women freelance tips for beginners

Top Freelance Tips for Beginners in the Outdoor Industry

This is the start of a new series, “one question, many answers.” In the series, we’ve put all the different answers to one question in one place for each post. The answers will be from the full interviews with each freelance outdoorswoman giving freelance tips, but now, if you just want to look at one question, you can see all the different answers these women have given.

The goal of this series is to hammer home one of the main points of the site: that there isn’t just one way to freelance correctly — everyone has different answers and different pathways to success.

To start off the series, let’s begin with one of the most overarching questions: overall freelance tips and advice.

If you could give one piece of advice to a newer woman freelancer getting into the outdoor industry, what would it be?

1. Megan Michelson – Freelance Writer and Editor

Megan Michelson Outside

About Megan: A freelance writer and editor for 10 years, Megan covers all things outdoors for publications like Outside, Backcountry, San Francisco Chronicle, and many others.

Her Answer: “We all have a voice. It’s important that you find and use yours. You don’t need to always write in first person or about yourself to strengthen your voice. In fact, pitching ideas just about yourself—the latest trip you went on, or some personal essay—is only going to get you so far. Instead, use your voice and your unique perspective on the world to tell stories about what’s happening in the world at large or in your community.

Also, don’t underestimate your value. Don’t say yes to work that won’t pay you properly for your time and effort. Don’t be afraid to ask for more (more money, more time, more wordcount—whatever you need). And shoot for the stars: If there’s a place you really want to write for, say Patagonia or Outside, then start reaching out and be patient but persistent. Eventually, they’ll notice you and give you a chance.”

Read her full interview.

2. Becky Jensen – Freelance Writer and Podcast Contributor

Becky Jensen hiking the CT

About Becky: With over 12 years of experience as a freelancer, Becky is a “copywriting workhorse” covering all different topics and more recently developing her own voice in the outdoors since spending five weeks hiking the Colorado Trail in 2016.

Her Answer: “Every time a female freelancer gets a byline in the outdoor industry, it helps us all. So don’t view other women as the competition, as the enemy, fighting over limited space on the page. Instead, see them as part of the greater sisterhood, a support network, that wants you to succeed – that wants your story heard. Ask other women for help when you need it. Give help to others when asked. We’re in this together.”

Read her full interview.

3. Shandi Kano – Freelance Creative Producer

shandi kano producer

About Shandi: Shandi is an award-winning producer with over 10 years of experience in the outdoor and sports production realm. She’s also a runner and snowboarder and has been freelancing for 7 years.

Her Answer: “Just keep going.

If you know it’s what you want to do and you’re loving it. You just keep going and keep learning and be present in all of your actions. And trust that with time, things get better and easier and you have more experience and therefore more resources.”

Read her full interview.

4. Leslie Hsu Oh – Freelance Author, Editor, and Photographer

Leslie Hsu Oh

About Leslie: Mother of four and award-winning writer, Leslie has 14 years of experience in the freelance writing world and has written for publications including Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Outside, and more.

Her Answer: “Read and study the dream publications you want to write for. Then, pitch to them.

Be aware of land acknowledgement. […] Understand the difference between cultural appreciation vs cultural appropriation. […] Respect why a source might not want their language italicized or how they want their non-English names published or tribal affiliations recognized. […]

Finally, always be generous with your fellow colleagues. If you turn down an assignment, recommend a friend. If a colleague asks for a referral, trade contacts. Pay it forward.”

Read her full interview.

5. Julie Brown – Freelance Journalist and Editor

julie brown

About Julie: Julie started freelancing in the summer of 2018 with over a decade of experience in reporting and journalism. She’s had three different contributing editor positions and written for numerous outdoor publications.

Her Answer: “Have that abundance mindset. Don’t feel like there’s this limitation on work, like the scarcity of work. There’s a lot of work out there and there’s plenty to go around. Support the other people who are around you and open doors because they’ll be opened for you too.

And the more women and the more diversity that we can bring into the outdoor industry, the more the industry will grow. I think the industry itself has had a lot of growing pains recently and it’s had to reckon with a lot of really deep big things and that is really important. We all have a really important role to play in that.”

Read her full interview.

6. Marquis Matson – Freelance SEO Analyst and Strategist

marquis matson travel

About Marquis: With 6+ years of experience freelancing, Marquis spends her time traveling the world (currently she’s living in Australia) and helping her clients rank in Google. Her clients are primarily in eCommerce spanning all different industries including travel and yoga.

Her Answer: “Take care of yourself. Don’t forget to listen to your body and your mental health.

As a woman, you’re gonna be questioned more than men. […] I think that this is kind of our time to shift that or at least hold strong for the women that come after us. We’re going to be questioned and guess what? I’m really good at my job anyway, and fine, I’ll answer your questions because I don’t have time to make a big deal out of it.”

Read her full interview.

