Brett, tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you born and where in the US do you currently live?
I was born in Virginia, and lived there until I was almost 17, when my family moved to North Carolina. I now live in a rural area north of Raleigh, NC.
How long have you been writing for us — and how did you find out about us in the first place?
Four years last month! I was writing for the now defunct Examiner at the time, and another writer told me about you.
What types of articles and other content do you like writing about — do you have any favorite topics or subjects?
The articles I enjoy writing most are those with topics that interest me, and I have a wide range of interests! I enjoy satisfying my curiosity through the research process. I’m well-versed in the topics of nutrition, alternative health, anything to do with dogs (I’m a dog trainer and breeder), and I like writing about blue-collar “practical” topics quite a bit, too.
Describe just a bit your writing process. How do you prepare for writing and actually execute on a customer order, step-by-step. What’s the process you follow?
If it is an unfamiliar topic, I research and make notes with pen and paper until it starts to “gel.” Once I choose an angle, I switch to the computer. I need to know how a topic fits within its larger context, so I often end up with more research than I need, but the confidence I feel when I start writing makes it worthwhile. If it is a premium or elite article I’ll use different search engines and try and find original research. If it interests me, I feel it will likely interest the client, as well.
If the topic is one I already know well, I try and pick a time when I’m fresh and enthused, and knock them out, one after the other. If I have errands to run, I’ll read the assignments and keywords and then jot down my thoughts and ideas at stoplights or while waiting in a notebook I carry with me. When I get home, I transcribe and polish them on the computer.
Before submitting an article, I usually run it through spellcheck and grammar programs and read it out loud to myself. This helps me catch those small errors I might otherwise miss.
Let me ask you, what’s your greatest challenge of being a writer?
My greatest challenge as a writer is finding new ways to grow. I find it easy to get complacent and do what is comfortable and familiar, but that’s not the best way to grow. Challenging myself is my greatest challenge.
What do you do when you get stuck for writing ideas/angles?
I rarely get stuck unless I’m tired, so if I’m getting nowhere, I sleep on it and start again the next day.
Brett, how would you say being able to work as one of our writers has helped you to gain experience and deepen your skills as a writer?
I’ve learned so much about so many things! I can talk knowledgeably about waterproofing a basement, insulating a crawl space, repairing a roof, and can explain to my friends with small businesses why they need to optimize their websites. The things I’ve learned creep into my conversations all the time. As a writer, I’ve learned that I can accept an article on a topic that is foreign to me and turn out something great in 48 hours or less that benefits both me and the client. I’ve learned not to overthink things, but to trust that my best effort is almost always good enough.
Do you do any other work as a freelancer — do you have your own website or personal blog where you share your writing and connect with the public?
I’ve articles on a number of sites that earn residual income, such as HubPages (http://hubpages.com/@brettwinn), and I occasionally write for a few different sites. The only blog I still update occasionally is the one I maintain for my dogs: http://aproposaussies.com/blog/.