Liz Bertrand is one of those quiet, unassuming hygge members who comes in, gives smiles freely and gets right to work. She’s been part of our #hyggefam for a couple of years now, and while we know she’s a writer and once we did a little Instagram post sharing her love for running, we realized a few weeks ago we don’t really know what she’s up to each day.
And we’re nosey, so you know we had to find out.
Turns out Liz is an avid freelance writer for many publications, both in Charlotte and outside of the city. Freelance writing is no easy gig – it takes a lot of time, patience and passion. We sat down with Liz to learn more about the things she loves writing about, how she manages it all and what some of her favorite things about Charlotte are.
How’d you get started in freelance writing? How long have you been doing it for?
That’s a good question and one that people often ask. It happened somewhat gradually for me, although writing has always been at the center of what I do and enjoy most. My professional background is in marketing/communications and the arts. I got my start working for several performing arts organizations around the country, including stints in New York, Denver and Charlotte.
When my husband and I had our first son, I decided I wanted to take a step back from the 9 – 5 world for a while. But I also wanted to keep that writing and arts connection going and build on it. I kept doing some feature stories for Blumenthal Performing Arts, where I had previously worked, and started looking for other opportunities to write about things that interested me.
I wrote a bunch of fun stories about city life for an online startup publication for a while; I also wrote a column about parenting. For many years I taught French part time and I was fortunate to have a boss at The Language Academy of the Carolinas, who was open to me launching a company blog about language learning and international life.
These experiences were key to building my skills, voice and portfolio.
Some of them paid literally nothing but they all really opened doors to the types of stories I write about today. And once my kids (I’ve got two boys) were school age, I was able to focus more on freelancing and turn it into my full time, professional gig.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a freelancer?
There are a few things I love.
The flexibility is awesome. Sometimes I have to remind myself how lucky I am that I can organize my work day the way that makes the most sense for me. I can work from just about anywhere—and I have (I’m looking at you bumpy back roads of Provence, France and various coffee shops in Colorado! Although I’ve got to say the Hygge Camp Greene location is my go-to place for focusing on most days.)
I love getting to meet so many people and hearing their stories, and I’m learning constantly. There are incredible things happening here and I get a first row seat; then I get the chance to share that with others.
What’s the most difficult part?
The flexibility—ha! Sometimes it can be hard being your own boss. You set the rules when you’re a freelancer. You can leap into projects any way you want but you still have to deliver to your client. You also have to be careful not to burn out by taking on too much or forgetting to “turn off work” when you’re home.
I’ve gotten much better at organizing my time and recognizing that any writing project goes through a series of stages. Part of what can be hard is trusting your own process and learning to set limits.
What are your top 3 favorite things you’ve written?
It’s hard to choose! I’ve written about so many different people and topics that I’ve found fascinating, but here are a few that were especially meaningful:
“Seeing All Colors: Why we shouldn’t teach our kids to be color blind and what to do instead” for Charlotte Parent. I pitched this story on a subject I think is crucial and interviewed several key local experts and educators for insight. That piece won a 2019 Parenting Media Association Bronze Award.
I wrote about poet and storyteller Hannah Hasan launching the “I am Queen Charlotte” project (“‘I Am Queen Charlotte.’ Poet nurtures new weeklong celebration of local Black women”) for The Charlotte Observer. I loved getting the chance to share her unique story and the vital work she does in our community.
“My Kids Love These 3 Veggie-Packed Meals” for Cubby at Home was fun, too, because it was more personal and involved food. I got to channel my inner Julia Child trying to capture family recipes that I’d always improvised before, then went through the process of having them tested by a professional recipe tester. I also got to share some parenting tips I’ve learned, well… the hard way.
Are you able to share some of the organizations/publications you write for?
Sure! Many of my clients are non-profit organizations with an arts, education or community-building focus. They include Blumenthal Performing Arts, The Mint Museum, Read Charlotte, Central Piedmont Community College, MORA, and International House.
I’m also an Arts Correspondent for The Charlotte Observer. Other publications I’ve written for include Queen City Nerve, Charlotte Parent, CharlotteFive and Cubby at Home.
What’s one tip you have for other freelance writers?
One thing that really helps me when I’m juggling a lot of stories is scheduling walk breaks.
Getting some fresh air, letting my mind wander a bit— or change focus listening to a podcast— gives me a new perspective. Things that seemed not to work or were challenging to get through are usually easier when I get back inside. (It’s part of why I love the Camp Greene location. I’ve got a bunch of different walking routes I take through the neighborhood, depending on how long a break I’m taking. Love the residential streets, walking through the park or stopping by Do Greater’s CRTV Lab Coffee— another topic I enjoyed writing about, by the way.)
What is your favorite thing about Charlotte?
There is so much creativity and talent here. I am constantly amazed by the people I meet or read about, and what they are up to. Charlotte’s not as big or well-known as some other cities, but if you scratch the surface a little, you find it’s full of incredible people, experiences and opportunities.
You can find more of my writing at lizbertrand.com or follow me on Instagram/Twitter @tournesol74.