Marisa Donnelly: poet, writer, essayist, editor answers all your questions about freelancing, motivation and internet writing! #AMA

Marisa Donnelly
May 10, 2018

Interested in learning the ins and outs of writing on the internet? Want the behind-the-scenes of a full time freelancer? Looking for inspiration, motivation, or writing tips? 

This #AMA, hosted by Marisa Donnelly (former Staff Writer/Editor at Thought Catalog and now full time freelancer) will answer any questions you have about writing, searching for jobs, staying inspired, finding your voice, building your craft, and staying motivated!

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Are you planning to write another essay or poetry book in the near future?
May 17, 5:54PM EDT0

Yes! I have a Christian book that's written and looking for a home! I also have tons of ideas in the works :)

May 17, 6:10PM EDT0
What do you do if on a given day you don't feel like writing at all?
May 17, 3:25PM EDT0

I can honestly say I always feel like writing something. But if I'm unmotivated, I'll distract with a walk or exercise, playing with kids, going to the beach, or something arts/crafty! A brain break does wonders! 

May 17, 6:12PM EDT0
You have written on everything from recipes to depression and many diverse topics. Do you really get interested to write about all these topics/niches or do you feel people need to know more about these topics?
May 17, 7:44AM EDT0

Honestly, I love writing about a variety of topics because I feel like my mind is just all over the place, and being able to share my thoughts on these things is true to the kind of person I am. The hard part - obviously I'm not an expert on all topics - but I don't try to be. I just share things I've learned/enjoyed/resonated with! But obviously I do share things I think are important and that I feel people should read about, too!

May 17, 10:09AM EDT0
How do you stay motivated on a monotonously routine life? What's your secret?
May 16, 11:28PM EDT0

Well, first I would say that my life is definitely not monotonous/routined- which I think is why I love it so much! Being a freelancer and independent contractor, I set my own schedule, which means I'm always writing on different topics, changing when and where I work, etc. I love the flexibility and really enjoy and take advantage of that!

May 17, 10:08AM EDT0
Why is it important to optimize one's content for SEO and social media?
May 14, 1:21PM EDT0

Having strong SEO will help Google to see your page and put it on a higher rank in search results/analytics. This will help people to see and engage with your content (especially long term). I would definitely read/research about SEO as much as possible so that you can use this to your benefit. 


May 14, 5:51PM EDT0
How should a freelance writer go about identifying a brand or company's unique voice and then translating that voice into the content they generate?
May 14, 9:42AM EDT0

If you are looking to write for a company, I would highly suggest reading their pieces, looking into their brand, research their voice/content because you will have a better chance of writing in a way that fits their voice. This doesn't mean changing your voice to fit them, but writing in a way that can match the content and sell yourself as a freelancer for them. Ex: You want to write for a creative brand, adopt a creative voice. Technical brand, more professional voice, etc.

May 14, 5:52PM EDT0
How beneficial is it for a freelancer to be both a writer and qualified editor?
May 14, 7:25AM EDT0

Not necessary, but helpful. You have an entire skillset you can use to sell yourself with if you are both.

May 14, 5:50PM EDT0
What should new freelancers do when they get their first job interview?
May 14, 7:00AM EDT0

 In terms of what? Get excited, prepare yourself (to sell your skills, etc.), research competitive salaries in your area etc. so that you know what to ask for, look into the product/website etc. so that you know more about what you're writing, be confident.

May 14, 5:48PM EDT0
How do you stick to your schedule when you don’t have any boss pushing you all the time?
May 13, 3:52AM EDT0

Being a freelancer is all about being intrinsically motivated, meaning you have to really create a schedule for yourself and stick to it. I suggest creating deadlines for yourself, keeping a planner, and staying organized as much as possible. I also find it's helpful to change scenery/take breaks periodically so that you're refreshed and not just staring blankly at a screen for hours upon hours.

May 14, 5:49PM EDT0
Now that you’ve experienced both worlds, would you say you enjoy working as a freelancer more than working in an office?
May 12, 2:34PM EDT0

Well, to be fair I never worked in an office as a writer. I have always worked remote. I love the security of a full-time position, but I also enjoy the perks of being able to set my own schedule and work for myself as a freelancer. Right now, as I’m building my company, I would have to say I love being a freelancer—I can invest my time energy and heart back into me as opposed to a company. However, both experiences have been wonderful and rich.


