 6th edition, any up to date decent book on grammar, the latest edition of a thesaurus and the latest edition of a dictionary.

Frequently asked questions: 9: What are query letters and how do I write them?

These are emails or hard copy letters you send to editors of publications to politely ask if they would like you to write an article on a particular subject or topic. Basically, you tell them at first what interesting twist your article will have, you tell them how it relates to the publication and what format it is and how long it will be in words and you tell them what sources you have for it. You also outline how you expect it to be structured. You then tell them how soon you can send it to them if they want it. You attach your C.V. and a relevant portfolio and send it off to the person who accepts queries at that publication. You wait two weeks and then contact them again to follow up. It is also best if you try to call a publication up to let them know that you want to send a query in before you do. Never ever quote a price unless you are asked. Publications often have their own set prices for submissions and spec work.

Frequently asked questions: 10: Where do I find publications that accept queries?

That’s what the Australian Writer’s Marketplace is for. Use it. It will be your bible. It has an online website version too. You need to pay for either option. But equally, Writers’ Bloc and other websites have lists of writing jobs and call outs and places to pitch. So do a lot of online groups and groups on Facebook. If you join organisations like MEAA or your writing centres they often send these details out in a mailing list when they pop up and Submittable runs a mailing list as well for free.

Over to you

If you have any other questions you would like me to answer about freelance writing, please leave them in the comments. If you want to know more about freelancing, you can also sign up to the mailing list. At the moment, you get a free worksheet to help you figure out a freelancing rate if you do.

Cheers, Marisa.

Foundation Fellowship update: a bit about Gin and Tonic

Latest piece of research for the foundation fellowship: the book titled Police in Sri Lanka by Frank de Silva

Preface: I have won the inaugural KSP-Varuna Foundation Fellowship and ahead of my first week stay at the end of May, I am trying to research and write as much of my chosen book Gin and Tonic as I can. I thought I would bring you along for the ride and hope you keep me accountable.

What have I been upto with regards to the foundation fellowship?

Today I thought I would tell you a bit about the book I want to use the foundation fellowship to work on.

When my ideas for stories come to me, they now tend to come to mind with Sri Lankan characters or settings. I don’t know whether these just the ideas that would have occurred to me anyway or if feeling like I should showcase Sri Lankan characters has influenced it.

So after I finished Sedition and I knew it was more or less done for the moment and I started looking around for an editor, I thought a lot about what was next.

I didn’t want to start writing another book right away – Sedition was on and off for 12 years while life happened but I knew that I would a) want to take a break, b) want to write another book and c) get it done faster.

I had two ideas warring in my head though. One was HIM which some of you may have already seen some of the writing for. HIM ground to a halt about several thousand words in. I don’t mean that HIM‘s plot or storyline is not a worthwhile one – it definitely is. And one day I will go ahead with writing HIM but I cannot do it right now. I need a break from it and funnily enough, the characters seem to need some time to develop more.

That may seem like a very strange thing to say – that the characters need to develop more. But I think that they do.

In the meantime, being a lover of crime fiction, I was thinking about crime fiction set in Sri Lanka. And whether it was a good idea to try my hand at a crime novel.

And then the characters of Gin and Tonic came into my head. And while thinking about them, the auntie glossary developed. And everyone I spoke about it to, loved it and loved the idea.

I will discuss the auntie glossary as it stands in the next post but for now, I want to talk about my characters a bit.

The characters

The person currently telling the story (though this might change) is the younger of two sisters. She is in her mid-teens and still in school. She is supposed to be concentrating on exams and getting into an university. She is outspoken and pretty much has no filter. And she does not suffer fools gladly. But she is willing to, on occasion, follow her older sister’s lead.

Her older sister is about 17/18 and just out of school. She is touted by others as the intelligent one and is far more quiet but both sisters are keen observers of what is happening around them.

I like to think of them as one having a charge the enemy kind of attitude while the other would prefer a sneak attack.

Their father has just died – he used to be a lawyer. Their mother, though grieving still, keeps her grief quiet and understated and very private. She tends to have a lot of secrets that even her daughters are unaware of and she is keenly aware of both their natures.

I wanted the story to open at around six months after their father died. With each of them in their own way trying to come to terms with the death.

There are a couple of other characters both involved with the police. One is a Chief Inspector who seems to know who their mother is – their paths seem to have crossed before. Another is his second in command/assistant/subordinate (I have to research titles and hierarchy) who ends up meeting the two girls.

So what have I done this week towards the foundation fellowship?

A whole lot of thinking. About how I am going to make the plot I wanted to go with work, how realistic everything is and I bought a book.

