Freelancer concerns: You might get caught in your pajamas

Carla K. Johnson

About Carla K. Johnson

Carla K. Johnson (@CarlaKJohnson) is a medical writer at The Associated Press and has covered health and medicine since 2001. A former member of AHCJ's board of directors, she leads the Chicago AHCJ chapter.

Photo by  Carla K. Johnson.

Photo: Carla K. Johnson.Independent writers Cindy Kuzma and Jenni Prokopy and accountant Deborah Conatser (left to right) speak to the Chicago chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists on Nov. 11 in Chicago.

Freelance journalist Jenni Prokopy recently agreed to do a podcast interview, not realizing that it would include video. Working at home, she was wearing pajamas. “I immediately lifted the camera, so you could just see from here,” Prokopy said gesturing to her neck. “Busted! Now even for podcast interviews, I will be putting on a blouse.”

Prokopy and two other panelists shared their sometimes-humorous experiences and hard-earned wisdom about setting up and maintaining a healthy freelance business at a recent AHCJ Chicago chapter event.

Accountant and financial adviser Deborah Conatser covered why journalists might want to set up a limited liability company or an S corporation. She stressed the importance of keeping good notes about all bank deposits (think IRS audit) and discussed the basics of home office tax deductions.

Freelance journalist Jenni Prokopy created her own employee manual.

Photo: Carla K. JohnsonFreelance journalist Jenni Prokopy created her own employee manual.

Prokopy talked about building a client base while maintaining a balanced life.

“I created an employee manual for myself, which had my hours, my vacation days, my sick-time policies,” Prokopy said. “I’m very loyal to that because, if I don’t, my health takes a dive and I can’t work and support myself.”

Fitness writer and running coach Cindy Kuzma described responsiveness, honesty and courtesy as effective self-marketing.

“Be nice to people,” Kuzma said. “They’re much more likely to recommend you if you’re easy to work with.”

Science writer and consultant Bridget Kuehn moderated the panel discussion, which was held at Columbia College in Chicago’s Loop.

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