Hi Kara, please let us know a bit about you.
I’m Kara Williams, Freelance Writer and Blog Owner. I contract freelance writing work for a variety of publications and organizations, and I co-own TheVacationGals.com, a travel and lifestyle blog. Writers Beth Blair and Jennifer Miner are my business partners, and we started the blog in 2009.
How did you get started? Tell us your story!
How much time do you have? 🙂 The short version is this: I’ve always been a writer. That is, I started writing non-fiction articles as a reporter then editor then editor-in-chief for my high school paper.
In college I was an editor for the student newspaper, and had internships at Boston magazine and Parents magazine. After college I worked as an editorial assistant at Working Mother magazine in NYC.
After moving to Colorado I worked as a corporate copyeditor at a travel company, working on tour brochures, and I ramped up my freelance work.
Since 1999, I’ve been strictly freelance — doing everything from writing advertising copy and press releases for public-relations firms; filling in as a newspaper reporter for staff on leave; editing a local parenting magazine; and ultimately writing a whole bunch of travel-related articles for regional and national magazines and websites.
I met my co-founders of TheVacationGals.com at a travel-writing conference back in 2007. For many years I’ve balanced contributing to our website (earning money on the site mainly via sponsored posts, brand campaigns and display ads) with my own contracted projects.
Do you have advice for aspiring writers and bloggers?
My advice for people interested in earning a living as a writer — outside of owning and making money on your own blog/website — is to get out there and let the world know you’re open for business!
While I indeed wrote for no pay when I decided I wanted to focus on travel writing in 2007, simply to collect some travel-related clips, I wouldn’t recommend writing for free for *too* long to get your name and your work out there.
Start small: Write for pennies for your local newspaper or for a website that might pay a small stipend. Once you have some solid clips under your belt (blog posts you’ve written for your own website count, too, if they are your best writing), start pitching bigger quality publications.
When I was starting out, I landed a lucrative assignment for Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine based on a “cold” query letter to an editor I didn’t know. I worked hard on that first piece, which led to her assigning me other pieces.
Another tip: Get accustomed to rejection or no response to your query emails. That’s just part of the biz. Keep pitching.
Do you consider yourself successful? Any tips for those looking for success?
I equate success with happiness. When I was younger and just starting out in the writing world, I was *so happy* to see my name in print in a national magazine. I still enjoy that thrill, but I’m finding more happiness doing some pro bono writing and marketing work for a local education foundation. I am not earning money. Often my name isn’t on the articles or blog posts or press releases I write for the nonprofit group, but it brings me *so much joy* to help a cause I believe in. Using my words that way, versus writing for a big-name publication, makes me happy and makes me feel successful.
Tell us about becoming a better writer than we are.
I’m a big fan of Writers.com classes.
I took an online travel-writing class back in 2007. It really improved my writing helped me hone my querying skills, too.
I also belong to writers’ organizations, including the Society of American Travel Writers, and I attend writing and blogging conferences, such as TBEX.
Do you have the secret to managing family, freelance and blog and (anything else??) ?
It is supremely difficult to “do it all.” Raising teens, being a good wife, exercising, keeping a clean house, volunteering, and working on my career = hard.
Ultimately, I try to fit in all of my work and “my time” (exercising, meeting a friend for lunch) during the school day, so I can cart kids to and fro after school and try (operative word “try”) to make a decent meal we can all sit down to at the end of the day.
Summer is a whole new ball game. BUT, I am finding that now that my children are older (14 and 16) and one just got her license, the kiddos are much more independent, and I’ve got more time to get everything done.
To parents of toddlers: It *does* get easier!!
How can we get ahold of you or support your career?