It’s Frank de Silva’s Police Role in Sri Lanka and I am hoping it will be helpful. I think the next few weeks are going to be a lot of reading, notes and thinking. I desperately do not want the plot to be a cliche at all.

I know it doesn’t seem like much but given that this plot is still working itself out in my head, it’s not that easy to start scribbling. I did try my hand at the first scene itself and got quite far but had to stop.

Want to keep up with what I am doing for the Foundation Fellowship?

If so, subscribe to the blog or join the mailing list for updates and other news.

Let me know if this helps you with your writing work. And what do you think I should do next to prepare for the fellowship? Have you ever been the receipient of one? If you have questions, advice or suggestions, please leave them in the comments below.

How to set your freelance rates for 2018 Bonus: free worksheet

A few years ago, I created a post about how to set a freelance rate similar to this one. It was very popular and I thought it was time to revisit the topic at the start of 2018. I have learnt a lot from my colleagues and from running a business since then.

I hope this helps you. You can also get a free worksheet to help you with some of the calculations.

Before we start:

1. There are several methods/means of arriving at a freelance rate and I will go through all of them. Figuring out the numbers for all of them will help you figure out the best amount to charge and how and in what circumstances.

2. The figures I use are just example figures so don’t panic – substitute your own.

3. This is tailored to people freelancing within Australia so while the ideas may be applicable, please do check for exact taxation and other figures etc as is relevant in the country that you are currently based in.

Before you begin:

1. Add up your living expenses – let’s say that for this example you are frugal and you are single and so your living expenses for the entire year come to under $15,000. Whatever number you get round it up to the nearest thousand.

2. Know the tax threshold. You won’t be charged tax on any income below $18,200.

3. Know how much you want to put into super. Do you want to contribute 10% of your income? Or do you have a set figure in mind? For this example, let’s say you want to put in $20 per week into super so that will get you roughly around $1000 at the end of the year in super plus $500 co-contributed from the government so a total of $1500 at the end of the year.

4. Is there anything you are saving for specifically? Or any debts you need to pay off? For this example we will assume that you need to save $5200 during the year so $100 per week. We will also assume you don’t have any debt.

5. What expenses do you have with regards to your freelancing business? This includes office rental, transport, internet, subscriptions to journals, membership of organisations and so on. Add these up and we will assume that you have $2000 in business expenses.

Work out how much you need per year

1. Add up your living expenses, your business expenses, your super goals, your savings goals and your debt repayment if any. This gets us to $23,200 ($15,000 + $1000 + $2000 + $5200).

2. Check the tax rate for $23,200. If you earn about $18,200, it is 19 cents per each dollar above $18,200. That gives you $950 due in tax.

3. If you round this up to $30,000, you would have $6,800 left after taking out all your other expenses except tax ($30,000 – 23,200) and then your tax would be $2,242 and you would end up with $4,558.

4. If this is insufficent for you, keep rounding up to the next number and checking the tax rate to see what you would end up with. If you earned $37,000, your tax rate would be $3,752 and you would end up with $10,048 in your pocket after all your other expenses.

Work out an hourly freelance rate

1. 40 hours is a full time work week in Australia. Let’s assume you are a full time freelancer and that you use half of those hours to do the admin, marketing and accounting work required to run your business. So you have 20 hours a week to work. This is just a starting number – please figure out how much time you may have to do actual work in.

2. Assume that you will work for about 45 weeks of the year and you have to earn enough in those weeks to cover the rest of the weeks that you have set aside for falling sick, holidays or life getting in the way.

3. If you decided to aim for $30,000 per year divide that by 45 to get a weekly target of what you should make each week. This comes to about $668 per week. If you are aiming for $37,000, you have to earn $823 per week.

4. If it is $668 per week, your hourly rate is $33.40. If it is $823 per week, your hourly rate is $41.15. Neither of those hourly rates seem scary, right? This is not your final hourly rate however.

5. Check what IPEd and MEAA recommend as a rate. Check with your colleagues. Ask yourself what your time is worth. The reason I ask you to do this is that these may be factors that help you decide on your final hourly rate and this part of the process depends on you.

6. Slow trade and bad luck can turn up at any moment so give yourself a cushion and double your rate. $33 becomes $66 and $41 becomes $82. This is your final hourly rate. Tweak it as much as you need to.

Work out a freelance rate for a project

  1. Figure out how long particular tasks take you and how long the project will take.
  2. Use your hourly rate above and charge accordingly and add a 20% buffer if you think there will be scope creep.
  3. You do not need to declare your hourly rate to anyone, you can just use it to calculate your project rate for a quote.
  4. Charge overtime for urgent and weekend work – charge 1.5 times your hourly rate. This is your version of overtime and penalty rates.

