Michael Ryan

My first taste of literary success was in year 2, when I was runner-up in the 1989 Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Competition for Schools. A cute but cringingly patriotic poem called Colours of the Nullarbor made an impression on the judges and began an early fascination with the written word.

At 18, I left my hometown of Wagga Wagga to study Professional Writing at the University of Canberra but dropped out in second year to work on resorts in the Whitsundays. It was a good life but the urge to be a writer never left so I moved to Melbourne to complete my degree, graduating from Deakin University with a BA in Professional Writing in 2008.

In my final semester, I did a two-week internship at Fairfax Media and to my complete surprise, was offered a job. I hadn't paid rent on time for at least six months so, of course, I took it. Over the next five years, I wrote more than 400 news articles and in-depth features for Fairfax's Melbourne Weekly (now The Weekly Review), tackling local politics, social justice, the arts, pop culture and property. I was also a reviewer for The Age's 'Good Food', 'Good Bar' and 'Cheap Eats' guides from 2010 to 2013 and wrote a weekly column called 'Stool Pigeon' for the now-defunct City Weekly, in which I reviewed 75 bars in a year (and lived to tell the tale).

In 2010, I moved to the editing desk where I edited and project-managed a wide range of news and lifestyle content. I was reluctant to move away from a full-time writing role, but saw it as an opportunity to hone my craft, polish my language and grammar skills, and learn more about the publishing process.

I moved through several editing roles at Fairfax and later at News Limited but sadly, by 2013, I'd seen most of my colleagues made redundant and the print media industry go through a period of sweeping change. So, with a decade of editing and publishing experience at my disposal, I took my fate into my own hands and set myself up as a freelance editor and writer. And I've never been happier. I'd never felt comfortable in a 9 to 5 office environment and while freelancing is a tough gig with unique challenges, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's allowed me to pursue my own creative goals (writing a book) and no matter how busy I get, I haven't once found myself wishing I still worked in an office.

my core skills

Structural editing

proof reading



style guides

Q & A

Whats the best thing to happen to you in your career to date?

Few things in my career have matched the feeling of being asked to come on board as a full-time journalist at Fairfax while at the tail end of my degree. The second best thing to happen in my career was taking the plunge and leaving the full-time workforce to start a freelance career.

What does a typical work week look like for you?:

It all depends what freelance work I have lined up that week. Sometimes that can be a full 40+ hour week, others it can be literally zero. If work is scarce, I'll spend some time pitching and chasing opportunities, but otherwise take the time to work on my book, which I'm hoping to publish by the end of 2018. I also still work as a casual subeditor at the Herald Sun, so I may head into their offices in Southbank a few times a week.

Describe your working environment in a few sentences..

Physically, my work environment is a small desk in the apartment I share with my partner, who works full-time. I wish it could be more, but with house prices the way they are in Melbourne, this is it for us in the immediate future. I make it work though and have no problem with distraction.

What sets you apart from other freelancers in your industry?

I've been fortunate enough to work for Australia's biggest print media publishers, but sadly, it was at a time when they have gone through a period of rapid decline. I watched hundreds of colleagues lose jobs and decided to take matters into my own hands and pursue my own opportunities in the industry. What this means is that I've benefitted from professional training at Australia's biggest and busiest newsrooms. This has not only made me a better writer, but I have tools and skills at my disposal that some writers spend a lifetime of creative practice developing. I've been trained and mentored by editors with decades of experiences and have worked alongside some of Australia's leading journalists. I've taken all that experience with me into my freelance career and many of my clients are impressed when I tell them I know how to create things like style guides and content plans and can use Adobe InDesign. I also feel like I have a much more 'top-down' view of where the content I'm working on will fit in to the publication/website etc.

What are the tools of your trade?

My beloved MacBook, my iPhone, an A3 printer, a kaleidoscope of highlighters and pens, plenty of indoor plants and a positive attitude.

Do you collaborate with others? If yes, how does that works?

Yes, mostly via email or phone. Most of my freelance work comes with a detailed brief and other than a bit of back-and-forth to discuss admin and check various things, I'm very much autonomous once I've got the gig. When I do need to collaborate I'm always courteous and empathetic and relish the chance for a bit of banter... freelance life can be solitary at times!

Whats been the biggest freelancing lesson to date?

Never underestimate the power of word of mouth and nurture existing networks and relationships. Sure, social media and an online presence is important, but my two biggest clients were both referred to me via former colleagues.

Written Portfolio


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