Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, what did you do in your previous life?
My name is Jennifer Marino Walters, and I am a freelance writer from Brooklyn, NY. I am a mom to twin boys who will start kindergarten this fall and a toddler girl. I am also an Army wife — my husband, Keith, is a lieutenant colonel. My family has moved around a lot, but we currently live in the Washington, D.C. metro area.
I was an editorial assistant at TIME For Kids magazine in New York City when I met my husband. I moved with him to Northern California for 18 months while he attended grad school. While there, I worked as a communications manager for a children’s non-profit, but I really missed the publishing world. So when the Army transferred us back to New York for three years, I became an assistant managing editor at BizBash and then a senior editor at Scholastic.
How did you first get into freelancing?
We were transferred to Colorado Springs in 2010, where the publishing industry is virtually non-existent. Since the cost of living is much lower there than in New York and we were ready to start a family, I thought it would be the perfect time to try my hand at freelancing. I already had lots of editor contacts at Scholastic’s website and magazines as well as at other publications, so it wasn’t difficult for me to start getting assignments.
Over the years, I have steadily increased the amount of work I take on. I now write most regularly for Scholastic Online, Care.com, and Bentley University, but I write for many other clients as well.
You have three children under five years old. How do you find time to be a successful freelance writer?
I have a nanny come about 12 hours a week and get a lot of work done while she’s here. The twins currently attend preschool three half days per week, so I do simple tasks like answering emails and sending invoices while my daughter plays or colors at my side. She takes a two-hour nap every afternoon when the boys are home from school, and since they are now at the age where they can entertain each other, I can get writing done during nap time if I need to. But unfortunately, I do often have to carve out time on evenings and weekends to write while my husband is home. During particularly busy periods, I sometimes stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. to finish stories. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and sometimes I don’t get enough sleep!
Your blog is called Double Duty Twins. Can you explain what that means?
I started it while I was pregnant with my twins. At first, it was just a platform through which to keep friends and family updated on the pregnancy and babies, but I was hoping for it to eventually turn into a parenting resource as well as a place to showcase my freelance work. I was really focused on the twin thing when trying to come up with a name, and that made me think of “Double Duty.” I thought it was perfect because it reflected so many aspects of my life: parenting two babies at a time, being a mom and a writer, being a military spouse and the sense of duty that comes with that.
Ultimately, I think all parents pull double duty in so many areas of their lives, so it’s a name they can all relate to.
Besides spending extra time with your children, what is your favorite thing you’ve been able to do because of your freelance writing career that you wouldn’t be able to do if you had a typical 9-5 job?
It really does all boil down to spending more time with my family and being able to take care of my kids. I like not having to cram all my appointments and errands into the weekends, so that I can spend Saturday and Sunday relaxing and having fun. I like having more travel flexibility and being able to fit in workouts. I like being able to choose the projects I work on so that I am always enjoying my work. Overall, working from home makes life more fun and less stressful.
Is there anything you regret or would have done differently early on?
I am still not good about creating a work schedule for myself, which means it is hard to stay disciplined. I am hoping to be better about that once my twins start kindergarten in September, because I think it will really help me manage my time better.
Many of our members have families, like you. What advice would you give to someone with a family who is looking to dive into freelance writing?
It is really hard to find balance as a freelance writer. Since you don’t have set work hours, you’ll always feel like you should be doing something else.
If you have a big story due and you’re playing with your kids, you’ll think, “I’m on deadline — I should be writing!” And when you’re working, you’ll be thinking, “I should be with my kids right now!”
So my advice is to not give in to the mom (or dad) guilt! Do your best to live in the moment and devote yourself fully to whatever it is you are doing at any given time, whether that’s working or playing with your children.
You write for clients but also manage your own blog. Do you find writing your own content or working with clients more challenging and why?
I definitely find writing my own content more challenging. When I write for a client, its website or magazine has a distinct voice. I know I need to write in that particular voice. But with my blog, I have to find my own voice, and that’s always tough.
I also find it more challenging to motivate myself to write for my blog since I am not getting paid. My time is so limited, so when I do have a chance to write, I work on the assignments that will earn me money first. It makes me feel better about spending that hour or two away from the kids or staying up late. Perhaps that’s why months can go by between blog posts, but I am hoping to get better about that!
Do you still write for fun? Are you working on any side projects?
My blog is for fun, and I try to keep up with it as much as I can, but it’s very challenging. I do consider all of my writing to be fun, though — even the work I get paid for!
As far as side projects go, I wrote four books about the seasons for young children for publishing company Red Chair Press. The books will be available in stores and on Amazon. It was unlike any other writing project I’ve done, so I’m very excited for the books to come out!
Lastly – what is one small thing that an aspiring writer can do today to improve their freelancing business?
Think outside the box of traditional magazines and websites and reach out to everyone you know! You’d be surprised at how many businesses and organizations need good writers to create web content, marketing materials, brochures, etc. I never would have imagined that non-profit organizations and universities would turn out to be some of my most lucrative clients!
Want more of Jennifer? Keep up with what she’s writing!