Journalist and editor Natalie Filatoff describes herself as a magazine editor set free (lance).
With a background in arts, food, fashion and lifestyle publishing, she’s had the good fortune to work in brand publishing for General Electric (GE) in recent years, and found her true passion for teasing out the engaging stories in science and technology. These days, she’s frequently writing about renewable energy, mining, aviation, robotics, autonomous systems, medical research and the life sciences for a variety of publications, online and in print.
“I’ve always had a passion for health writing — translating science into news people can use. I was founding editor of Prevention magazine in Australia, publishing a monthly magazine, website and related books, and have continue striving to inspire people with scientific ways to fulfil their health potential, lose weight and control diabetes,” Natalie explains.
We wanted to find out a bit more about what makes Natalie tick, and uncover where he genius zone truly lies. Here’s what she told us:
Q: How did you get your start in freelancing?
I used the skills, contacts and context I’d gathered in my previous full-time job as editor of Prevention magazine, to pitch ideas and packages to various magazines in the health realm, including Better Homes and Gardens’ ‘Better You’ section, Healthy Food Guide, Diabetic Living and Weight Watchers. I was also offered a gig editing long-form stories for The Global Mail (sadly no longer in existence), delivering on short notice, sometimes overnight, and working with amazing writers to shape their complex pieces. These quite steady sources of work set me up for the kind of varied assignments that I thrive on.
Q: What skills do you offer on a freelance basis?
- Editing publications, sections of publications, white papers and websites
- Writing about science, technology, health and business, often in multifaceted, if not multimedia features
- Travel writing
- Sub-editing and proofreading complex works for readability and understanding
- Ghost writing: writing in the voice of people who have stories to tell or information to impart, but who prefer not to write themselves
- Brainstorming ideas and channels for publication; co-ordinating corporate or business storytelling with social-media campaigns
- Workshopping with groups of marketing or other professionals to hone their writing skills
Q: What are your tools of the trade?
I try to keep it simple, with different-sized Apple Mac products: an iPhone in my pocket for interviews, scheduling, keeping up with news feeds, making notes, and fast photography and social-media posting; a laptop that travels, for working wherever I may be; and my larger desktop Mac for long days.
I couldn’t function without Google docs, Google Calendar and Drop Box.
Also, I love my Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera for taking portraits, covering conferences, and taking travel pics on location. Also great for short videos.
Q: What sort of clients do you work with?
A wide variety, including small science publishers, online and print magazines, B2B websites, corporations and universities.
Q: What sets you apart from other freelancers working with the same creative skills as you?
As an editor and a writer I love generating ideas. There’s no such thing as a tedious assignment because every industry and endeavour has fascinating stories to tell — I love identifying them and honing the best mix for whatever medium I’m working with. I seek out the elements of surprise and innovation on any topic, and weave them in with fundamentals, so that both experts and novices can enjoy and understand the content I’m producing.
I also believe that expressing ideas in writing offers opportunities to be entertaining — not necessarily funny, unless that’s appropriate. But writing should work to lift the piece of content out of the ordinary, make it memorable, have people coming back for more of what that publication or channel has to offer.
And I honour my audience — whoever it is. I like to understand the people I’m writing for, their aspirations, and make my publication, article or tweet contribute to their aims.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a freelancer?
No question: it’s the variety. Being free to respond to any brief, for any audience, at any word length or duration of contract is exhilarating. I thrive on having several projects on the go, meeting varied deadlines and liaising with different groups of people.
Q: What’s your top tip for being a successful freelancer?
Don’t be home alone! Stay in contact with friends, previous clients, interest groups. Go to lectures and conferences in your area of interest. Contribute to as many threads of conversation as you can on The Freelance Collective. Build contact groups in your areas of interest, and share information as you go.
Q: Where do you promote yourself and how do most of your clients find you?
I’m not the greatest promoter — no website, and I only just started testing what I can add to the discourse on my personal Twitter account.
But I find LinkedIn invaluable as a record of my career and approach, for people to tap into if they wish. I also value Contently as a portfolio of my writing. And I think being a member of The Freelance Collective and Rachel’s List is also extremely helpful.
Q: What advice do you have for others considering taking the leap into freelancing?
Seek a mix of assignments. It’s hard to make a living as a writer or photographer if you’re always pitching ideas. I’d say the work you get published in any medium is the public face of your talent — it’s fulfilling and a great poster for what you do. But look for as many other applications as you can for your skills, to keep the financial ball rolling.
And I try never to be offended: pitching ideas can feel soul-destroying, but I try to empathise with non-responders — it’s tough on both sides of the commission, editors are under the pump. I follow up gently, and if I don’t ever hear back … I figure it was the wrong moment. Conversely, I treasure the people who take the time to get back to me, even with a “no thank you” — they are gold!