#ASJACon Recap: To Get Ahead, Build a Freelance Business Based on Trust

Michelle Rafter

It’s all about trust.

I started working out at home during the pandemic, and that phrase is in a song that’s on heavy rotation in videos posted by my favorite YouTube fitness instructor.

Trust was a major theme of sessions during the first day of #ASJACon, the 2023 ASJA Virtual Annual Conference. More specifically, how to build and nurture it.

Speaker after speaker encouraged freelancers to work in ways that encourage trust, especially when communicating with sources, editors, content marketing managers, or ghostwriting clients.

Keynote speaker Janet Stovall.

How do you build trust as a writer?

  • Listen to the people you interview or work with and acknowledge their truth, especially when it entails recognizing your own biases. “If you have a brain, you have a bias,” said keynote speaker Janel Stovall. “Interrupting it can make you a better human and a more conscious communicator,” which can engender trust.
  • Take ego out of the equation. If you’re working with a ghostwriting client, readily accept feedback without taking it personally if an author doesn’t think a first draft is perfect. Instead, “figure out how to make it better together,” said ASJA member Marcia Layton Turner, who recently earned a PhD in ghostwriting.
  • Think about prospective content marketing or ghostwriting writing clients not just in terms of what you could sell them but how you could help them tell their story, or solve their problems, said Michael Liebowitz, host of a content marketing writing track session on finding your “Hell yeah!” value proposition.

ASJA News: Executive Director Change, and Upcoming Ghostwriting Conference

Conference speaker Dr. Marcia Layton Turner

ASJA President Emily Paulsen used the end-of-the-day happy hour business meeting to make two announcements:

ASJA has hired a new executive director Kari Stringfellow to replace James Brannigan, who recently left to go to work for a different association. Stringfellow is a senior vice president at Kellen (ASJA’s professional management company) and has served as executive director for multiple other professional organizations.

Conference speaker Michael Liebowitz

At the happy hour, Paulsen also announced that ASJA is teaming up with New York-based ghostwriting agency Gotham Ghostwriters to cosponsor the first-ever US ghostwriting conference, which will take place in January 2024. The capstone of the one-day conference will be the presentation of the first every Andy awards, honoring excellence in collaboration between authors and ghostwriters/paid collaborators. Look for more details later this month.

Other Highlights

Other highlights of the first day of the conference:

  • The journalism track Pitch Slam session, where attendees pitched story ideas to 6 editors, coincided with the launch of session host Estelle Erasmus’ latest book, “Writing That Gets Noticed.”
  • The New York Times published an essay written by #ASJACon speaker Desiree Cooper on June 9, titled “What If I Hadn’t Been There to Catch Them?” Cooper talked about how she uses the writing tools she learned as a journalist to branch out in other genres, including essays, short firm, and flash fiction.
  • A number of ASJA scholarship recipients and applicants pitched story ideas live and in real time in the “Pitch Slam” session.
  • ASJA staff did an admirable job of answering people’s questions and concerns, whether by email, Zoom Events platform message, or phone. Props to Jennifer, Macy, Spencer, and Anna.

If you registered for the conference but missed sessions, don’t worry. All sessions except for snack chats were recorded and recordings are available now on the conference site. From the main menu, go to Sessions and click on Watch Recording for the relevant session.

Session recordings will be available free to attendees and for sale to the general public on the ASJA website later this summer.