Choosing to Do Hard Things

How I Decided to Run a Marathon

Glennon Doyle and dozens of other wellness influencers tell us that we can do hard things. Humans are resilient creatures – we can create good habits and good support networks to help us survive all kinds of heartbreak and thrive in all kinds of circumstances. But recently I’ve been thinking a lot about choosing to do hard things – purposefully putting ourselves through mental and physical gauntlets that push our boundaries and stretch our sense of what we’re capable of.

Quitting my job at the end of last year was a hard choice. I had good reasons for it, and based on the events of the past week it was most definitely a good decision. (More on that in a future post.) But I left without a clear game plan. All I knew for sure was that I needed a big change.

I very quickly decided to pour all my energy into applying for a prestigious journalism fellowship that would take me and my whole family across the country for a year. I decided it was the perfect thing to create a buffer between my old work and my new work – whatever that might be. After making it through the first few rounds, I was feeling very confident… so confident, in fact, that we started looking into Bay Area schools for my kids. My fishing-obsessed older son was researching all the best fishing spots. My younger one was looking for local soccer teams. We spent hours brainstorming how we’d get out there, what route we’d take. I’d even taken photos of every room in our house in anticipation of posting them on

Being a practical producer type, of course I had a back up plan:

If I don’t get this fellowship I’m going to train for a marathon.

It was the biggest thing I could think of that I could do on my own. I didn’t say this out loud to anyone, not even my husband. I just held it in the back of my mind as another, different, big thing I could do with all this transitional, post-quitting energy. But of course I wouldn’t need it – I was getting this fellowship!

On April 27th I got this message from the fellowship:

Greetings! We are nearing the end of our selection process and wanted to let you know that we will be notifying you of your status between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, May 1, 2023. We will be calling you. Please respond to this email with the phone number where you can be reached at that time.

My husband was scheduled to have surgery in NYC on April 28th, so I knew I would be taking this call from the hospital. I told myself this was actually good timing. We’ll get this good news and we can kick off his recovery with more planning for our fellowship year in California. Exciting!

The days leading up to May 1st went so slowly. And when the day finally arrived, the time change meant that I wouldn’t get the call until anywhere between 12-5pm. I busied myself that morning with breakfast with one city friend and a walk with another one. I checked my phone obsessively. 12pm passed… 1pm… then 2pm.

Finally at 3pm, I got the call.

It was a no.

The rest of that day is a blur of phone calls and nurse visits. My husband was so out of it, he couldn’t really register the news. I went for another long walk. I took myself out for dinner and a movie. I barely slept that night. I woke up the next morning and wrote a journal entry simply titled “bad day.” I think I was in a bit of shock.

The next week is also a blur. We finally left the hospital on May 4th and I entered caretaker mode. This from my journal:

Wake up early, wake the kids, clean up dishes, make breakfast, get them to school, take Dave (husband) for a walk, take Coco (dog) for a walk, try to read the news, try to exercise, try to eat, try to take a shower, clean more dishes, do laundry, figure out what we’re having for dinner, try to work…

Most notably, I was trying to figure out what to do with my life without this fellowship – this thing I had spent the last four months obsessing over and planning around. And somewhere in there I remembered the marathon.

What was I thinking?? I didn’t hate running but I didn’t love it either. I had run on and off for years, and I could consistently run 3 miles (but no more.) In 2017 I trained for a half marathon and felt good about completing it but said I would never do it again. In 2019 I tore my hamstring (unrelated to running) and it took nearly two years to fully heal. Then, during COVID, I got the Peloton app, and while I mostly used it for yoga classes, I’d occasionally check out one of their outdoor runs. I had some friends and colleagues who were really into running and I would talk to them about it – curious if I could ever experience the joy and satisfaction they got from running. In the fall of 2022 I decided to try out a Peloton program called You Can Run Outdoors followed by Go the Distance: 5K. I ran a 5K and came in 2nd in my age group. That felt good! Then I quit my job and entered the long, uncertain winter and spring of 2023.

On May 7th, one week after my fellowship rejection, I started another Peloton program: Road to Your 26.2 Part 1. I didn’t set any specific goals other than starting the program. The longest run in that first week was just four miles so I felt pretty confident I could do it. I liked that the program told me exactly what to do each day. I didn’t have to think about it much, I just had to put on my sneakers and GO. And I liked that it took me away from all the caretaker responsibilities I had at home at that time.

I didn’t talk to anyone about what I was doing, not even my family. I didn’t want to make any promises I couldn’t keep. I just kept going out, day after day, and running the miles they told me to run. I finished Part 1 in mid June and was feeling pretty good. The last run in that program was 10 miles – close to the longest I had ever run (the half marathon). What would happen if I just kept going? My husband was doing much better. School was coming to an end and he’d be around to help with the house/kid stuff again. And I was starting to enjoy the weekend long runs – all that time to myself just putting one foot in front of the other. So I started Road to Your 26.2 Part 2.