Working with set per piece rates from clients

  1. When they give a per piece rate to you such as $100 for an article or $100 for an interview, break it down in terms of your hourly rate and then in terms of tasks and how long they will take you.
  2. Then give yourself a set number of hours to work on the piece according to both these factors. For example I do hour long Facebook live interviews. When I was told the per interview rate, I was able to determine that I could and therefore would only spend one hour of my work time on each interview. That way I was able to earn my hourly rate and not waste any hours on it that would be effectively unpaid.

Working out a freelance rate/project fee when you don’t know how long it will take

  1. If you can break the project into stages, you can try to estimate how long each stage will take and double it in case it takes longer than your estimated time.
  2. As an editor you can estimate by having a set rate per page or per word. This is also possible for a writer – in the case of writers working with anything other than books, aim for between $0.50 to $1 per word whenever possible. For editors working with books of 20,000 words and up, set a cents per word rate.
  3. You can also offer to work in installments as a sort of pay as you go so you track the hours spent on the work and invoice accordingly at each stage.

Use your numbers as goals

  1. You can use your weekly required income as your target. As a writer I have a set target per week and I aim to pitch article ideas to publications where I know the rough rate per piece. If I aim to make $500 per week I would only need one publication to pay me $200 for one piece and another to pay me $300 for a second piece. But I may not get those pitches accepted so if I assume I have a success rate of 20%, I will pitch ideas for articles so that I have pitched a possible total of $2500 of articles per week.
  2. You can also break it up so that you know that within this example so far, you only have to work four hours per day or you only have to earn $134 per day if you work five days and want to make $668 each week.

How did you decide on your freelance rate?

I realised that not everyone would be able to follow all of this alone, so I created a worksheet online that you can download. You put in your numbers and it does the calculations for you. It is very plain and very basic but it does the maths for you. If you are already a subscriber, you will have received a link to the worksheet already.

I am also interested in learning how you have worked out your rates before. So leave a comment and tell me how you did it.


I won the inaugural KSP – Varuna Foundation Fellowship Here is what that means

What is a writing foundation fellowship?

In A Room of One’s Own Virginia Woolf argues and advocates for women to have a room of their own to write in where they are free from all the other duties and responsibilities one has to undertake in the business of living or running a house or working and so on. Male writers in the past have often benefitted from having a spouse who could keep everything going while they had the free time and space to write. Writing fellowships vary in what is involved or offered but this idea of having time to write free from other concerns underpins the KSP-Varuna Foundation Fellowship in particular.

This is an important point – that the creation of art requires carving out some space and time in a person’s busy life to work at it. Sometimes this is a nigh impossibility, sometimes it is possible to outsource work or errands or chores to someone else or to somehow sacrifice something else like sleep in order to get some creative work done.

The Foundation Fellowship

So the Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre and Varuna House partnered up this year to offer an inaugural Foundation Fellowship. Both writing centres regularly offer residencies and fellowships but this was the first time someone could win a fellowship that took place at both centres.

The fellowship is offered at a subsidised cost, meaning the writer in question still pays a little bit towards the cost of staying at the centre.

This year, I applied, at the behest of someone else and right at the eleventh hour. And I won the Foundation Fellowship much to my shock and surprise. It is still sinking in that I have won a national fellowship.

Part of staying at both these writers’s centres is the ability to chat to other writers who will be there at the same time, to have some peace and quiet to do some writing in and the excuse to disengage from everything else I would otherwise have to do in order to just write.

So I will spend one week at the KSP Writers’ Centre in WA from 28 May 2018 to 3 June 2018. Later on in the year, I will be spending another week at Varuna House in the Blue Mountains in NSW. When I know the exact dates I will let you know.

My thanks to KSP and Varuna for putting together this fellowship in the first place. I plan to make the most of it.

The Plan

So if Sedition is at the most awesome editor in the world Zoya Patel‘s current abode, then what will I be working on?

Gin and Tonic.

I am hoping for it to become a crime fiction novel based in Sri Lanka. I say hoping because I have a vague germ of an idea and I will need to see if it can come together and work.

