May 20, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer: Interview with LorRae Crubaugh

LorRae Crubaugh has more than 20 years of experience in integrated marketing communications. She currently works as a freelance writer with her company Hurrae! She works on a variety of projects including advertising copy, speech writing and grant writing. She previously served as copy director for an advertising, design and marketing communications firm and as Creative Director for a full-service advertising agency.

What's your title?

Freelance Writer. I do writing of all kinds – ads, brochures, newsletters, websites, training DVDs, television and radio commercials, trade show booths, speeches, press releases, and grant writing. I also do research, proofing, and copy-editing.

How do you explain your job to your mother?

A better question would be how I explain this job to my father. Since I started in the agriculture market, my dad could see my work when he went to farm shows. He’d tell the person at the tradeshow booth, “My daughter wrote this brochure.”

How did you get started?

I got my first job in the ad business after writing a story to honor my dad in “Hoard’s Dairyman,” the bible for dairy farmers. It was a tongue-in-cheek story about how after I got out of college I couldn’t find a job and ended up back on the farm. Even though I now had a degree, it didn’t seem to make any difference to the cows! But my dad, who had the wisdom from the school of life, knew the secret to happiness all along.

My first job was as a junior copywriter in an agency specializing in agriculture. Later, I moved up to the largest ad agency in the country and started doing more business-to-business. Eventually I ended up in foodservice promotion. As a freelancer, I also was able to gain valuable experience in the healthcare market. That’s another great aspect about being a writer … you never stop learning!

What's your educational background? How did you get experience?

They didn’t have an advertising major when I went to school, although they did have marketing. I have always felt communication of all kinds is important – from sign language to the vibes given off by plants. My major was German and my minor was Speech Communication.
I’m almost embarrassed to say that the fact that I grew up on a farm probably helped me get my first job in agriculture more than my degree. I knew what kind of job I wanted though and I went out of my way to get a work/study position in the public information office at one of the schools I attended. I got to try my hand at alumni newsletters, course announcements, radio spots, and more. I knew instantly this was what I wanted to do!

What was the last project you worked on?

A $45,000 grant proposal to help people living in poverty meet their basic needs and build their financial security so they can become self-sufficient.

Describe a typical day (or week) in your life when you're working.

I often work all night long if I’m on a roll. I try not to do this if I know I have a meeting or another deadline the next day. I often do it just because I want to. Then when I get to where I want to be, or just decide I’m finally too tired to continue, I’ll eat a huge breakfast in the wee hours of the morning and go to sleep until I wake up. (Ok, I know it’s not healthy to eat before you go to bed, but otherwise I keep waking up because I’m hungry!) Not having to set my alarm clock most days is living my dream!

How do you sharpen your skills and stay motivated?

Good question. My biggest challenge is that the wrong things motivate me. Since I work at home, I am often more motivated to start the day with a leisurely breakfast and meditation, weed my garden, make a healthy meal, try to tame a rescued cat, put in a load of wash … and by the time I’m ready to start my freelance work, it’s almost lunch time or later. But since I’m a night owl, it usually works fine for me to work late at night.I sharpen my skills by networking with others in the industry and by attending workshops.

What advice do you give to those who want to join your profession?

You need a lot more than just creativity. You have to be able to think strategically, and it helps if you can spell!

A Series of Questions:

What do you like most about your job?

Being my own boss and setting my own schedule. I’ve read that the people with the most control over their lives live the longest; I plan to live to 100. I also find peace in the fact that even though I can lose accounts and clients can switch jobs, no one can fire me!

What major job annoyance would you eliminate forever?

Interruptions when I’m on a creative roll.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! Mostly from real life … in the crazy people I meet, in nature, my kids, my pets … some of my best ideas have come while in doctor waiting rooms or in the shower.

Where do you hope to be (career-wise) in another year?

I hope to still be freelancing in my big Victorian home surrounded by cats, a bunny who lives in the room connected to my office, and a turtle. I also hope to be making more money doing it!

If you could go back in time and meet to your pre-professional self, what would you tell her?

I would tell myself not to be afraid to venture out of my comfort zone.

What’s your motto?

I’m actually still working on it. My company name is Hurrae! which is a spin-off of my name – LorRae. Once I understand a product, I throw myself into it. I can get excited about everything from manure pits and rodenticides to BLUE BUNNY ice cream. So I’m thinking of a tag line that says something like: “Excitable … in a Good Way” or “Excited about Life” or “Turning Cartwheels for my Clients.”