It wasn’t until the end of Part 2 that I considered signing up for an actual marathon. I had recently run my longest run ever – 16 miles. (It was brutal. I hadn’t yet learned that you need to eat while you’re running. 🤷🏻‍♀️ But I was undeterred.) I got online and looked for marathons near me and found one that my sister-in-law, an 8(!)-time marathoner, had told me was good for beginners because it’s relatively flat. I calculated that I would need to fill in just one month of training on my own before starting the third and final Peloton program. So I kept running.

Without a program to follow my training was a little more haphazard. The first two miles were always (and still are) rough. The last two miles were worse (except for one time when I experienced my first – and so far only – runner’s high.) But I’d ultimately come to enjoy the routine of running most days – getting out before it got too hot, getting to know the country roads near my house at my slow pace (I once encountered a bear!), listening to hours and hours of audiobooks, switching to music when things got hard, feeling so glad when each run was finished. Food has never tasted so good.

Six weeks before the marathon, I started Road to Your 26.2 Part 3. I put in more miles than I ever thought I could. I learned that long runs go better if you meet friends along the way. I figured out my running fuel (fig newtons and chocolate covered macaroons). I bought new sneakers. And last week, after completing 20 miles, I got online again and signed up for the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon.

I’m gonna do this hard thing.

As the day approaches I’m feeling nervous (I mean excited! 🙃). I’m nervous about whatever surprising aches and pains will creep up along the way. I’m nervous about running with so many other people after months of training alone. But most of all, my anxiety/excitement stems from the feeling that this long period of transition is finally coming to an end. I’ve run through my husband’s recovery. I’ve run through the disappointment of not getting the fellowship. I’ve run through the conclusion of my first few freelance gigs and the beginning of some new ones. I’ve run through the second and third rounds of heart-breaking layoffs at my former company. The training has given me an outlet for all the nervous energy I’ve had around what I’m doing with my career. This hard thing has given me a goal, a sense of purpose and direction when everything else has felt so uncertain. It’s reminded me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

What will I do when the marathon is over?

It’s hard to imagine keeping up this training pace, especially as the days get shorter and colder and I feel the pull toward winter puzzles and TV marathons. It’ll be nice to get some hours back for doing… anything other than running. But this hard thing has helped me in so many ways, and I can’t help but think of what the next hard thing should be. I feel like we could all use something totally outside of the hard things we deal with on a day-to-day basis: with our families, with politics and the climate, with trying to make ends meet and doing something meaningful with our lives. The hard things we choose to do should exist outside of all that. They challenge our bodies and our minds in ways that are completely different from the daily grind.

And those chosen hard things put all the rest into perspective.

Have you run a marathon? Or done some other hard thing by choice? What was it? And what did you do when it was all over? Message me or leave a comment below.

Let’s talk about 💰

Money is generally considered a taboo topic – especially for women and especially in the workplace. So what I offer here is my 💸 history and my experience negotiating salary and fees over time.

Talking about money is uncomfortable and sensitive and awkward. I don’t like to do it and I have never been a good advocate for myself (though I’m trying to change that.) In this post I’m going to talk about it. And I’m going to get specific.

A few things to note: Even though I’ve hired lots of people and negotiated lots of salaries, I’m only going to talk about what I’ve earned. Also, I’m not going to talk about what I’m earning in my current freelance contracts. While I would like to see a lot more transparency around rates and salaries, it’s not my place to reveal anyone else’s financial business. But perhaps my past experience navigating the public media income landscape will help some of you.

There are some great resources already out there for this sort of thing. The best public resource I know of for navigating rates in public media is AIR’s Rate Guide. The AIR team has done extensive research to set the industry standard for all levels of production talent. I share this link with anyone who asks about public media rates, and I’ve been using it as a guide as I navigate my renewed freelance career.

I’ve also been sharing this tweet thread from Misha Euceph which clearly lays out the general misconceptions around podcast rates and tries to set the record straight. It’s a couple years old but it’s still relevant and I appreciate Misha’s righteous frustration. More people should talk about this openly.

There’s also a bunch of great media out there on this topic.

  • I’m pretty obsessed with Jonathan Menjivar’s new podcast – Classy.
  • Of course there’s the now classic Death, Sex, and Money with Anna Sale.
  • I love this book by Stacey Vanek-Smith – Machiavelli for Women. It’s filled with great storytelling and practical advice, especially for negotiating salaries.
  • I also loved this book by Stacey’s (and my) former colleague Jacob Goldstein – Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing.
  • Plus this newer podcast from Maya Lau – Other People’s Pockets which she calls “financial voyeurism.” Highly recommend.

