Rachel Levy Sarfin got her start freelancing when she was still quite young. Even as a child, she loved to write, so when she was 16, her mother suggested that she try working as a freelance writer and helped her to get in touch with her local paper. She began writing some stories for the newspaper in the summer of 1998 and then again in the summer of 2001. Her freelancing career, she says, “kind of went from there.”
Since she was still in school, Rachel didn’t have time for a job and found freelance writing to be an excellent way to earn a little extra money doing something that she loved. Even as she grew older, she found freelancing a good way to supplement her income or to keep herself busy while looking for full-time work. To her, the best part of freelancing is that she gets the opportunity to write and get paid for it. “Because I love writing and it’s really great to be able to be recognized for what you do.” Finding steady work can prove a challenge, however, and it can be hard sometimes to find a new project once she’s finished with an ongoing one.
She’s worked on everything from feature stories, to blog posts, to chapters for an economics textbook. Her favourite type of work is writing features for newspapers, such as the Jewish Tribune in Toronto. “I really enjoy getting the chance to tell people’s stories — and communicate them in such a way that they’re coherent and interesting and compelling, and get other people interested in them.”
Rachel prefers to conduct her interviews with a notepad and pen instead of a tape recorder. When she was getting started in the ’90s, she didn’t have a portable cassette recorder and had to instead write everything down. She found that taking notes by hand helped to fix the interview in her memory. “Even though it’s slightly awkward, because people are still talking and I’m still writing, but it’s just so much easier for me because I guess it helps me cement what’s going on in my mind. The act of writing helps me remember what’s going on.”
When writing features, she finds that it’s best to start writing right after completing an interview. “Even if you get stuck, the sooner you start writing, the fresher it is, so it’s still fresh in your head and you still remember what happened in the interview.” By sitting down at the computer within a few hours of finishing an interview, she also finds it easier to recall facial expressions that help give emotion to the responses.
Rachel considers herself to still be learning the profession. One of the lessons she’s learned so far is the importance of patience, a lesson she passes on to others starting out. Even when you apply for a job and never hear back, you have to keep looking and not give up, she says. “And it can be very difficult, and it can be very discouraging. But you have to stay in the game.”
You can learn more about Rachel on her LinkedIn profile.