Christine Peets got her start freelancing in 1998. Already working for a community newspaper, she was not entirely satisfied with the direction of that job, so she quit, and decided to see if she could parlay her knowledge into magazine writing. A self-professed “magazine junkie,” she contacted the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) – which was called the Periodical Writers Association of Canada at the time – and through their resources learned how to write for magazines and craft query letters. She was able to use some of the resources she’d developed during her time with the local paper and found work in agricultural writing, getting her first freelancing break with Farm and Country magazine.
Within a year of starting her freelancing career, she was a member of PWAC, and today, she is the organization’s Ontario Regional Director. She is also a member of the Canadian Freelance Union (CFU) and the Napanee & District Chamber of Commerce. While the early part of her career was focused on agricultural writing, these days she focuses more on writing articles about health, design, and personal finance, and makes use of her degree in Early Childhood Education to craft articles about family and parenting.
Christine also teaches courses on creative writing and business communications, which can be tailored to small groups or offered on an individual basis. She finds that the two activities work together nicely: “Not only do they complement each other economically, but I find that my being a creative writing teacher helps me with my own writing. And doing business communication workshops helps me run my business better.”
Considering herself a generalist, she enjoys the variety of the work and the challenge of keeping up with different topics. To her, the best part of freelancing is having “options of being able to work from home and setting your own hours. And picking and choosing the kinds of work that you want to do.”
For Christine, the hardest part of freelancing is the lack of a regular paycheque. “It can be feast and famine, where you’ve got a lot of work coming in, and then you don’t have any and you’re scrambling. Your bank account is very fluid. And that’s very difficult, not having a regular income.” She says that she is lucky to have her husband’s support, both emotionally and financially, without which freelancing would be a lot more difficult.
If she gets stuck in her writing, she finds it helpful to go to her colleagues for assistance. In this way, being a part of an organization like PWAC is especially valuable: “If I’m stuck for sources for a story, or market for a particular story that I’m trying to work on, I can go to my colleagues and somebody’s got the answers. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody. And you can really get the help you need from colleagues.” Christine adds that being part of the CFU is important to be able to work with colleagues and affect change with contracts. “There is strength in numbers.”
For those just starting in the profession, she suggests picking a few areas of expertise to begin and then branching out from there. “I started with the agricultural writing because that seemed to be where I had the most information. I knew a lot of people in this area who were in the agricultural sector that I could maybe write some stories about, and then sell those stories to different magazines.” Christine also finds that it’s important for freelancers to have the right tools, especially a good computer, reliable Internet connection and an excellent long-distance telephone plan. Investing in a telephone headset also makes doing phone interviews easier.
She also recommends trying to avoid getting stressed out if you suffer from technical difficulties. “Don’t sweat it. If your computer goes on the fritz, maybe that’s a day that you’re meant to sit and do some research, or you’re meant to do something else. I just find that it’s easier if you try not to get too stressed out about it.”