I’m sure there are lots more. Leave your recommendations in comments.

I’m especially interested in the mindset different people bring to discussions about money. So before I get into the dollars and cents, I think it’s important to understand where I’m coming from financially. Here are the basics of my financial upbringing.

My mom’s parents were German Holocaust survivors who landed in Queens in the 1940s where my mom was born and raised. Her father made his career in the lumber business. Her mom sold Avon products for awhile but was mainly a housewife. My dad’s family emigrated from Eastern Europe to New York a generation earlier. His mom was a Kindergarten teacher and his dad was a photographer who died young. My parents both went to NYC public schools and met at SUNY Albany. I was born and raised not too far from there. My mom was a public school French teacher before she went into business with my dad. When that business went belly up, she went back to teaching. My dad did a bunch of things before landing in the insurance business. They shielded me from most of the details (and the drama) of family bankruptcy. (You can read that story here if you’re curious. It’s a pretty good one.) I still don’t totally know how they paid for me and my brother to go to pricey private colleges (with loans and work/study jobs, but still…). But once we were out of school, we were basically on our own financially. Bottom line – no trust fund here.

I’ve worked for as long as I can remember – first at my dad’s store, then babysitting, then at the Cinnabon at our local mall. Once I got onto a more career-oriented work path, I was driven to succeed, but I never had expectations of earning a lot of money. My parents taught me and my brother to “live within our means.” And perhaps related to that, I never developed expensive taste or dangerous shopping habits.

I paid my own way through grad school and dug my way out of student loan debt with a relatively high-paying non-journalism job in Silicon Valley. My initial offer there was $60K / year – far more than I’d ever earned before. And when they booted me after 3+ years I was making $80K. They had a generous raise policy. (You can read about my job loss history in my previous post.)

When I got back into journalism in 2007, I had to reset my expectations about what I could and should be earning. I decided to set my freelance hourly rate somewhere between $50-100 / hour depending on whether I was working for a for-profit or non-profit. And because of my Silicon Valley contacts, I was able to find a nice combination of both. One of the best things I achieved as a freelancer in that first year was to land a steady part-time role making a podcast for The Science History Institute called Distillations. (I know many of you worked with me on that show!) That became my anchor project and provided me a steady income for more than six years. I did a handful of other freelance projects during that time, but Distillations was my main source of income.

Note: I got married to a public school teacher in 2006 which came with the added benefit of stable health insurance. I can’t overstate how helpful that has been in navigating my freelance finances.

Between 2007 and 2014 I averaged about $30K / year. My best year was just under 70K. My worst year was just under 12K.

Late in 2014 I moved on from Distillations to take my first Executive Producer role. This was a full-time freelance contract, and I was paid $90K / year. I don’t remember how that rate was determined but it was obviously a huge step up for me and it didn’t occur to me to negotiate. That job turned out to be one of the most challenging of my career – not because of the content, but because of a truly terrible boss. After just over a year in that job I had had enough, and I left to seek other opportunities. The money had been good, but no amount of money would have made me stay in that situation, so I reentered the freelance market seeking a good team, not necessarily a good rate. The way it worked out, I got both.

My friend and colleague AC Valdez was working at Slate at the time and he recommended me to his colleague, Laura Mayer, who was seeking a lead producer for a top secret project with Panoply. (Spoiler: it was Revisionist History). I won the gig. And when it came time to talk money, I received a shock. They were offering me $12,500 / month to make this show. I have no idea how they came up with that fee. Maybe this was the start of the podcasting “dumb money” trend. It was far more than I ever expected to earn for podcast production. They did not have to twist my arm. I said yes, and for the first time in my life, I had more money than I knew what to do with. Don’t get me wrong – I worked for that fee. A lot. And I put a lot of it into savings because I knew it wouldn’t last – it was only a freelance contract after all.

The show turned out to be a big success, and when it came time for season two, the powers that be at Panoply offered me a full time job as a Managing Producer. I didn’t actually want a full time job. I liked freelancing and I was finally earning a good living. Plus I didn’t want to give up my autonomy. But I did want to make a second season of Revisionist. They offered me $90K / year. As a freelancer I was earning the equivalent of $150K / year. Granted, that was not a year-round salary and I had to take out taxes and expenses. But I could also do other work in the months I wasn’t working on Revisionist. I was still on my husband’s excellent health insurance plan and I wasn’t about to give that up. I had also been pretty good about putting money into a retirement plan. So all I was getting by joining the staff was the stability of full-time work (or so I thought). Luckily I had the wherewithal to negotiate up some. Remember I had been making 90K at my last executive producer gig two years earlier, and that was before I made a hit show for Panoply. I was also expected to manage people in this new gig. I ended up with 100K, and the flexibility to work from home most of the time.

