By Bethany Good
Erika Riley is a freelance writer and editor. After graduating from Knox College with a degree in creative writing and journalism, Erika interned at LNP + LancasterOnline, the daily newspaper and site of Lancaster, PA. After her internship, she joined the team at the Frederick News-Post in Maryland as a business reporter. After almost two years covering the business community, she began writing freelance full-time.
Though Erika has lived in both Long Island, NY, and Illinois, she was happy to make a new home in Frederick, MD. “I love Frederick. It’s a welcoming community, and I love the walkability of downtown,” she says.
Erika enjoys rock climbing, board games, and cooking outside of work. She’s been rock climbing for about a year at the local Frederick gym, the Boulder Yard. “I’ve never considered myself very athletic, but there is something social and fulfilling about climbing that I love,” she explains. “The community there is awesome, and it’s really fun to work towards goals that I set for myself. “
Erika grew up playing many board games because her parents own a comic book and game shop in New York. She regularly attends a board game club at a local brewery and enjoys trying out new games with her friends. She spent a semester abroad reporting in Morocco and hopes to travel again once the pandemic calms down.
She finds cooking and trying new recipes to be fun and fulfilling. In her spare time, she also volunteers with the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate activism group.
Why we love Erika
Erika managed to balance being friendly, helpful, and independent. She is supportive of other writers and always willing to share her time, tips, and job leads with freelancers in our community. Other members enjoy her positive attitude, kindness, and community spirit. From her time at the Frederick News Post, Erika has retained a wealth of knowledge about local news and politics. Her dedication to climate activism and other causes is inspiring.
Q&A with Erika
What inspires you and keeps you going?
I think people my age (the oldest of Gen Z) welcome the idea that work is something you do to get paid, that it doesn’t have to be a passion of yours, and that it doesn’t have to take everything out of you. My motivation is that I want to make a livelihood for myself through writing. To accomplish this, I had to leave a job that I was passionate about because I knew I’d never have a healthy work/life balance or a manageable stress level. Leaving a job that is more “impactful” (local reporting) to do something “less important” (SEO writing for large companies) might seem demoralizing. Still, it feels free to be able to do my work, log off for the day, and spend the rest of my time exactly how I choose to without worrying and stressing about work.
In the future, I’d love to get back into enterprise and feature reporting, and creating a steady base of SEO and blog writing will help me get there, so that’s also a motivating factor.
Cowork Frederick members tend to be a little unconventional. How does that apply to you?
I do things differently by working for myself and making my own schedule. I’d like to move towards a place where I’m working specifically on features and projects that I care about and that are important to me. But for now, choosing my schedule and the level of involvement at the companies I contract for is very freeing. While I think I could work in a full-time role again, having the freedom to make my own schedule and say no to things that I can’t prioritize is something I did not experience as a full-time reporter.
Which of the guiding values defined by Cowork Frederick members speaks to you?
I think “boldness” has the most meaning for me right now. My goal was to freelance full-time before I turned 30, but I took a risk and was able to do it at 24. The gamble paid off, and I’m glad I made the leap. To work for myself at a young age feels empowering, and to shake off the “hustle and grind” mentality feels liberating. There are weeks when I work more than a full-time job, but I work less than full-time hours many weeks. I’m glad to have this schedule because it works for me.
Any tips for new writers?
The most important thing to do to get into the writing business is to write and get as many clips as possible. Most companies and outlets want to know that you’ve published your work elsewhere, creating a catch-22 if you’re trying to get published for the first time. Taking on volunteer writing work or stringing for a small paper can help get those initial clips. Or you can start your own blog, so you have examples to show future clients. In college, I was always frustrated by the number of journalism students that graduated without a single published clip. Mainly because the college newspaper was incredibly accessible, and the local paper was always looking for stringers. A degree does not mean as much in the writing world as a portfolio does, so if you are hoping to get into the industry through higher education, get clips and put yourself out there while you do it.
Why Cowork Frederick?
I wanted to join Cowork Frederick because I found it a bit lonely to work from home every day, and I can’t drink coffee, so working at coffee shops did not work well for me! Having a place where I can come in and talk with other people is really valuable to me. It’s nice that I can work alongside my coworkers but don’t have to work with them. At Cowork, you don’t get the stress of your manager looking over your shoulder all the time. Everyone’s doing their own thing. Coming into Cowork also really helps me as a person with ADHD. I can’t sit in one place for very long, so working half of my day at home and half of my day at Cowork helps me split up my day. I like to do more administrative work at home and commit to more focused work at Cowork. I also live just down the street and love getting out into the downtown community!
For those who want to learn more, how can you be reached?
My website is erikajriley.com, and you can also find me on LinkedIn.
About the Author
Bethany Good is a prolific poet, creative writer, author, copywriter, editor, and storyteller. Her work has been featured in PopSugar, Frederick Lifestyle Magazine, Patapsco Valley Living Magazine, and Columbia Inspired Magazine. Bethany is also the founder and “Head Wordsmith” of Good Writing Co., which provides copywriting, digital marketing, editing, and other content writing services. Find out how Good Writing Co. can help you or your business at goodwritingco.com.