  1. My final goal for the book’s complete first draft is about 50,000 to 70,000 words.
  2. I want to complete as much of the draft as I can by the end of 2018.
  3. I want to be writing during the first week of the Fellowship – by the end of May I need to have already started writing or be ready to start as soon as the Fellowship week starts. I cannot be researching or editing during that week.
  4. I want a somewhat regular writing practice. My life goes up and down and sideways all the time but my saving grace was #thesisfridays where I worked on Sedition and my two friends worked on their PhD theses. So I need to find something similar.
  5. To help with getting into gear and working on this bloody book (if I am swearing about it, I am already deep in the process), I want to document my progress each week with working out plot ideas, research and characters and any writing I have done. So I will be posting on this blog every Friday with a Fellowship update. Hopefully that will also be helpful in promoting the Fellowship and the writing centres and letting writers know what a Fellowship is actually like and what it entails.If you are keen to follow along, subscribe to the blog or the mailing list.


  1. Tell me how you organise your writing groups if you are in any. And tell me what you are working on book wise.
  2. Check back next week for the first update.
  3. Tell me in the comments what sort of things you want to know about with each progress update.


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9 things I did not expect in 2017 & Happy New Year! I was kind of taken by surprise and gawping in shock most of the year to be honest.

2017 has been a year full of ups and downs.  Or at least for me, a lot of things that I well – did not expect to happen. Not to me. I am still quite giddy and grateful and in other ways also sad. We had a lot of unnecessary violence, hate and tragedy this past year.

I did not expect… so much travelling

I did not expect to travel as much as I did. I criss crossed Australia for the IPEd 2017 Editors’ Conference in Brisbane as a speaker and for the MEAA for union meetings.  You can catch up on my conference updates here.

I did not expect… to volunteer more with the union

I did not expect to be on a National Freelance Committee, to be elected to Federal Council and NMS and to also then be on an Ethics Committee. But I raise my hand as a reflex action and there I am.  Thank you to those who elected me – I will try to do my best by you.

I did not expect… my authors to be winning everything in sight

I did not expect to have my authors win awards – first with Theena winning the Fairway Literary Award in January then Amanda Jay announcing she was shortlisted for the same in May/June (we will find out in a few weeks if she wins it this year). And then Robin Bower and Christine Vandenbergh won  first prize in the Art Book Category at the Paris Book Festival for Senses of Paris.  I am so proud of all of you and also honoured to have been able to work with and edit your words.

I did not expect… to win anything myself

I did not expect to win a writing fellowship – in fact the very first one co-run by both Varuna and KSP Writers Centre. It’s the inaugural Foundation Fellowship and I get a subsidised two weeks – one at Varuna and one at KSP sometime in 2018 to work on a book. More on that, what’s involved and the book I plan to work on (fingers crossed) in a few days. But for now, I am still giddy and grateful.

I did not expect… to get Sedition closer to publication

I did not also expect to have Sedition done and dusted and in the hands of the very capable Zoya Patel, editress extraordinaire who seems to think that it has legs. Sedition was done earlier in the year but everything aligned closer to the end of the year so Zoya will be working on the book and I am excited and thrilled and if you are a keen publisher let me know: it’s 70,000 words, lit fic set in Sri Lanka and has LGBTQIA+ themes. And I have a diaspora I can reach.  😉

I did not expect…  a random new fan base – hello there!

I also didn’t expect to have 6000+ people watch me live on Facebook as I interview African authors doing important work. The videos are still up on Facebook if you want to go have a look and there will be more to come shortly. It has been massively educational to learn about Sudan and South Sudan and African politics, culture and history through these books and talking to these authors and I am grateful for the opportunity.

I did not expect… even more writing wins!

I managed to get some great writing done – more on that too in a bit. And the short story Before/After which some of you first read on this site in an early draft form, finally got published by a literary journal.

I did not expect… even more travelling

In terms of other adventures, I got to travel a bit more by actually driving across the country – Perth to Melbourne – in early August over the course of a week, through kangaroo herds, road trains and trucks and coastal storms. I also got to head back twice to Sri Lanka this year and travel by train around the country.  I am currently in Colombo right now as I write this, listening to a battlefield made of firecrackers.

I did not expect… for same sex marriage to get legislated but we got it through!

And a shout to the LGBTQIA+ community: I am sorry we had to put up with such homophobic nonsense but I am also glad we won the right to marry. Stay strong, stay safe and congrats to all of you who are getting married. <3

It is the New Year and 2017 has had its good moments for me personally and for others. It has also, as a year, given us some tragedies and ones we could have done without. I hope 2018 is better, much better, much less tragic and awful and that it is more hopeful for all of us.

