Saturday, May 31, 2008

One Man Banding and Pen Names

With blogging, writing an article or any writing it's one subject at a time, but since I think writing is all about breaking the rules I'm going to write about two subjects in one post!

GASP! Did she say two subjects? 

Yes, I did- and what of it? Just read...

Lately I have been hearing and talking about One Man Banding and Pen Names a lot.  It would seem that more and more places are requiring these two things to actually make it as a freelancer.

One Man Banding- the magazine I work for requires it.  Just yesterday Jenn, who is now one of my writers (thanks Robert), asked me if we would pay people to take pictures for the articles she writes.  Unfortunately, due to the policy at Focus we can't pay freelance photographers.  We require that our writers take their own pictures (or have someone take them with no pay), write their own copy, check for errors and then submit for proofing.  

It got me to thinking about how as a freelancer you have to be your own One Man Band because no one else can help you, especially with community based publications.  Now, I don't know how the big national glossies handle these things, but I do know that as beginning writers we're highly unlikely to get the chance to find out.  So, we must find local work and do everything ourselves.

On one hand, this really sucks! On the other, it's wonderful!  We gain so much more experience than "just a writer" would and become more of an asset to any company we may choose to take on full time employment with.

How can we get better at taking our own pictures?
What I did was I just bought a digital camera and began shooting.  I took 50 shots where a seasoned photo man/woman may have only needed one.  I took dozens of angles, put my subjects in the sunlight, pulled them indoors, put them under fluorescent lamps, and shot until I thought one gem might emerge.

Since doing this there has only been one time where every photo I took was thrown out and it's because the day we chose to do the shoot was really cloudy and I made the mistake of shooting my subject with the sun behind her. * Tip* Always make sure the sun is shining on your subject otherwise shadows are created*

Another thing I would recommend is when you get your digital camera (gotta go digital because it is cheaper for a rookie- trust me! you don't want to develop hundreds of shots that you wont use) you read the book that comes with it- believe it or not they sometimes offer websites that direct you on how to play with it.  Good fun!  

Or just google "be a better photographer."  It's unbelievable how much FREE info there is to help us.

NOW- onto Pen Names.  If you are anything like me, you work for a company that requires you to be exclusive.  By exclusive I mean not working for competitors.  Although I'm not under contract, I am expected to write for just Focus and no one else.

Hello!!!  As freelancers you can't make it on one magazine alone.  If you expect to freelance full-time, you simply can't wait around for checks from one place.  Pen Names are a beautiful thing!!! No one will ever know it's you =) Sure, on the tax forms you're required to give your legal name, but there is no rule that you can't use a pen name.

If you're lucky enough to have a common last name like Smith you could even get away with a first initial and last name.  Ex : Jon Smith= J. Smith.  I had a girl do that.  Sure I knew, but it was a don't ask, and I won't tell situation!

Don't be afraid to ask to use Pen Names.

Heck, I have heard of people with several.  I heard of one chick who was working for like 3 or 4 places so she had one name for each mag.  The checks all came to one name and nobody was the wiser.

If nothing else- try not to sign the damn exclusivity contract!!!


  1. Couldn't agree more about "One Man Banding." More and more, today's writers are expected to be versatile anyway so you might as well pick it up early on in your career! Good advice all...

  2. Thank you for the wonderful post, Ashley!