In retrospect I’m pretty sure I could have negotiated harder – either to earn a higher salary or to remain as a freelancer. But I didn’t do that, and for the next 2+ years, I made two more very successful seasons of Revisionist, started learning how to be a manager (not easy!), and helped launch a bunch other shows. Don’t get me wrong – it was a good living. But when I next had the opportunity to really negotiate – I went for it.

That opportunity came in 2018. Panoply had laid off all its content makers, and very soon after that, our Revisionist History host called to ask me to join him on a new venture – what was to become Pushkin Industries. I was going to be employee #1, he said. And I would be helping build their production department from the ground up.

My first move was to call all the highest-level producers I knew (all women) and get a ballpark estimate of what they were making. This was awkward, but I wanted to do my research and I didn’t want to sell myself short. Everyone I spoke with graciously shared their salary range and appreciated the effort I was putting in to receive fair pay for this very big job. Then I took the highest number I received and added $25K. Because WHY NOT? I knew they wanted me – no needed me – for this job. And this was my one chance to ask for a big number. I did not get what I asked for, but I did get $200K – nearly double what I had been making before.

For the next four years, I received cost-of-living salary increases and generous bonuses, but I never asked for a raise and I never received one. Instead I put all my effort into trying to get raises for my staff. My salary when I left was $214K.

Now that I’m freelancing again, I’ve taken a massive pay cut. And it’s taking me a little while to reset my salary expectations back to where I was when I first started freelancing. On the one hand, I know I’m at the upper range of experience and I should command a reasonably high rate based on that. On the other hand, most of the clients I’m working with now are non-profit organizations and independents. Not to mention whatever weirdness is going on with the economy and the downward shift of the podcast industry in general. But as I do my fee negotiating, I’m trying to use the sum of what I’ve learned up to now.

Here are some things I’ve figured out:

  • Do your research: Go onto glassdoor. Study the AIR rate guide. Ask friends in similar positions what they’re making (maybe over drinks?). Try to get as much information as you can about the organization or client’s budget. Go into your negotiation feeling confident that you’ve done your homework.
  • You only have one chance to negotiate for the first time: Whatever you land on when you are first hired is pretty close to where you’ll stay, even with year-end raises. In my experience, it’s difficult to get substantial merit-based raises unless you threaten to leave for a competing offer. It’s not pretty, but it’s the truth.
  • Decide how much you want the gig: If you really want it, figure out your bare minimum for taking the job. Ask for more, but be ok settling for less. Be genuinely ok with it. It will never work to be in a job where you’re resentful that you’re not making more money. And don’t expect that you’ll be able to negotiate up later. Of course you should ask, but again, where you start is your only guarantee.
    • If you don’t really want it, ask for a lot of money! It’s ok to get paid for your troubles. And if you don’t get what you ask for (or close to it), walk away. There are lots of different reasons to take a job. Money can most certainly be one of them. But if you don’t really want it and you don’t make good money, that’s a bad combination.
  • You can negotiate for things other than $$: Take some time figuring out what you want to get out of this job, and then figure out if there might be some possible perks other than $$. Maybe a job will allow you to get a foot in the door with a person or organization you’ve been eyeing for a long time. Maybe it’ll allow you to try out a new skill. (When you’re new at something it will naturally take you longer to do it, so your rate will inevitably be lower. That’s ok!) Maybe your gig will allow you flexible work hours you can reserve for a personal project. If you can’t get to a rate you feel 100% good about, see if you can negotiate for fewer or more flexible hours. Or maybe you’ll have the opportunity to train on a new piece of equipment, or you’ll be able to take a reporting trip to a place you’ve always wanted to go. And with that flexible schedule you can take some time to do other projects or non-work-related things. Money is just one part of your calculation.
  • Get to know how long it takes you to do things: The only way to figure out a fair fee for any freelance job is to have a sense of how long that job will take you. It doesn’t matter whether you’re paid per word, per episode, per hour, day, week, or month. Maybe you’re a slow writer but you can figure out a production schedule in a matter of hours. Maybe you already have a lot of contacts in a given field so your research will go relatively quickly, but you’ve never done a narrative show before so you’ll have a bigger learning curve there. SPEND TIME asking lots of questions about the job, clarifying the expectations of the manager and other team members, and analyzing your own availability and skill level for this particular gig. Negotiate your rate based on what you figure out.
  • Business is business – it’s not personal: This is the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn. (In fact, I’m still learning it.) Managers or CEOs are not trying to underpay you or short change you. They are trying to run a business, and, in many cases, turn a profit. That means, often, they will pay you as little as they can get away with. This feels deeply unfair, but as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not evil. It’s just business. The best CEOs/managers/businesses will do their research and figure out fair rates and then exceed them in order to demonstrate how much they value their employees and their work. But the truth is, the only one who is really going to advocate for a fair rate for you is YOU. (Unless you’re part of a union, but that’s another post for another time.)