So Happy New Year! And also to all the Sudanese and South Sudanese and others in this similar situation celebrating their birthdays en masse today – Happy Birthday! My thanks to Kuany Kiir Kuany for letting me know this.*

* For those of you who are unaware, prior to some time in the mid 1990s, Sudanese people did not or could not keep detailed records of births (there were a number of reasons for this). When the register was first opened, people were vaguely aware of a year or a month so everyone without a set date was given 01 Jan in their birth year as a birthday. Now about 90% of the Sudanese and South Sudanese population over the age of 27 celebrate their birthdays on Jan 1st. So Happy Birthday everyone in South Sudan, Sudan or elsewhere that went through similar circumstances.


What did you not expect in 2017? What do you mark the year by? What are you looking forward to in 2018? Leave an answer in the comments.

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IFTTT and how to use it – a screencast This is also my entry for the screencast challenge

So earlier on in this post I explained that IFTTT saves me a lot of time looking for work opportunities. And people at the conference wanted me to explain more about IFTTT and how to use it in detail.

At the same time Malini Devadas and Hilary Cadman challenged us all to try screencasting so I thought this was a perfect way to try and screencast a quick explanation of how to build an applet in IFTTT.

I am rather soft spoken and stilll figuring out how to get my headset mic to record me at a louder volume so please use headphones when watching the following video:

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

So here’s step by step instructions for IFTTT:

  1. Sign up via email/Google/Facebook for an account with IFTTT. It’s free.
  2. The bits of the IFTTT equations you create to get things happening are called applets for some vague weird reason unknown to mankind. IFTTT also needs you to connect to your Gmail/Facebook/Twitter – basically any program you want it to use to get info from or put info into. It calls these services.
  3. So you are going to make an applet that says if condition A is met in Service A then make condition B happen in Service B. It’s simple logic.
  4. Go to My Applets and click on New Applet.
  5. Click on the +THIS part of the header.
  6. In this example we are going to go through Twitter looking for call outs for editors so we click on Twitter. Presumably you have connected to your Twitter account by now otherwise you get a pop up so you can do so.
  7. It gives you a series of what information you want to get from Twitter to fulfill condition A.  Choose New Tweet From Search.
  8. It then asks you what search parameters you want and I typed in “editor wanted” 
  9. You then go to the +THAT part of the equation and choose how you want the info from Twitter to be saved or what you want to happen. I chose Google Drive. 
  10. I then chose Add row to spreadsheet and chose to name it Example, add in that it should include any links within the tweet itself and then saved it.
  11. After setting up an applet, it can take an hour to get started with its searching so in the screencast, I show you an example of what it will look like using a similar search I created for the words “pitch” and “writer” and also show you how it can show retweets of the same tweet and how it can pull in other things as well. So it is by no means perfect but it does help me and it might help you. 
  12. Please play around with it and adjust it to suit you. Maybe you have different search terms, maybe you want it saved in a different format.

Other notes on using Jing for screencasting:

  1. Jing only saves in SWF format. You may need to use another program to convert the SWF file format to a video file format.
  2. You may have to fiddle a bit in the settings to get it to recognise your microphone because apparently I am a bit too soft in the above video despite wearing my headset mic.
  3. You can place the link for each video straight into the body of a WordPress or Facebook post and it will automatically embed the video for you so you don’t have to go to to view it. That’s what I was able to do for this post.

Tell me what you think of the video. What other videos do you want me to make with Jing about editing or freelancing or other such things? How can I improve on them? Do you need me to explain more things about IFTTT?

Building alliances – a panel on organisations working together

So I was asked to be on this panel about building alliances which mostly came about because I had previously contacted IPEd with ideas about how IPEd and MEAA could collaborate.

The panel consisted of myself, representing all things MEAA, Juliet Rogers of the ASA, Sherrey Quinn from ANZSI, Queensland Writers Centre’s CEO Katie Woods and the Rosanna Arciuli from the Copyright Agency.

In a nutshell we definitely agreed on several points:

  • It was vital for us to band together on several big theme issues because there was power in numbers no matter which organisation spearheaded the issue and campaign.
  • Such big theme issues that we cared about were copyright issues and PIRs amongst other things.
  • Other issues were centered around pay and working conditions for freelancers and diversity within the industry in both editors and authors published.
  • We also agreed that it was worth creating some sort of alliance so that members could learn from each other across oganisational lines but also so that no one reinvented the wheel when it came to professional development because resources could be shared.
  • We wanted some sort of practical action to start happening.

Karen Lee, IPEd’s CEO, pointed out that the new structure and her strategic plan meant that she had to ensure that practical action started occurring because she had targets that she had to meet by doing so.

