• Carlos P. Beltran

The Freelance Lifestyle is Not for Everyone - Interview with Myrna Perez


This is a transcript from THE FREELANCE JOURNALIST 5 MINUTE TAKLSHOW podcast.

You can listen to it on iTunes.

Carlos:

Hello, guys. From Brooklyn, New York, this is Carlos P. Beltran. Welcome to The Freelance Journalist 5 Minute Talk Show. Today we're talking about what it takes to be a freelancer, whether print, radio, or video. Is it for everyone? Joining us from Miami is Myrna Perez, a young video journalist and filmmaker covering conflict and environment injustice. Myrna, you're a young freelancer. You're out there every day finding stories, traveling, but it's not always about telling stories, now is it? You have to also know how to run what basically is a one-person business, right?

Myrna:

Yeah. You have to get really, really good at what me and my boyfriend like to call adulting. You have to get really good at adulting and making spreadsheets for your budgets and for how much you're spending and how much you're taking in, because how much you're taking in is going to be different every month. That's really tricky. If you're based in the United States, one way to ameliorate the pressures of being a freelancer is to file for an EIN, which I just did a couple days ago. That way you can write off your taxes for your apartment if it's where you work or your camera equipment or your insurance if you have insurance or your meals, your travel. That way you can balance it out. It's a big monster that you just have to wrap your arms around, but if you can do it, it is the most satisfying and most amazing work you can do because you have all the freedom in the world and you also get to do what you love. It's pretty nice.

Carlos:

Right. It can be a lot of fun. Our work as freelancers can be sometimes romanticized as travelers and storytellers and whatnot, but what kind of person do you have to be in order to be able to do this work?

Myrna:

Honestly, you have to be super ballsy and very courageous and a go-getter. It's really not for people who want to sit behind a desk. It's really for people who want to go out in the field. It's people who want to experience the adventure but also are hustlers. You've got to hustle, go on Craigslist, go on anywhere you can. Because the pay isn't steady, you have to always be on your toes, ready to go, no matter what. If you're not hustling and on your toes and always trying to get the job, you're not going to get it.

Carlos:

I like that you're talking about hustling, because it's true, you constantly have to be on the move, on the go. How do you manage the uncertainties of the business, especially if you're covering breaking news? Say a story breaks out somewhere. What do you do? Do you go and cover the event not knowing whether or not you're going to get paid for the footage or the piece, or do you try and contact the editor right away and see if you get them to commission you before you fly out, or did you just not risk it?

Myrna:

Honestly, you have to get used to uncertainty, because there's going to be times where you're going to want to cover something and you're not going to have anyone that's willing to pay you for it until you get the footage. For example, I'm going to Standing Rock next week and I have nobody that's willing to buy my footage or to hire me to go there, but there's this burning passion inside of me that is telling me I have to go. If nothing comes of it, whatever. It's fine. I had the experience for myself. Then, you have to be ballsy enough to go and also responsible enough to know that you can pay for it and afford it.

Carlos:

Some people see freelancing as a in-between kind of gig, as in in-between staffed positions. If a big network reached out to you tomorrow and offered you a staff position, would you take it?

Myrna:

No.

Carlos:

Why?

Myrna:

Dude, I do it for the freedom and the fun. It is work, but it is so much fun and it is so rewarding when you do a really kick-ass story. If you're working a staff job, your network is limited to the people at the company. If you're a freelancer, you can have a ginormous network of people. As you know, one of the best assets of being a freelancer is the community. If you want to go freelance, make sure you're involved with the community. Make sure you're involved in all the Facebook groups, all the organizations. Apply. Talk to Carlos. Talk to me. Reach out to everyone that you can. Ask them questions even if you don't know them and just say hi. Everyone is a lot friendlier than what you expect.

Carlos:

Thanks so much, Myrna, for being with us. For more short interviews and advice, subscribe to this podcast. If you like what we're doing, we would love it if you could take a few seconds to leave a short review for this podcast on iTunes. We'll see you next time.

If you're looking for free, hands-on practical advice on video production and freelance journalism, head over to www.carlospbeltran.com/tips. This was the Freelance Journalist 5 Minute Talkshow. We'll see you next time.

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