Gorkana meets...Hilary Hughes

Published: May 06, 2014

In five words how would you describe life as a freelance writer?

One hell of a ride.

What sort of content are you keen to feature?

Exclusives, be they features, Q+As, asset premieres (songs, artwork, text), etc. As a freelancer, I'm looking to pitch stories that they can't refuse, and it's a lot harder for them to turn down a story or an angle that won't be found on the pages or website of another publication. Lately, personal, unpredictable twists to interviews have been interesting and worth exploring to my editors--like this interview I just did with DJ Cassidy which took place over a trip to his tailor before the VMAs--and readers have been fans of this approach as well.

What do you wish you were covering more of?

As much as I love covering music, I miss writing about film, theater, fashion and travel. I'm hoping to flex my wings a bit more in other areas and expand my reach while doing so and working with some new publications this year.

What are some of the challenges facing freelancers?

Stability and exhaustion. Sometimes, I feel like I'm pitching my face off to no avail; others, it's as though I've signed on to take on way too much in a month and i'm drowning in deadlines in order to make sure I'm making rent. I love the freedom that freelancing affords--and the flexibility it permits when it comes to defining my career and taking the assignments I want, vs. the assignments I need--but there's something to be said for the stability of a steady paycheck. And a full-time freelancer definitely doesn't experience that on the regular. (Or at least I don't.)

And the perks?

Freedom and flexibility! One month I'll be ghostwriting copy for a travel website, the next I'll be covering three music festivals in a month. It definitely keeps things interesting, and the variability keeps me on my toes creatively.

How can PRs help with content?

By developing relationships. The stories that turned out to be my strongest work this year were those that came from cultivated relationships with publicists that work for a variety of record labels and artists. I know the roster of clients they represent, they know me and my taste, and we put our heads together about what works (or doesn't) when it comes to writing a great, engaging piece about their client.

How and when is the best way for PRs to contact you?

Email--not phone! I don't have an office, in that my main line is my cell line, and receiving phone calls on my personal cell hits a big boundary nerve for me. There are some writers who love phone calls; I'm not one of them, but love receiving any and all press releases via email.

What should PRs bear in mind when pitching in story ideas?

Timing is everything. Frequently, a publicist will reach out to me to write about a band that doesn't have an album coming out, a big show or a tour announcement, and it's difficult to pitch that band to my writers when all I've got to say about them is "They rock!" If a press release is met with a pass from me, nine times out of ten it's because it's not the right time, not necessarily because they're not a great fit.

What industry publications do you read and respect for their content or style?

Esquire and Rolling Stone for their interviews, investigative features and exceptional profiles, but I'm biased ;). I read them long before I contributed to either publication and treated issues like textbooks when I was in college. I don't read The New Yorker as frequently as I'd like to. Interview is a constant inspiration.

Do you have any guilty pleasure reading?

I don't know if Gawker counts, but the running joke between my colleagues and I is that we know it's a busy day when we don't check Gawker or Jezebel before 4pm--it's a daily read by necessity!

What is the best thing about doing your job?

I get to live the dream. I've always wanted to write about music and travel the world doing it, and I've been incredibly fortunate to have had some wonderful mentors, some encouraging, nurturing editors and some merciless ones when it comes to respecting deadlines and beating my copy to a pulp sometimes in order to tell the story I set out to tell. The instability, long days, longer nights and panic-stricken moments may result in a few more grey hairs than I'd have if I had a more traditional job, but a few grey hairs are nothing when they're the product of perpetual inspiration and capitalizing on your lifelong passions.

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