In the end, figure out what you want out of any given job. Figure out what you need to survive. Negotiate hard for what you know you deserve, but also know what you’re willing to (happily) take. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you can’t get there. And finally, know that each negotiation – and each job – for better or worse – will get you closer to where you want to be next time.

If you have advice or fee/salary stories to share, please leave a comment or drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

A case for being let go

I’ve been laid off (or straight up fired) four FIVE times. It’s always worked out for the best.

The first time I was fired I was 22 years old. I had recently graduated from college on the east coast and moved out to the Bay Area for big adventure and a change of scenery. I pretty quickly landed a job as an assistant to the executive director of Pocket Opera – a tiny non-profit theater company in San Francisco. My job was to answer phones, order supplies, maintain various databases, stuff envelopes, and, my favorite task, organize the costume closet. (I’m being 100% serious. I love organizing. I even made a side business for professional organizing back in the day.)

I remember one assignment that had me especially jazzed. I was to create a program for an upcoming performance using software I had never used before. I don’t remember if I admitted I had never used it before, but I do remember forging ahead, relishing in the opportunity to do something creative. I’m certain the program was awful. And I’m also pretty certain I was slacking on my other duties while getting lost in this much more interesting creative pursuit. 

The details here are a bit fuzzy, but around this time, the executive director called me into her office and told me to pack up my stuff and get out – immediately. She must have said some other stuff to me about why she was letting me go, but all I really remember is her saying that my final check would come in the mail within two weeks. There was no real discussion, no severance. Just LEAVE. As my dad would say –

“Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.” 

I was shocked and pretty devastated. I had always been a good student, even a teacher’s pet. I wasn’t someone who could get FIRED!? I gathered my things and left – and ran to call my parents (on a pay phone – ha!) to tell them about the injustice that had just been done to me. They were supportive, as they always are in a crisis, and assured me this was not the last job I would ever have. They told me it just wasn’t a good fit and that I would be ok. 

What followed was a year or so of temp work at various San Francisco offices until I landed a waitressing job at a new Italian restaurant in the Castro. I had never waitressed before, but I cobbled together a (mostly fake) resume saying that stocking shelves and helping out in the bakery at my parents’ fancy hometown supermarket was, in fact, a waitressing gig. They bought it. And after just a couple days of training, the restaurant opened and I took my first shifts. 

loved this job. It was social, the days (and nights) flew by, the schedule suited my night-owl tendencies. The chef cooked tasty family meals for the waitstaff before our shifts, the tips were great, and I adored my colleagues. And despite my lack of experience, I actually turned out to be a pretty good waitress. 

BUT, what I didn’t know at 23 years old was how volatile the restaurant industry is. The flood of excitement around the new restaurant started to wear off and patronage dwindled. The executive chef turned his attention to another restaurant he was opening and left the sous chefs to execute his dishes in his absence. (They weren’t as good.) The wait staff was let go one by one, until the only one left was the cousin of the owner. And that was not me. 

The difficulty of losing this job was different from the last time because it wasn’t only my bank account that was taking a hit – it was my social life. My colleagues had become good friends and we hung out together almost every night. But the only thing we really had in common was this job, so we quickly lost touch. I was sad and lonely, and I hadn’t saved up much money at all (mostly just wads of cash tips I stored in my dresser.) 

I went back to temping and eventually decided to apply to grad school, which provided a long stretch of stability (and a whole lot of debt.) 

The third time I was let go was in 2006. After getting my master’s degree and then struggling to find a foothold in public radio (I’ll share that story another time), I took a full-time job as an audio producer on the creative team at a Silicon Valley start up called Tellme Networks. It wasn’t journalistic by any means, but it paid well ($60K/year which to me was a fortune) and, like I said, I had a lot of debt. The first couple years were great. I saved a ton of money, paid off my debts, made a lot of new work friends, learned a whole new industry, got really fast at Pro-tools, and generally enjoyed getting to know this strange world of Silicon Valley startups. (Read this if you want to get a sense of what it was like.) But as time passed, I started to get antsy. 

Due to ongoing restructuring, my manager changed three times in a year – from the best boss I ever had, to a boss who didn’t want to be a boss, to a boss I straight up clashed with. (I get along with most people so this was notable.) I got tired of the CEO’s constant promises to go public and make us all rich, and the constant pivoting as the industry shifted, causing the powers-that-be to change their priorities. (Sound familiar?) I got tired of making products I didn’t use and didn’t care about. But how could I walk away from such a good salary? Instead I started to be a bad direct report.

