Finding Freelance Work in My Own Backyard By Dianne Stevens

My own foray into freelance writing came quite by chance in 1973. I was in college studying art, and was looking for a part-time job on the weekends. I went to our local weekly newspaper, thinking they might need a graphic artist. They didn’t. What they did need was someone to be in the office Saturday mornings and if I could write, they also needed a freelance weekend reporter. I jumped at the chance to do both.

After working in the office Saturday mornings at an hourly wage, I wrote freelance stories Saturday afternoon or Sundays that I hoped would be published for $15 each, a good fee at the time. I was responsible for choosing topics, interviewing and writing articles and submitting them to the editor for consideration – all before returning to college Sunday evenings. Within weeks, he published every one and asked me to continue submitting weekly freelance articles.

I wrote about things big and small – all with a local angle pertinent to our readers. I wrote about how people in the community coped with the gas crisis, county fair participants, a Little League team that went to the state finals, local students going on an educational trip to Russia, Eagle Scouts, new business openings, town-sponsored events and more. I even covered the Saturday afternoon discovery of a small plane and its four occupants in a remote state forest that had crashed months earlier.

Long before the internet, cell phones and text messages, I quickly developed sources who kept me apprised of the local scene. Churches, schools, local organizations and businesses all offered possibilities to me as I learned stories were everywhere. I had a nose for news and I loved writing about the people, places and things in my town and the surrounding area. It wasn’t long before readers were calling me to suggest story ideas.

I found there wasn’t anything I’d rather do than write. That was life-changing for me. I switched my college major to journalism and continued to freelance through school. After graduation, I was hired as a full time reporter and worked my way up to managing editor. Years later when I opted to stay home and be a full time mom, I returned to my freelancing roots and began a decades-long career as a freelance writer.

My articles were sold to daily Worcester Telegram & Gazette, weekly newspapers, Blackstone Valley Tribune and other publications of Worcester County Newspapers group. I was able to continue my freelance writing career even while returning to full time work. I was also writing for Streetmail, an online weekly e-zine; a regional mature audience publication, Fifty-Plus Advocate; and a New England special interest magazine, New England Condominium. I was able to cultivate more than 20 years of freelance work within an hour’s drive from our home – literally in my own backyard.

Dianne Stevens began her writing career as a college student more than 30 years ago when she became a freelance reporter for a community weekly in her Massachusetts hometown. She worked full time as a reporter and editor until her first child was born in the 1981 when she returned to freelancing for the local daily newspaper and community weeklies for the next two decades. In 2000, she wrote an online weekly freelance e-zine and began freelancing for an over-55 regional weekly and New England special interest magazine. Her published works include more than 2,400 freelance articles in 18 newspapers and magazines.