Arkansas Freelance Writers Find Footing on National Press Scene

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Apr. 15, 2013 12:00 am  

In what Barnes called “a happy circumstance, New York had been reading my stuff on the Reuters wire. So I added The Times and fairly soon People and then Time magazine.”

He wasn’t immediately self-supporting as a freelancer, but he had the support of his wife, Amy, who had a good job.

Barnes said his career is “sort of like a one-man law practice. One day all you have is an uncontested divorce, but the next day you have a capital murder trial. So it’s not exactly feast or famine. But I was extremely lucky. ”

The Clinton presidency also provided Barnes opportunity, as it did for other journalists, though covering the Whitewater controversy was challenging. “On those days when The Times didn’t have a correspondent there, I was covering the trial for them as well and often doing backup for the correspondent who was here. And I picked up NBC Radio too along the way, so I’m filing for sometimes three, four different agencies.”

His business has slowed some since the end of the Clinton administration, but Barnes said he still has plenty to keep him busy, a couple of books, for example.

As far as annual earnings, Barnes again referred to good fortune: “Let’s just say I’ve been very lucky.”

Eric Francis

Eric Francis of North Little Rock had been in journalism since 1990 and was managing editor of Stephens Media’s central Arkansas newspapers when he turned freelance in the spring of 2008. He has been living off his earnings for about the last three years, although “Going freelance in the middle of the biggest recession since the Great Depression was probably not my best decision.”

“I wanted to be a writer again,” Francis said of his decision. “I wanted to write something more than editorials and I didn’t want to have to do all the stuff a boss has to do.”

How has having been an editor helped?

“It helps me because I understand how editors think and I understand their role and responsibilities,” he said. When the editors who employ him “know that I’ve been in their shoes, then they can have a little more confidence when dealing with me that I’m going to quickly grasp their needs and understand the importance of things like deadlines.”

Francis said his biggest misconception about the life as a freelancer has been “that you set your own rates. There are your rates and there is what your client will pay you. And infrequently do the twain meet.”

 

 

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