I would like to make some points here that I did not get to make due to a lack of time during the session itself:

  1.  Do not stress that practical action is not being taken if you aren’t immediately or constantly informed of it. At this stage all this involves a lot of discussions with various people in each organisation to figure out what can be achieved and how and then how quickly and what resources are needed. Until specific plans are put in place to achieve the goals we set ourselves after discussion, it is mostly all going to happen behind the scenes. For example, if I have an idea during NFC (National Freelance Committee) I go ahead and chat to them about it, we come up with a plan and then I go back and tell freelancers, ok this is what is happening.
  2. Most of this stuff will involve for the most part various commitees and sub-committees getting together and working out plans of action. This involves people volunteering their time and energy to be on such committees and help out. When said plans are ready, then they will be explained to members so that members can do whatever is required to move them forward if needed, such as signing petitions or things like that. That is generally how these things work and if you want to be in the know, the best way to do so is to involve oneself in a committee. This is the only way I find out anything before a sudden campaign launch email turns up in my inbox. It’s the only way I also ensure plans are logical and that the pathway to said goal makes sense.

And since many of you asked inbetween panels and sessions, here’s some info on MEAA to help you all out with general union related queries:

  1. MEAA is an union with several sections: Media, Equity, ECS, Musos and so on and as editors you fall under Media at the moment.
  2. You can only join one union at a time. IF you feel your current union does a good job of representing you when going through negotiations or enterprise bargaining agreements or gives you good advice about contracts and other things etc, THEN stay with your current union, whatever it may be. IF NOT, THEN consider MEAA as an option to switch to.
  3. Your workplace cannot and should not dictate which union you get to belong to. You get to choose. Choose one to suit not your role title but to suit the work you do in your role – a union that understands what the nature of your job is like and what it may require. Interview various unions – call and ask them if you need to.
  4. You also do not NEED to join an union. It is entirely up to you and I will never ask you to join MEAA.
  5. MEAA used to have a reciprocal fee arrangement with the different Editor Societies and we need to rejig that again with IPEd post transition so perhaps hold off for awhile till we sort these things out. The prior agreement was taking the IPEd fee out of the MEAA fee.
  6. MEAA’s Media section fee structure is based on your income for the year. At the lowest level, the least I have paid was $300 or so but there is a nifty calculator on the MEAA website that allows you to work out what you would pay in fees.
  7. MEAA’s freelance rates card was created by taking into account what mid level career journalists would make in-house in 2012 and making a freelancer version of that level. It’s not for entry level, it does not always seem plausible and I, personally, think that $150 per hour for an editor is more likely in the ballpark than $215 but also feel it needs more finessing to figure out an easier means of recommending a rate. I do however agree with a rate per word of between $0.60 and $1 per word for writers – this is viable and should be adhered to as much as possible. As I said at the AGM plenary and the panel session, MEAA has said to me that they want to revisit and update the rates card and I think this is something that IPEd should collaborate and offer input on.
  8. The Book Industry Award as I understand it was created in collaboration with MEAA in the distant past, put forward to Fair Work through whatever due process was required and is now on the Fair Work website who handles it. MEAA merely has a copy of it under Member Resources on their website but does not have any dealings as far as I know with updating it. I would like to know if it is perhaps time to revisit the award and check if it is relevant to pay rates and conditions in 2017.
  9. MEAA is focusing on freelancers in its strategic plan for the next two years. I would like to include editors in that by representing them at NFC and Federal Council and National Media Section. To do this, I need to consult with IPEd. I also know that there are members of IPEd who are currently MEAA members so if they can let me know any specific issues and concerns they have that MEAA can fix or help with, then I can ensure that happens. There may be issues that are specific to editors only, there maybe issues that MEAA is already tackling on behalf of freelancers that happens to be relevant to editors too.
  10. MEAA has a Freelance Pro option – basically that means that you can just join as a member, freelance or not, and access all the usual benefits but if you want public liability and professional indemnity insurance, then you can add a little extra on top of your fee and get designated as a Freelance Pro member and get the insurance. It will require you to spend an extra $250 or so every five odd years to attend a media law class to keep the insurance but this may be waived for editors so let me go verify that with someone and get back to you. But if you see Freelance Pro anywhere, that’s what that means. You can however just join as a member and be designated a freelancer and not pay anything extra – you don’t miss out on any benefits, don’t worry.