I did my job, but I complained too much, I stopped being a team player, and I was, essentially, insubordinate with my manager. He would try (poorly) to communicate with me and get to the bottom of my dissatisfaction. He tried to find assignments for me that would both help the bottom line and hold my interest. None of it worked, and after three and half years, he fired me. 

I don’t remember the details of the conversation we had about it. I think he technically called it a layoff because I never had a bad review and I was the only female producer on the team and they wanted to avoid any hint of wrongdoing. I was given two weeks to clear out and two months of severance. I was a little surprised that they actually let me go, but I couldn’t really blame them under the circumstances. And once I had a chance to process what had happened, I recognized that they had released me from my golden handcuffs. 

The last time I was laid off was in 2018. I was part of a story you might have heard bits and pieces of in the hilarious (and true) podcast, Shameless Acquisition Target. Here’s the short version. The podcast company I was working for somewhat suddenly decided they no longer wanted to make podcasts. Instead they wanted to focus on podcast distribution and ad sales. So they laid off me and about 15 of my content-focused colleagues. There had been a lot of speculation after many business pivots and a general lack of clarity around the direction of the company. But it was still a shock. Again I don’t remember the details of our exit (this seems to be a pattern with me). I do remember very quickly being offered a new opportunity with what was to become Pushkin, and starting the whole process all over again. Another ride on the podcast industry roller coaster.

I admit that willingly exiting that Pushkin ride about six months ago was in part a desire to control my own destiny. I didn’t want my future to be determined by any boss other than myself, or to be at the whim of other people’s business decisions. But I also saw the writing on the wall. Not that I knew the layoffs would happen – I truly didn’t think they would. But I could see a repeating pattern, both at the company (a lack of clarity of vision, shifting and conflicting priorities, lots of closed-door meetings) and in myself (an awareness that I wasn’t doing my best work, an antsy feeling, a sense of exhaustion and ongoing frustration with things as they are, and a hopelessness that they’ll ever improve.) I felt a classic case of burnout. So I left, before they asked me to leave. 

Note: I left with the privilege of being on my husband’s health insurance… not to mention the privilege of being white and middle class.

Now, as I reflect on all the jobs I’ve left – or been asked to leave – I realize I don’t have a single regret. Each of these jobs served a specific purpose at a specific place and time. Each of them taught me something (often something about what I didn’t want). And each of them came to an end at exactly the right time, even if I didn’t realize it then. 

Of course I don’t want to make light of the very real and very scary loss of income and stability and health insurance and camaraderie and so many other things that come with losing a job, especially not by choice. I just want to offer up the possibility that in the grand scheme of things, it’s for the best. Businesses that do layoffs (especially big layoffs) have made big mistakes. They reek of tension and stress that permeates to the whole staff. If you’ve been laid off or fired, that organization doesn’t know how to use your talents. It’s Not. A. Good. Fit. And while I’ve had plenty of sleepless nights after losing a job when I felt like I’d never work again, that I’d somehow failed at my last great opportunity, I know in my heart that isn’t true. So I offer you this:

Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or next week – but you will, eventually, find a position where you are more valued, more respected, more appreciated, more included, possibly better paid, better treated, and ultimately happier. 

And in the meantime, hang in there. Take a walk. Call a friend. Make some cookies. Read for fun. I’m here if you want to chat. 

Leave a comment

More FC business. I’m working through figuring out the best channels to share various things. 

Substack feels best for essays and overly-long missives. I’ll try to make them useful. 

Twitter (ugh) feels best for sharing new opportunities and resources, mainly in the form of retweets but I’ll try to dig up some original material. 

The FC website mainly feels like an archive, though I’ll continue to log these posts there as well, and I’m thinking about how to organize a more static set of freelance/public media resources.

I haven’t yet touched the FC Facebook page… is anyone even still over there?

LinkedIn feels like a good place to engage, but I haven’t quite figured out how yet, beyond just sharing the existence of FC. I’ll keep working on it. 

As always I’m eager for your comments and feedback, and of course any resources or job opportunities you’d like to share. The Cafe only works if we’re in it together. ☕️

Grand Re-opening of Freelance Cafe

Well hello FC. It’s been a minute. It’s been nearly three years since I announced I was shutting down the newsletter. It’s been four + years since I posted here with any regularity. And it’s been nearly eight years since I last freelanced. A lot has changed since then.

There are two notable events that inspired me to get back into your feeds.

First, about six months ago, I left my full time job. I intended to freelance for short time and then go on a year-long fellowship. I was very confident in this plan… so confident, in fact, that after lining up one steady freelance gig and turning in my fellowship application, I didn’t pursue any other contracts or clients. I made it all the way to the last round of the fellowship process, and was ultimately rejected. Heartbreaker.