7. Kate Siber – Freelance Journalist and Author

kate siber with book

About Kate: Kate started freelancing full-time 16 years ago and never looked back. She’s written for a variety of different publications including National Geographic Traveler, Outside, and New York Times and published three books.

Her Answer: “Relax. You don’t have to try so hard to be perfect.

Yes, uphold integrity—be accurate, meet your deadlines, be courteous and all of that. But the most important thing is to grow into your voice by cultivating your personhood in an authentic way. That is something that can only be lived into over time, so be patient. Take your time. Enjoy. Follow your interests. Curiosity is your greatest asset. Use it as the fuel for your career (and wellbeing) and let it unfold naturally, with grace and humor.”

Read her full interview.

8. Ryan Tuttle – Freelance Commercial and Editorial Photographer

ryan tuttle in joshua tree

About Ryan: Freelance photographer, rock climber, guitarist, drummer, and proud owner of the Tuttle Shuttle – a tiny house she designed herself, Ryan has been freelancing for outdoor brands and publications since 2015.

Her Answer: “Don’t be intimidated by everybody else that seems to be doing the same thing that you are because everybody’s different and nobody’s doing what you’re doing.

Everybody’s different. You have all these different avenues and maybe you’re super inspired by one photographer and you feel like your work looks exactly the same as theirs, but it doesn’t. You are your own person and you see things a certain way.

So know your worth and don’t be intimidated by all the noise surrounding you.”

Read her full interview.

9. Cameron Walker – Freelance Science Writer

science writer cameron walker
Photo credit: Sara Prince

About Cameron: Cameron is an award-winning science writer with over 16 years of experience covering a wide variety of topics in the outdoors and other science fields.

Her Answer: “There’s a place for you and what you do and how you do it.

You don’t have to do it like someone else does. The thing that makes you unique is going to help you and you’re going to find a way to do it the way you want to.

I know I felt like that starting out – like I wasn’t the right kind of journalist, or I didn’t have that journalistic drive. Thinking about what I was actually good at and what I was actually interested in has helped me find the kind of writing I love to do and do better at it.”

Read her full interview.

10. Marinel de Jesus – Freelance Writer, Entrepreneur, and Filmmaker

marinel de jesus hiking
Photo credit: Sara Prince

About Marinel: Former lawyer, Marinel is now a global mountain nomad, freelance writer, and entrepreneur with an outdoors guiding company and travel blog. She’s currently living in Peru with her two cats.

Her Answer: “Be true to the voice that you want to utilize in your writing. Don’t copy what’s already been done because you see it’s been successful. Innovation is okay. Being different is okay. Trust your intuition.

Bring your unique self because you are unique and don’t second guess it. Do writing that matters to you and inspires you because if it inspires you, it’s gonna inspire someone else.

I get into trouble talking about this with some people because they don’t agree, but one thing I want to tell beginners is don’t worry too much about money in the beginning. I’ve had situations where I would write for a magazine, they didn’t pay me, but in the end they connected me to a much bigger opportunity and I’m a believer of that.”

Read her full interview.

11. Johanna Flashman – Freelance Journalist, Copywriter, and SEO Strategist (and Founder of The Freelance Outdoorswoman)

johanna flashman

About Johanna: Founder and one-woman-show behind The Freelance Outdoorswoman, Johanna has been freelancing for two and a half years trying many different pathways including journalism, copywriting, photography, website design, and SEO (search engine optimization) marketing.

Her Answer: “Number one: You’re not alone.

But also: if you try it and you don’t enjoy it, you can stop and it doesn’t mean you’re ‘giving up’ or that it’s a bad thing – you’re just finding what actually brings you joy and maybe you’ll come back to it another time. Essentially, don’t see failure as a negative and don’t be afraid of it.”

Read all her answers.

12. Brigid Mander – Freelance Writer and Skier

brigid-mander-skier-writer

About Brigid: Brigid began freelancing in 2012 with no experience in journalism but with 6 years of experience ski bumming. She now writes about travel, outdoor adventure, and the environment for a wide variety of publications.

Her Answer: “The only two pieces of advice that I really give people is one: never do anything for free. Maybe when you’re established and you want to be nice to some little nonprofit website or something, maybe. But writing is a skill, otherwise someone else wouldn’t be asking you to do it.

And two: there isn’t a magic formula. It’s not like becoming a cardiologist where you have steps to follow. Whatever way you see through to making it happen for yourself, maybe that’s the way. You might have to change tactics here or there, but I think it’s a very amorphous path and it’s so different for everybody.

When I was trying to start writing, I asked a few skiing outdoor writers in town for advice and they were very unhelpful and discouraging, just like “[dude voice] wahh, it’s so difficult. Don’t even bother, you can’t make any money.”

They were really unhelpful, but I didn’t let that deter me because I wanted to do it. So you have to pick and choose what advice you absorb. Because in my experience I also found that every writer has done it differently.”

Read her full interview.

What advice resonates with you the most? Do you have any other freelance tips and advice for women freelancers in the outdoor industry? Comment below!

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