From Suits to Sweats: My Crooked Path to Freelancing By Donna Kozik

The Autobiography of Donna Kozik by Donna Kozik. It was my first work, written when I was about seven years old. It was complete with cover illustration, a Swingline stapler binding and thorough, albeit brief, storytelling. My mother thought it was the best thing she ever read.

That’s when I chose to be a writer.

I majored in communications in college and started working at a newspaper weeks before graduating. Five years as a newspaper editor taught me all the basics a writer needs to know: interviewing, organizing notes, writing quickly, writing accurately and editing, editing, editing.

After my parents died, I needed a change from newspaper work and become a corporate communications specialist with Erie Insurance. I started as an assistant editor for an internal magazine that went to Erie’s agents and, thanks to my boss’s confidence, graduated to editor in a matter of months. A few years later I was editing the corporation’s largest expense item after computers: In Sync magazine. It was a daunting, yet invigorating, responsibility.

In the spring of 2000, I earned a master of business administration degree and set my sights on moving from Erie, Pa. to San Diego. Once settled in California, I started looking for a communications manager position but then started dabbling in freelancing with the custom publishing division of a leading San Diego magazine. My boss urged me to pick up a few more clients and enjoy the luxury of working from home. To me, it sounded too good to be true!

That’s when I chose to be a freelance writer.

My suggestions for a successful freelance writing career:

1. Target your market. When I decided to start an e-zine, it was tempting to make it like Prego spaghetti sauce (“It’s in there!”) and include something for everybody. I forced myself to concentrate on a market and, partly to keep myself on track, named my publication to reflect my primary audience: “The Corporate Communicator.”

2. Stick to a writing schedule. Even if you don’t have official deadlines, make some for that most important client: yourself.

3. Keep reading the good stuff. My favorite is The New Yorker, but I also relish the writing of great novels, biographies and even well-written cooking magazines.

4. Become an expert. My MBA sometimes helps me get in the door, but more clients are interested in my newspaper editing experience. Others are fascinated with my insurance and healthcare background. Whatever you choose to specialize in, know your topic inside and out – and publicize that you know it.

5. Never – and I mean never, ever — give up.

The material continues to grow for Donna Kozik’s second autobiography. She is a communications copywriter and consultant based in San Diego. The Corporate Communicator is Donna’s free monthly e-zine for clients, colleagues and friends wanting to write more persuasive communications. (You can subscribe at or by sending an e-mail to Her work still appears in Erie Insurance’s In Sync magazine, which is distributed to 1.3 million policyholders. Other clients include IDEA, Inc., Sharp HealthCare and San Diego Metropolitan magazine.