Second, the layoffs that have been happening across media hit very close to home this week. Pushkin Industries, a company I helped build, announced they were laying off 13 people – about 20% of the company. Many of them are people I recruited and worked with very closely. This is in addition to the six people who were laid off in January. It’s brutal. I had the luxury of leaving by choice, on my own terms. These colleagues didn’t, and my heart aches for them. They enter a shitty job market where so much of the public media industry is in turmoil. I want to support them. I don’t think any of them even know about this newsletter, but way back in 2007 when I started this, it served as a lifeline for me. It was a way to learn about potential opportunities and resources and share them with others… and a means to feel just a little bit more connected to the freelance community. I sincerely hope these colleagues find full time work as soon as humanly possible. I know many of them need health insurance and the other securities that come with traditional employment. And if you are a hiring manager and someone from Pushkin applies for your position. HIRE THEM, without hesitation. But in the meantime, I want to do my small part to help them and the many others who’ve lost their jobs recently, and I want to reengage with the many of you who’ve chosen the freelance life on purpose. I’ve missed you! I run into you from time to time and I always love reminiscing about the meetups at Pacific Coast Brewery in Oakland back in the day. And I’m again grateful for the loose online community that was my lifeline during those many years of contract work. I’m very happy to be back in touch.

A few bits of business to kick things off.

First, my website is a mess. When I tried to send this message earlier this week, I found the site completely corrupted and unusable. My dear freelancing friend Joey got it up and running for me. 🙏🙏 But the plugins and everything else about it are woefully out of date. I’m not even sure how/if this post will reach you without a direct link. (It used to automatically post to Twitter, Facebook, and email. There was no substack back then and I’m pretty sure that’s all broken now. I’ll work on it.)

Second, there are so many new (and not so new) brilliant resources for public media freelancers and I will do my best to boost those. My two favorites for audio have not changed: and One new resource which consistently blows me away is this monthly newsletter created by London-based audio producer Talia Augustidis. It’s an amazing compilation and you should subscribe immediately.

Finally, I’m planning a media makers meet up in the Hudson Valley the first week in July and I’d love to see you if you’re in this area and would like to join. Reach out directly for details.

That’s it for now, FC. Stay tuned for website cleanup and other updates. If you’ve been laid off, I’m so very sorry for what you’re going through. If you know me and want to talk, I’m here. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. And if you know someone who could benefit from this newsletter, please share it. I’m happy to be back in your feeds.

shutting down the newsletter – but staying on the socials!

Hello FC! First – I want to thank you all for your many years of participation in and support of Freelance Cafe. This group was a lifeline to me when I first started freelancing more than a decade ago. Much has changed since I started this group in 2007… I had a kid, moved to upstate NY, had another kid, and, notably, took a full time job as a podcast producer. I'm now helping run Pushkin Industries with Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg and a bunch of other talented folks. While I still feel passionately about supporting independents, I haven't been one for a few years now. The email account is coming up for renewal which is pushing me to the decision to end the newsletter. However, I will keep the twitter and facebook accounts up and running and I encourage all of you to post opportunities and resources there. This group has always been a collective effort and it will remain so for the foreseeable future. The site will also stay up – there just won't be any new posts.

Thank you again for the years of engagement and support.
Wishing you all the best,

Apply to the Signal to Noise Award!

Hey FC. Quickly dropping in to spread the word that the Signal to Noise Award is back! Co-presented with Gilded Audio, this grant celebrates creative work that synthesizes audio documentary and experimental sound design.
Information about the award, how to apply, and how to spread the news follows.
Due on August 31st and open to all styles of production, the award includes: $5000 for production, plus production consultation and technical support from Gilded Audio, editorial consultation from the staff at UnionDocs, promotional support to UnionDocs and Gilded Audio communities, and a celebratory event!
Past awarded projects include: Ariana Martinez’s Para Cruzar el Agua/To Cross the Water, which documents the hopes, fears, and expressions of love that Puerto Ricans share from both the island and the U.S. mainland; and Sylvia Ryerson’s Derritiendo el Hielo/Melting the ICE, a bilingual podcast and radio show dedicated to sharing testimonials from people directly impacted by ICE detention.
You can check out more details + apply here:
If you know anyone who is interested, feel free to pass this opportunity along! I have included sample promotional materials below.
Looking forward to receiving your application!
Abby Lord
Programs Assistant
Attention all audio makers! UnionDocs and Gilded Audio are pleased to announce The Signal to Noise Award, celebrating creative work that synthesizes audio documentary and experimental sound design. The winning applicant will receive a $5000 production grant to pursue their project or series, production consultation and technical support from Gilded Audio Design, editorial consultation from the staff of UnionDocs; and a celebratory event.
Applications are due 8/31! You can find more information + apply here:
Audio makers! @UnionDocs + Gilded Audio have announced The Signal to Noise Award to give your project the chance to come to life! Apps are due 8/31:
Do you have an audio project that combines doc + experimental sound design? Apply to @UnionDocs + Gilded Audio’s Signal to Noise Award to win $5,000, production and technical support from Gilded Audio Design, editorial consultation + more! Due 8/31!