Things to start with that I think we can start collaborating on (I did say I had a list):

  1. Reciprocal fee agreement or an agreement on alliances.
  2. Revising recommended pay rates together because even if we can’t set a legally required pay rate, minimum or otherwise, just yet, then at least all the organisations have the same information on recommended pay rates when clients find them on Google. We have already agreed to set up a group to look into this and I will discuss with MEAA and see how best to proceed.
  3. Sharing resources particularly resources on freelancing, finances, negotiation techniques, promotion, technology, marketing and other business related topics.
  4. Promotion of members and services across organisations.
  5. Allowing for cross-organisation advocacy or resources to train people to do so or provide information they need.
  6. Creation of Josephine Brown’s amazing idea for an Editor’s Week.
  7. Forming a coalition/alliance/bloc to work on big issues together. Allowing members to access resources from organisations across the bloc as needed perhaps.
  8. Revisiting the Book Industry Award to see if it is relevant.
  9. Conducting several surveys into pay rates, work details and mental health conditions across IPEd members and MEAA members to see if award conditions and rates are being adhered to and if there are gender or race based gaps present in terms of wages and conditions.
  10. Working on means to encourage and include diversity in both media and publishing sectors in terms of who is published and who is working.
  11. Creating guidelines like the MEAA’s Code of Ethics for how editors should think about and treat diverse people in their work practices and offering training and assistance where needed to understand how to avoid unintentional appropriation, ableism, sexism and racism.

NOTE: Not all these ideas may be workable and even if they are, some may take some time to put together and get going. But they are a start I think. We have a lot to discuss.


  1. If you have an idea for collaborating between IPEd and another organisation, please leave it in the comments below. Let’s start discussing what we can do.
  2. If you are both a MEAA and an IPEd member AND happen to be a freelancer, I would like to invite you to join the National Freelance Committee (it’s just email and Skype) and help me make sure that the editors’ concerns are included in whatever we do.
  3. IF you have questions, consider me your MEAA rep for editors and email me.  Or leave a comment. Seriously. I can help sort things out for you or get in touch with people who can help you.

Screencasting for editors by Malini Devadas and Hilary Cadman Because it was easily one of the best sessions available at the conference

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a session on screencasting. I have screencast before using different software programs and edited videos for Youtube. And I was a bit puzzled as to how all this could be used by an editor for the purposes of editing. Or as part of a business.

Part One of the presentation was telling us what screencasting was. And what is wasn’t. Screencasting is basically like taking a screenshot but instead of an image, ending up with video as the result. Video of whatever may be on your screen at that time.

I am aware of people using screencasting for gaming purposes to showcase what playing a game is like when they review it or run a walkthrough. I have done this myself.

But I used different software. Malini and Hilary had found Jing – a free tool from the people at TechSmith for making 5 minute screencasts. They walked us through the simplicity of creating such screencasts and uploading them somewhere where they could be shared with others via a link.

Part Two was a list of dos and don’ts for the most efficient use of screencasts. These were a list of simple things: don’t ramble, be short and succinct and repeat information, keep it to about two minutes max if possible and so on.

Part Three was really interesting. This was where they got everyone to discuss with each other how they would use screencasts. People got very excited. They felt they could use screencasting to explain to clients why certain changes had been made or use screencasting to train people on using certain parts of software. Malini and Hilary even suggested using screencasting to create e-courses with short snippets of video inbetween for demonstrations or to spice up a blog post.

I will spice up my blog posts in future but not this one just yet. I have plans for my first such non-gaming screencast.

Part Four was telling us about the next step up where you could pay a bit of money and invest in a good microphone and different editing and screencasting software so that you could embed a second screencast of yourself or add in music and effects.

They ended with a  screencasting challenge to all of us: to create and post a screencast within the next week of something, anything in a particular online group and that the best one would win a picture of a trophy.

All in all, it was quite an entertaining session. And I have another idea for screencasting: social media promotion. But you will have to wait to see what I mean. I have a trophy to win.

My thanks as always to Malini Devadas and Hilary Cadman. But what would you use a screencast for? Leave a comment below.

Evolving tools for digital publications: Stephen White’s presentation at IPEd 2017

This session was really eye opening. Stephen started with the question of what exactly constituted a digital publication. What is a digital publication? 

He urged us to think beyond text alone on a page. Digital publications can include maps, atlases and other interactive works online or offline. 

But there is a problem with editing such works. While the tools to create and deliver such works exist, there often are no simple functions built into the tools for the ease of editing the information in the work. Information within the works has to be pulled out, edited in other software and pieced back into the work, looked at in context with other pieces of information and then if needed, be taken out to be edited again before being put back together. This messy workflow only gets more complicated when graphics and additional layers of information for interactivity are also included or required in the work. 

Stephen’s question was simple – was there a program out there – either an add on or standalone software that could allow easy editing while within the work, where changes and comments could be tracked and linked to points in any dataset or database that came along with an interactive work or atlas or map? 

And if there wasn’t anything available, then why not? Why not develop something that could do this even if only for a very niche market? 

