Donald Vaughan is founder and financial director of the Triangle Association of Freelancers. As a freelancer, he has written dozens of books and more than 2,000 magazine articles. In this interview, conducted by email, Vaughan discusses TAF’s objectives and membership, and he offers advice to writers and editors who are considering freelancing.
Q. What is the Triangle Association of Freelancers? What are the organization’s objectives?
A. The Triangle Association of Freelancers is a nonprofit organization created to provide networking, education, mentoring and more to fiction and nonfiction writers in North Carolina and surrounding states. The organization was established in 2003, and today has around 150 registered members who publish in all styles and genres of writing.
Every spring, we host a one-day, multi-track writing conference called Write Now!, which brings in around 120 attendees. Write Now! 2020 will be held on Saturday, May 2, at The McKimmon Center in Raleigh.
The primary objectives of TAF are to help area writers improve their craft and get published. Toward that goal we meet on the last Wednesday of every month, except December, at Milton’s Pizza & Pasta in Raleigh to discuss various aspects of writing, freelancing and publishing, as well as any issues members may have regarding ongoing projects. We host a guest speaker at most meetings and celebrate members’ successes.
TAF has an enormous brain trust within its membership, and more experienced members are always happy and eager to help those who are new to the profession. We promote fair pay for writers, and we encourage all writers not to write for free.
Q. TAF is made up of freelancers from all walks of live with a range of interests. What do these writers learn from each other?
A. We are constantly sharing news and information through our members-only listserv, monthly meetings and the organization’s social media. Members often share job opportunities as well as tips for improving craft and getting published.
New members are encouraged to reach out with questions, and more experienced members are happy to answer them. Ongoing discussions cover everything from self-publishing to crafting an effective query letter to how to break into specific markets.
The creative diversity of TAF is one of its strongest features — we have members who have successfully published novels, poetry, creative nonfiction, memoirs, short stories and everything in between. We also have lawyers, graphic designers, editors and others who share their unique expertise.
Q. What’s the biggest piece of advice that you have for someone considering freelance writing or editing, either in North Carolina or beyond?
A. First, success comes with perseverance. It may take a while to make that first freelance sale, but you will succeed if you persevere. For example, it took me two years of pitching and rejection to break into Boys’ Life, the monthly magazine of the Boys Scouts of America, and equally long to break into MAD magazine.
Second, new freelance writers must understand that publishing tends to work at a glacial pace. Many new writers pitch to a magazine, expect a response right away and become frustrated when they don’t hear back immediately. They fail to understand that editors are busy and that freelance proposals are not their priority; they get to them when they have a spare moment. So be patient.
Third, there is tremendous opportunity out there for talented freelancers, but there are also a lot of scams and bad players waiting to take advantage of new writers. Jobs that ask for a lot of work for very little pay are extremely common and should be avoided. So should opportunities that require writers to bid on projects. Such endeavors are destroying the profession.
Writers should also avoid writing for free. If your work is good enough to be published, it’s good enough to be compensated for. When an editor tells you that you will receive a lot of exposure by writing for him for free, remind him that people die from exposure. If an editor is being paid, his writers should also be paid.
Q. What’s ahead for TAF in 2020?
A. Write Now! 2020 will be our 13th consecutive conference, and this year, all of our presenters will be from North Carolina, which we’re very excited about.
We also will continue our mission of outreach to other state writing organizations, and we will do all we can to help our members become better writers, and get published. People who would like to learn more are encouraged to visit our website: https://tafnc.com.