Hey FC,


THIS Wed. 7/8 at 5:30 PST, SELL YOUR STORY to a podcast in Laura Cathcart Robbins’ Storytelling 102.



Use code followup30 for $30 off today.


In this workshop you’ll:
– Polish a 5 minute (or 600-800 word) personal tale to submit to a podcast or as an essay
– Practice and get performance tips
– Add detail and emotion to your story for maximum impact
– Get email feedback on your idea before class to ensure you’re exploring the right angle


You can watch Laura’s FREE Storytelling 101 here to learn how to craft your tale:

Laura’s powerful, beautifully crafted 9 essays in Huffington Post about race, recovery and divorce went viral. She’s a StorySLAM winner and host of the podcast, The Only One In The Room which Bustle magazine picked as a top show along with This American Life, Slow Burn and Reply All. Laura’s a fantastic teacher and storyteller who can help you unlock an unforgettable story inside that’ll grab listeners and viewers.

4 students just sold related Op-Eds from our FREE CLASS: On Friday, Saj Sachdev just got an excellent piece in Huff Po & Ralinda Harvey got into the LA Times! 12 students sold stories to NPR and BBC, 166 sold essays & articles, 15 in the NYT, 4 published Modern Love Essays and 17 won the Moth. Trina Robinson performed her story re: finding out her ancestors were slaves at six Moth Mainstages for pay. Podcasts are looking for personal tales now–don’t miss out! We want to get your story out there next. Check out the Op-Ed’s below:

Questions? Email:





Hi FC,


I hope you are all doing well, are safe and healthy. Here’s a great Live Podcasting Class starting NEXT THURS 7/9 ONLINE. You can take it from anywhere. Class looks like this:


NEXT Thus. 7/9, craft your show with an NPR producer of prominent podcasts–Anna Scott (Samaritans, There Goes the Neighborhood). Because of our radio journalism classes, 12 of our students have sold stories to NPR and BBC10 on Unfictional, 1 on All Things Considered, 1 on BBC. 3 got freelance podcast producer gigs after class at The RFK Tapes, Freakonomics, Pandora & NPR’s Unfictional. Kevin McDonnell got this piece on BBC Radio (3 hrs, 16 min. in):


Podcasting w/ Anna Scott (Samaritans, There Goes the Neighborhood)–NEXT Thurs. 7/9, 1 SPOT!

Jul 9, Jul 23, Jul 30, Aug 13, Aug 20 (5 Thurs., 7-10 PM PST), Online


You’ll build your podcast from scratch by turning the germ of an idea into a high-concept radio-worthy show. Topics Include: interviewing methods, use of archival audio, miking & field techniques. By the end, you’ll have a solid outline of your pilot episode & a recording of your teaser.


Anna’s a top teacher whose students rave about her insight! This might be the last chance to study w/ her as she’s super busy (she’s producing and hosting her own podcast, Samaritans on KCRW! In the past, she’s produced and reported on There Goes The Neighborhood: LA and produced Madeleine Brand on Press Play and Warren Olney on To The Point. She reports regularly for NPR and has written for Bloomberg Businessweek and the Los Angeles Times.


Use the coupon code freelance or freelanceplan for 15% off ($74 off) 5+ week classes or freelance30 for $30 off short classes. 




BBC Cultural Frontline – Request for Feature Ideas from Asia, Africa and Latin America

The Cultural Frontline seeks international pitches. Details below!





The Cultural Frontline team is looking for great ideas for features from radio producers around the world.


Who are we?


The Cultural Frontline is a topical arts and culture programme, dedicated to seeing the world through the eyes of creative minds – we look at how art and culture address the biggest social, cultural, political issues we face. It’s presented by Tina Daheley on BBC World Service English.


What are we looking for?


We are looking for ideas for short radio features approximately 7’00 featuring Asian, African and Latin American artists of all types – writers, musicians, filmmakers, poets, designers, all cultural practitioners welcome.


We also welcome ideas from the rest of the world but our focus at present is on generating new ideas from Asia, Africa and Latin America.


In particular we are looking for stories of artists whose work as a bigger social, cultural or political impact or whose work is tackling a major issue faced by society today such as immigration, climate change, inequality, and discrimination.


Here is a link to our programme for further details:


If you would like to send us your pitches please email us at:




The Cultural Frontline team