by Reija J Roberts
“When you’re self-employed, you are always selling yourself. You should be able to say what you do in fifteen seconds.” Preparing her “elevator pitch” is only one key to success for freelance writer and editor Christina Newberry. Her website, which boasts glowing testimonials and tangible work samples, ranks high in a Google search for “Vancouver writer and editor.” She has written articles about “how to improve the search engine ranking of your website,” which probably has something to do with her own top ranking. You can also find Newberry on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog. “The internet is my life,” she confesses. “The job that I do now didn’t exist ten years ago.”
Newberry didn’t always want to be a writer. When she first applied to the University of Victoria, she thought that she wanted to major in economics. What she ended up with, was a degree in English. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I was going to be a teacher.” After graduation, she worked in a book store for a year. She says of the store, “I loved it, but I knew I wasn’t going to make any money doing that.” However, it was there that her interest in professional writing was sparked. She began creating promotional material for the store. She even designed a website for it. This experience prompted her to apply for the one-year journalism program at Langara College. Although she soon learned that she “had no interest whatsoever in being a journalist,” she acquired vital skills and abilities through the program.
When she left Langara, Newberry ambitiously applied for the Senior Writer position with a company that sold nutritional supplements. She lacked experience, but the hiring team liked her. A “junior writer and proofreader” position was created for her, and it wasn’t long before she made the climb to senior writer. By the time she left the company, she was the corporate editor.
Newberry next found herself working for the Internet Marketing Center as a writer. Newberry stayed put for five years and eventually became the managing editor, managing a staff of eleven and producing courses about online marketing. From there she found employment with CGA-Canada, as its editorial supervisor. This was to be her final desk job. When her work with CGA was through, she left the office for the comfort of her home. “It had always been my goal to go freelance,” Newberry explains. “For one thing, I am not at all a morning person.” For another, she had realized that the big money was in management. Being a manager, she had found, was no longer something she enjoyed. And since she couldn’t conceive of descending her ladder to a writer’s position, she swapped her manager’s cap for pajamas. Her desk is now in her bedroom, and her laptop enables her to work from her balcony or couch. But Christina Newberry is no loafer.
Newberry’s website describes her work as “writing, editing and communication strategy.” Her track record includes travel writing, ghost-writing, eBooks, profiles, press releases, and project coordination and consultation. She works with individual clients, as well as corporate and small businesses. And her work isn’t limited to her geography. “I do some writing for a website based out of Hong Kong, and some editing work for a company in India.” Newberry appreciates the variety of her work. “I really like what I do,” she reveals with a laugh, when asked how she stays motivated. This is particularly true when it comes to projects that require editing, a skill she didn’t even really consider until her studies at Langara. “I know what I want to do and I like making the changes.”
Newberry is particularly invested in her eBooks. So far, she has published two — The Hands-on Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home and How to Write an Obituary: A Step-by-Step Guide. She attributes the success of these books to a formula: “Find a niche market, figure out what information they need, and give it to them in whatever format makes sense.” She says that Adult Children Living At Home took about six months to complete. “I went back and lived with my parents after I finished university for about eight months,” Newberry reveals, when asked how she conceived the idea. Turns out, there was a desire for information on that subject. From there, she researched, wrote, revised, and published the book, with virtually zero publishing costs. “My goal is really to push the eBooks,” she says of her plans for the future, adding that she is now working on a third book. Once the books are up and running, they leave time and resources for other more worldly pursuits. “Ideally, I would like to be gone one month out of every three.” Travelling while working is high on her list of priorities, a fully attainable goal given her trusty laptop.
“Be really good at what you do, know what your specialty is, and develop a style and a voice that works for you.” That is Newberry’s advice to aspiring freelance writers and editors. She is also quick to add, “Keep an open mind and always look for the next opportunity.” Making contacts, she says, is absolutely critical to her success. “You never know where your next contract is coming from,” she explains. “So you have to constantly be working your contacts, and looking for new opportunities.” This effort may sound daunting to some, but Christina Newberry is obviously not someone who shrinks from a challenge.
Reija J Roberts is a student in the Print Futures Program at Douglas College.