Background: The Highlights
I connected with Dawn on a freelance writing forum almost two decades ago. I’ve always been inspired by her work and ability to continue pushing forward despite her daily challenges. In addition to being a burn survivor, she lost her hearing after catching spinal meningitis when she was thirteen.
Dawn Colclasure’s background includes being a freelance writer, book reviewer, ghostwriter, and novelist. She also writes poetry collections and short stories. In addition to this work, she also publishes a monthly newsletter, the SPARREW Newsletter. It contains information for authors, editors, readers, self-publishers, and writers. The most recent issue mentions nDash in Dawn’s feature article – check it out here: SPARREW Issue Fourteen.
Here’s a snippet from her website outlining her start as a freelance writer:
“When I wanted to start writing articles as a teen, I wasn’t too sure if I could do it, so I started writing a whole bunch of practice articles I styled after everything I read in newspapers and magazines. Satisfied I could actually write an article, I started freelancing during my first year of college. Ever since then, I have been writing a variety of materials.”
Dawn’s Transition to Content Writing
Jenn: I remember talking to you during our early years as freelance writers (early 2000s) on AbsoluteWrite.com’s forum. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen when comparing your freelance writing career between now and back then?
Dawn: The biggest change is that I am more focused on topics I specialize in. While I’m basically open to writing about a variety of topics, as a freelance writer, I stick to the topics I have a track record in and know a lot about: Writing, Deaf/HOH issues, animals, the paranormal, and health. I am also studying markets more thoroughly before I pitch to them.
Jenn: We’ve talked about how much you enjoy writing poetry, essays, and short fiction over the years. What made you decide to transition into content writing?
Dawn: I have heard about content writing for some time, but I never made the leap into giving it a try. At the end of 2021, I felt it was time to try something new with my writing, and content writing first came to mind. I did get off to a strong start with it in 2022, but that has since tapered off. I hope to change that this year, in addition to trying another new kind of writing.
Jenn: How did nDash become part of that journey?
Dawn: nDash was the first content creation platform I approached when I decided to try my hand at content writing. I was really nervous because I was worried it was another content mill, and I was so done writing for content mills. But with you as part of it, I felt that perhaps it was something different, and I just went for it and applied.
Turns out that hunch is correct. nDash is certainly not another content mill because the team cares about their writers and makes sure their writers receive fair pay. I am grateful for my experiences with nDash.
Jenn: What advice do you have for other writers interested in transitioning into content writing?
Dawn: Practice writing content first. Read blog posts, landing pages, and press releases. Pay attention to how they are written. Learn about using SEO writing and how to use and research keywords. The face of SEO writing may be changing due to Google’s revised algorithms, but SEO writing is still definitely a useful tool for writing content for brands.
The Rest of nDash’s Discussion With Freelance Writer: Dawn Colclasure
Dawn Colclasure’s background in freelance writing includes over 20 years of experience in editing, freelance writing, ghostwriting, and journalism. She has experience in multiple industries, including education, health and wellness, lifestyle, and science and medicine.
Jenn: On your website, I see magazine clips in your portfolio. Do you still actively pitch to magazines? How does that differ from pitching to online publications or brands?
Dawn: With magazines, I only pitch to the ones I am familiar with and/or a longtime reader. In the past, I pitched to just any magazine, but I really feel that it’s important to be familiar with a magazine before pitching them, such as what they publish, their tone and voice, their audience, etc.
I do occasionally pitch to magazines, but most of my pitches have gone out to online publications because they are more accessible and don’t require a trip to the store or library to check them out. In some ways, pitching to a magazine is the same as pitching to a brand because I need to ensure that what I pitch is something their readers will want. Same thing with brands; you have to give them what they and what their customers want. Same with online publications: Pitch the kind of material that you would expect to see on their website.
Jenn: Your background also includes a significant amount of book writing. Do you enjoy writing long-form content than blog posts or articles?
Dawn: I enjoy writing both, but lately, I have found that I have been writing more long-form content. It’s the journalist in me making sure that I cover all the bases about a topic and try to get both sides of an opinion.