May 13, 1:20AM EDT0
What’s the difference of writing on the Internet vs. regular writing?
May 12, 5:13AM EDT0

Writing on the internet is instantly publishable. Anything you write and post online, to a website, etc. is not only permanent, but easily accessible and forever able to be traced back to you with a simple Google search. There is also this interesting rawness that comes from internet writing because a lot of it (especially with social media) is spur of the moment, drafted, real excerpts from people's lives, as opposed to edited, reworked, refined content you might find in a  printed magazine or literary journal. 

May 13, 1:19AM EDT0
Do you still make time to go out with friends and former colleagues? How do you do it with your schedule?
May 12, 3:41AM EDT0

Yes absolutely! I think that having a social schedule is necessary for being productive. You have to balance the craziness of your workload with some fun, too! I honestly just organize my life with my calendar. I like to know, each week, when I have time and then I can reach out to friends/family etc. to make plans.

May 13, 1:17AM EDT0
If there’s one thing about freelancing that you absolutely hate, what would it be?
May 12, 2:46AM EDT0

The time you have to spend searching for places that interest you/are looking for writers etc. It would be so easy if you could just write something, send it out, and get it immediately published (what a great world that would be!)

May 13, 1:16AM EDT0
As a writer, are you better with work when you’re approaching deadline or you hate getting that kind of pressure?
May 12, 2:33AM EDT0

I work both ways. Sometimes I enjoy having a deadline because it pushes me to be more efficient, but I am pretty intrinsically motivated, so I do enjoy being able to create my own due dates.

May 13, 1:15AM EDT0
What are topics you would refuse to write straight out?
May 12, 12:58AM EDT0

I would refuse to write something that flat-out disagrees with my morality/principles. Ex: I'm strongly against hookup culture, so if I was asked to write a piece advocating for causal sex etc. I would definitely say no. To write in support of something that I don't agree with on any grounds would be disingenuous.  


May 13, 1:13AM EDT0
Before you were a full-time freelancer, what was your job?
May 11, 11:45PM EDT0

I was a full-time Staff Writer/Editor for Thought Catalog.

May 13, 1:12AM EDT0
How do you get past writer’s block especially when you work at home all the time?
May 11, 8:46PM EDT0

Honestly, I don't believe in writer's block. I really think it's just our minds telling us we can't. I think that if you're feeling stuck, you simply have to refocus. Go for a walk, a run, take a nap, write something completely different, etc. You can create something, you just might not like it/might not be good. But just write through it. Write anyways. And dont' be so hard on yourself! (Also, misconception - freelancers are always at home. We're not! A change of scenery is always good to stimulate the brain.)

May 13, 1:11AM EDT0
Especially since you rarely leave home for work, how do you stay inspired and motivated?
May 11, 3:15PM EDT0

This is a misconception about freelance writers. They don't necessarily have to be at home all the time to work. I find myself going to coffee shops, to the beach, to the park, even working from my car sometimes when I'm in between running errands! There are many resources you can tap into, too, like places where freelance or remote workers can work in a rented space. Sometimes this costs a little money, but it's great if you want to be around other people and get out of the house. Honestly, if you are choosing to work at home, or freelancing in general, you have to make sure you are intrinsically motivated. 

May 11, 3:38PM EDT0
Aside from writing, do you accept other kinds of freelancing jobs?
May 11, 2:22PM EDT0

Right now I do primarily creative writing freelancing, but there are also options for copywriting, copy-editing, and technical writing that I have considered. Because I'm in the process of building my company, I have not accepted as many jobs because my ultimate goal is to help other writers build themselves, and I don't want to get too distracted from that.

May 11, 3:39PM EDT0

How did you begin your career as a freelance writer?

May 11, 1:34PM EDT0

I started when I was in college. I began by simply Google searching and using services like LinkedIn to find clients that were hiring. I also built a blog from the ground up so that I could have legitimate articles written to show people my writing skill and give me a better chance at being hired.

Honestly, start by writing a blog or gathering a profile of your best work. Create a powerful resume to help you stand out, and start applying! The process is easier than you think once you start!

May 11, 3:41PM EDT1
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Marisa Donnelly