Anna Furman is a freelance writer, side hustler and marketing professional. We talked about sticking with a story after it’s been killed by an editor, similarities between marketing and writing and the importance of mastering Excel spreadsheets.
When did you start freelancing?
I started full-time freelancing last summer, but I’ve been freelancing for the past four years while I was doing other full-time jobs.
Do you remember your first paid byline?
My first paid assignment was for artsy.net. It was about Diane Burko, who takes these aerial photographs of glaciers to show the effects of climate change. It was part of an edit test, and I was excited to see it posted.
I’ve read your work in The Guardian, Vice, New York Magazine and more – Which story are you most proud of and why?
I wrote a piece last summer for Fusion about this campground/hotel in Marfa, Texas. The editor I wrote it for originally ended up killing the piece, [but] I really stuck with it and kept doing more reporting and fixing it up. I was proud of the final piece because I had spent so much time restructuring it, figuring out how to do better and thinking of how I could make it fit for a different magazine, which is challenging.
[Also,] I wrote a piece about Marilyn Minter’s show at the Brooklyn Museum this fall. She was such a fun person to interview because she’s so off-the-cuff and gives you great quotes. Plus, she’s really open and generous with her time. Other artists seem to be more guarded by a PR machine and are difficult to get to. She was really so open and I’m a fan of her work.
What do you enjoy about freelancing?
I like setting expectations for myself and striving to reach them, and I like being able to make my own schedule and to not have to report to anyone besides an assigning editor.
What don’t you enjoy?
The instability of regular pay, having to chase someone down to be paid and not having coworkers – not being in a space where you’re bouncing ideas off of your coworkers and brainstorming and dealing with problems together.
What’s it been like transitioning to writing from working in marketing? I know you mentioned working for New York Magazine.
It wasn’t so much a transition because I wrote a lot of gallery reviews for Artsy before I went into marketing, and marketing always felt like this weird fit, doing copywriting and things like that. I think for me, the transition was more about going from freelance while at a desk job to full-time.
What values are important to you as a writer?
Humility, I think, and a sense of humor. I’m thinking of a writer, Blythe Roberson. She’s an amazing reporter. I really like her. She writes for The Onion. I think she’s written for Shouts and Murmurs. She was working on some show now, [but] I forget what show.
What message do you have for The Millennial Freelancer’s audience?
Persistence is key – plus teaching yourself how to use Excel! I have a really organized spreadsheet that’s color-coded, that has shortcuts in it, where I track all of my invoices. Even if you have two invoices and they’re just $50 each, it’s so important to keep track.
That’s kind of a boring answer, but before you know it, you’re writing a couple of small things and then all of a sudden you have to keep track of invoices you don’t remember. It’s impossible to keep track without a really organized system.
Also, most full-time freelancers are doing other work, whether it’s tutoring or teaching or copywriting. I think that’s kind of a misconception of writing full-time in nonfiction, non-sponsored articles, and that’s not necessarily true for most people.