Jenn: Is it challenging for you to manage your career as a freelance writer alongside being a book author?
Dawn: It can be a challenge sometimes, both because of how much time I invest and my own health. I do freelance writing first; then I work on books. However, some freelance writing assignments can take all day to work on, while I’m happy to spend just an hour or two working on books. Also, I tend to get migraines as well as dizzy spells, and these occasionally prevent me from doing one or both of those things on any given day.
Jenn: What advice do you have for others who are struggling with managing freelance writing and book writing?
Dawn: Don’t try to combine the two. Seriously. Divide your time between freelance writing and book writing. It will save a lot of confusion and mistakes later on.
Also, work on only one book at a time. For me, I was used to working on three or four books at a time, but lately, with how many hours I have put into freelance writing, I have found that I can do more focused and better work on one book if I just work on one book. It has been hard to get used to, but it really works better, especially if I am writing fiction and my characters are demanding more attention.
Finally, be firm about your hours for each one. Decide on a time to be “done” with freelance writing for the day. Then, the rest of the day can be spent on the book work. I usually start my day by writing any old thing. After I get my kids to school and work, by 10, I am busy with freelance writing until 5 pm. (Sometimes 5ish!) Then, from 9-11 pm, I’m busy with the current book. It really comes down to finding balance for both pursuits.
Jenn: I notice much of your most recent work is for health websites and Reference.com – are these niches you like writing about the most?
Dawn: Most definitely. I love writing for Reference.com because I’m passionate and enjoy writing about interesting topics. I am also passionate about learning, so all the research I do for those articles is an enjoyable experience. As for health, my own health problems forced me to take a deep dive into learning everything I can about health issues. Many of these issues hit close to home because I know people affected by them, but mostly it’s because I feel that it’s very important to get more information out there to readers.
Jenn: We featured you in one of our Wednesday Writer Roundups, and in that feature, you mentioned how fulfilling it was to write about issues affecting the Deaf/HOH community. As a deaf freelance writer, do you still look for those writing opportunities?
Dawn: Absolutely! I have noticed that when I am studying markets and brands to pitch to, I am always asking, “What about the Deaf?” It is extremely frustrating that there are so many brands and websites out there that do not include material related to the Deaf/HOH community. This is a topic I became passionate about when I wrote about news affecting the deaf/HOH community for SIGNews.
I’m still passionate about it, and I really feel that issues related to deafness as well as members of the Deaf/HOH community really should have more exposure. As a Deaf freelance writer, this is my first approach when encountering new markets. I’ve been deaf for 35 years, and I struggle with sign language due to a hand disability. I’ve also had a variety of experiences while being deaf. So, I feel I can bring a lot to the table in writing articles, blog posts, and even whole books specifically for and about the Deaf/HOH community.
There are just so many things the hearing world keeps promoting that the Deaf/HOH struggle with — such as audiobooks, podcasts, and videos without captions.
And I just want to keep the conversation going about how we need to find a way to include people who are deaf/HOH. Because we are all being left out. And all those brands and websites that don’t want anything on their blogs or websites recognizing and including members of the Deaf community add to that feeling of being left out.
I once had the experience of reaching out to someone who was sending subscribers audio files of their podcasts but without any text. As a Deaf subscriber, I needed to read that text to know what the podcast was about. So I reached out to him about it on Twitter, and I said something like:
“Can you please add text to your podcasts? I am a deaf subscriber and don’t know what anybody’s saying. Thanks.”
He actually did it! All of his future emails included text that explained what was being said in the podcasts or contained excerpts. I felt that was a pretty awesome accomplishment, and I hope to continue to have that effect with more markets, brands, and websites that are not mindful of their deaf subscribers, visitors, or readers.
Thank you for chatting with us about your path to becoming a content writer, freelance writing, and everything in between!
Work With Dawn Colclasure on nDash Today!
Do you have a project that aligns with Dawn’s background? Check out her writer profile to see her experience can take your content strategy to the next level: Dawn Colclasure.