Kirsten Doyle discovered her career in freelance writing through a cause near and dear to her heart: “I am the parent of a child with autism, and several years ago I was approached by the Geneva Centre for Autism to run a race to raise funds for autism services,” she explains. After her first half-marathon, she discovered she was “addicted to running” and decided to write about her experiences on her blog, Running for Autism. This led to her first freelance writing gig in 2009, when she started crafting web content for a non-profit organization.
To this day, Kirsten still loves writing for good causes. In fact, one of her favourite jobs was creating web content for a non-profit group aimed at helping young people: “The site is Light of DAE Studios, and the idea behind it is that young musicians do some community service, and in exchange they get a free professional recording of one of their songs,” she explains. “Writing for a cause that can be so instrumental in changing the direction of a young person’s life is truly special.”
A member of the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada, Kirsten is flexible and can do most any kind of writing, but says, “I have a special place in my heart for website content and articles for blogs and ezines.” To her, the best part of freelancing is being able to build a rapport with her clients. “In getting to know them, I get to know the message that they want to impart. That can be a very exciting and challenging process.”
She was drawn to freelance writing in the first place because it gave her a chance to be creative. Even as a child, she envied creative people: “You know, those who can effortlessly paint a portrait or sew a beautiful dress.” But when she began writing, she learned that she had a different sort of creativity: “I love to paint pictures with words. I have a passion for finding just the right sentences to get the right message to the right audience.”
She does, however, find it challenging to have her work undercut by content mills: “The hardest thing is competition from people willing to write for next to nothing, generating huge amounts of low-quality content. I believe in providing the best quality content possible, and I take a lot of care over my work.” As a writer, she values “integrity and quality above all else. If I feel that I am not the best writer for a particular project, I will recommend a more suitable fellow writer to the client.”
When struggling with writer’s block, Kirsten turns to advice offered by Annie Lamott in her book, Bird By Bird – Some Instructions On Writing And Life. In it, Lamott highlights a quote from a Mel Brooks routine, in which a psychiatrist advises, “Listen to your broccoli, and your broccoli will tell you how to eat it.” When struggling to get the words flowing, Kirsten finds it helps to “just sit in a quiet spot, and calm the voices in your head. Stop trying so hard and just sit there listening to the broccoli. The ideas will come.”
For Kirsten, her netbook is an invaluable tool of the trade. She finds herself slightly uncomfortable with tablets, “but I love my little miniature laptop. It goes everywhere with me. It is compact enough for me to use on the subway, in a car, or on one of those ridiculously small tables in cafes.”
To those just starting out in the profession, she recommends plenty of proofreading, pointing out that one can never really be too careful in their work. “Nothing will make a client lose faith in you faster than an uncaught spelling error.” And when it comes to a piece of writing on which you’ve spent a lot of time, she suggests asking a friend to look it over as well: “A fresh pair of eyes can catch little things that you are just too tired to see.” She also urges new writers not to undersell themselves, but to “recognize the value in your work.”