The question and answer session indicated that there might indeed be some proprietary software developed for exactly this problem in use in some states government departments already but it was unclear whether it fit the specific needs of Stephen’s department. There was also much consideration as to how best to develop it whether it would be best to involve additional functionality in the existing content creation programs or create a new program to run concurrently. 

If you have any ideas, please leave a comment. Keep an eye out for more updates from the conference as well as a wrap up. 

Mentoring writers as an editor and writer Notes from my panel session on mentoring at #IPED2017

This blog post is intended to be a summary and cheat sheet on my part of the mentoring panel on 15 Sept 2017 at the IPEd 2017 Conference in Brisbane.

Proceedings will be published online by the conference organisers so you can always check those out for more information but here are my tips, tricks and my experiences of mentoring writers as opposed to mentoring editors.

First, a definition of mentoring and what I mean by it: I don’t mean actively editing a writer’s work but more reading it and discussing how they go about developing the story, how they go through the process and if it’s a business/practice related mentorship, how they can achieve goals they set for themselves. To edit work, you would have to hire me as an editor not a mentor. As a mentor, I provide a person to chat to and someone to guide you.

  1. Writer mentees are usually (for me, so far) in one of two general camps: “How do I run my business/practice better?” and “How do I tell a story about ___/ in this form/way?”

  2. When it’s the former category, they usually want to know more about freelancing, finances, marketing, opportunities, grants and so on. When it’s the latter category, they want to know more about the process of writing, the practice of it and have a lot of questions and ideas about all of it.

  3. I try to ensure that there is a goal for each mentee to meet. If they have a long term goal, I try to make sure that the process is broken up into steps or phases and that the first goal of the first round of mentorship is getting to the end of phase one. A short term goal that perhaps they can meet within two or three months.Goals have to work with the mentee’s individual personality in terms of schedule and energy and time and pace. That has to be taken into consideration. Goals also make sure that when other things come up in the process, I can ask the mentee if they feel said other things will detract or help them achieve the goal, if they can be postponed till the goal is achieved or if the goal needs to be altered.

  4. Writers seem to come to me because they see me as someone approachable, successful (thanks, I think), because I run it all as a business or attempt to and because they know I also work as an editor and can use that insight as well. This is just something I have noticed. Editor mentees will come to me for something very specific that they think I am good at – usually something to do with technology or social media.

  5. My writer mentees tend to turn up right at the start of or partway through writing the first draft of a specific work. This is useful to me and probably the best timing. If you turn up with a first draft done, then you need me as an editor not a mentor per se for the writing or storytelling process unless you really have mucked it up. Most complete first drafts I have seen generally have some sort of intended story structure that you can see though.

  6. I often have to dismantle misconceptions about how easy it is to make money as a writer or be a bestseller or whether one should have a drug or drink of choice while writing or whether one should wait for the muse or whether having put words down on paper is enough and one is immediately a literary genius. And then there is the “if I can’t get it out perfectly the first time then I am not a good writer and shouldn’t write at all.” concern.The best way to deal with these is to be honest and to have some humour thrown in. I try to size up each person and judge how they will take feedback but in the end if they can’t handle a misconception being corrected, it will be hard for them to pursue writing.

    It’s my job to be honest and critique politely and with care – it’s the writer’s job to take criticism and feedback gracefully. But there are few people who expect you to manage their emotions and emotional reactions for them by being nice to them to the point of dishonesty and I cannot do that.

  7. I read work and ask a lot of questions. A lot of questions. I find this is one of the best ways to get the writer to think about their work or story and also one of the best ways for them to figure out where the story will go and what will happen next and what they want or need to change and what they want or need to keep. Ditto for anything to do with business related goals.

  8. Sometimes the mentorship requires that I am there to hold the mentee accountable for a schedule they want to keep to or just to be the person who understands the field and practice and can discuss any issues the mentee has, bring up possible potential consequences for them to think about and just listen.

  9. All decisions about work and writing are left up to the mentee to make. It is my mentee’s business and my mentee’s writing, not mine. I want my mentees to have the courage to try and to fail and to try again. So while I can discuss issues with them and point out potential options, the ball is entirely in their court and they are always free to try something out and come back to chat to me afterwards.

Do any of you have any insights into the mentoring process either as a mentee or mentor yourself? Let me know in the comments below. And if you liked the panel session, tell me all about it.

And if after all that, you want me to mentor you as a writer: $50 per hour or $1000 for a block of 20 hours to be used within a three month period.  If you are looking for mentoring as an editor, I am happy to help but it is useful to go through the IPEd Mentoring Scheme.