Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law. This week we’re introducing a Lincolnshire mom of two, freelance writer and content creator, Samantha Lande! 10 years ago Samantha bravely stepped out of her comfort zone, and asked one simple question that completely changed the trajectory of her career path. “When Eater Chicago launched in Chicago, I randomly reached out to the editor… boldly asking if he needed writers. He gave me a chance and I eventually became associate editor…”
In Chicago North Shore Moms exclusive interview, Samantha Lande deep dives into the start of this new career path, what it takes to get started as a freelance writer (in case YOU’RE curious about starting) and the publications and brands she’s proud to serve. Welcome, Samantha!
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What city do you live in now?
Hi, I’m Samantha Lande and I am a freelance writer and content creator. I am originally from Michigan and I now live in Lincolnshire, IL. I came here for graduate school at University of Chicago and never left.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I have two awesome boys, ages 10 and 7. They are so different from each other but they are both great kids. I am very lucky.
What are one or two things people would be surprised to know about you?
People would be surprised to know that even though I write a ton about food and cooking it wasn’t until I started writing that I became a good cook. I grew up in a house where most of our meals were at restaurants, or we carried in. Once I started writing about food, I felt like I needed to teach myself some of the techniques I was learning about, and start using some of the amazing ingredients I was exposed to!
Speaking of food, what are your favorite local places to spend with the family?
We spend a lot of time at North Park which is where the baseball diamonds and soccer fields are in Lincolnshire. We love Buttermilk in Mellody Farms for brunch, and you’ll often find us at Chicago Mike’s in Highwood or Graeter’s in Northbrook for ice cream, Taco Vida in Deerfield for tacos and Sushi Kushi Toyo in Lake Forest for sushi. Because I have written about food since they were born, my kids are amazing eaters so we can take them most anywhere.
Other than that, I am a huge concert goer so I love Ravinia in the summer and fall.
Please introduce your freelance writing career! When and how did this career begin?
I became a writer in a very strange way! I was an English major in college but I put writing as a career aside and went to get my Master’s degree in Social Work/Non-profit management. I ended up working in healthcare and about seven years in, I needed a creative outlet. When Eater Chicago launched in Chicago, I randomly reached out to the editor with a tip. He wrote back, “thanks” and I replied back again boldly asking if he needed writers. He gave me a chance and I eventually became associate editor, while still working full time with one kid! Once I had my second kid I left to pursue freelance writing full time.
How long did it take before you started to make career level money?
It was probably about a year before I started to make career level money. I now write for publications like Real Simple, Food Network, Good Housekeeping and Midwest Living. I also write content for big brands like Peloton, and help newer brands find their voice and set an editorial strategy!
Do publications reach out to you, or do you still hustle to get your pieces published?
Both! The world of journalism is always changing and people are always moving around. I am lucky to have a handful of editors I have worked with for a very long time that will always bring me work, but you never know when a publication may shut down or change directions. So I would say on any given month I am assigned about 60% and I pitch about 40%. I also work with a variety of brands and oftentimes those jobs come from word of mouth or sending random emails!
If you’re a budding writer who wants to get published, how does the process work?
Get over the fear of putting yourself out there because that’s a huge part of the job. First with pitching an idea, and second with actually seeing your work published. I cringe looking back at some of my first articles but if I never put myself out there I wouldn’t be where I am today. In the beginning, the process involves a lot of networking and letting people know that you are looking to write. You never know who knows who. It also involves a lot of random emails. 10 years into this career I will reach out to an editor that I have never met before, and recently it paid off! Because of that I landed gigs for Peloton and Midwest Living.
Getting your work published also requires a lot of patience.
Do you travel for your pieces?
Locally, yes, not often for out of state stuff. I do pull inspiration for certain pieces when I travel and will often pitch stories based on my experiences. A lot of publications discourage press trips because they want more of an authentic experience and article versus a curated agenda. When I write about restaurants though or even snacks, I do make sure to taste the food because I would never want to recommend something I didn’t actually think was good.
What are a few of your most proud pieces and why?
I am most proud of the cover stories I did for Splash, which sadly no longer exists. My most proud story would be the one on Miguel Cervantes. He was the lead in Hamilton in Chicago (and currently on Broadway!). When I found out he was leaving Chicago, I pitched the cover story on him. I interviewed him in his dressing room. It was an incredible experience and also a challenging profile to write because I wanted it to be perfect.
I wrote a piece for Peloton last year on how Peloton helped female front line workers. This was meaningful both because it was my first pitch and piece for Peloton and I could just tell how exhausted these physicians were and how using the bike/app/tread really provided relief.
And I recently wrote a really fun profile on a western suit designer in Indianapolis for Midwest Living.
How do you promote yourself? Does social media play a role?
I could certainly be better about promoting myself! I have a monthly newsletter where I share all of my published work that month, plus some other musings. Social media does play somewhat of a role (and generally the publications and brands I write about/for are promoting it too on social) but I don’t always post everything I write.
Let’s say you have a day where you can dedicate an eight-hour stretch of uninterrupted time for your job… What is a day in the life of a freelance writer like?
Haha that exists???
There is really no typical day for me, but it is impossible to write for eight hours straight so I try to mix it up a bit. The first hour of my day is spent with coffee in hand writing out my to do list (yes, physically writing it) and then I always do Wordle. After that I usually try to cross off little things like invoicing or following up with editors on a pitch. I will then write, focusing usually on 2 very different articles a day so i don’t get bored. I will usually do an interview at some point during the day for a future article and spend some time pitching or writing a proposal. I usually finish the day reading PR emails.
Who are your influencers and/or mentors in the field?
I am influenced by so many people in my field and I am constantly connecting with other writers to talk about the business side of things. It’s a unique world because you need to be both creative and business minded to actually make money as a freelancer. I am still close with the original editor that gave me a shot and I am also always learning from both my editors and other friends who have started businesses of their own even if in a different field.
Where can we find your work?
The best way is to sign up for my monthly newsletter here.
I write for different publications every month (and articles don’t always publish right away) so I started this newsletter to share what is published each month. I also have a website, www.samanthawrites.com, but I am not the best at updating it often.
What’s next for Samantha Lande?
The beauty of my job is it’s different every month! I am starting to work with more brands on their content and story ideas because I think the future of a lot of lifestyle content and good stories is with the brand itself. I also still have a few goal publications that I’d like to write for!
About Our Meet a Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here!