Freelance work leads to busy career for Florida journalist

By Natalie Beckerink, SizingUpTheSouth reporter, Auburn University

Carol Brzozowski began her career as a news reporter in 1983 at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, then turned to freelance work in 1991.

“I had two reasons for switching to freelance,” Brzozowski said. “One was that I wanted to have a family, and being a news reporter was kind of the job where you’d just have to up and go. The second reason was that the opportunities for what I wanted to do were drying up, and I felt that I could do more on my own and so I made that move in 1991.”

When she worked as a reporter for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a daily newspaper, she would have to drop everything and go depending on the situation, even when she was hosting a party, Brzozowski said.

“I remember when I was single and having parties, and the editor would call to say that the party was over,” she said. “We’d all have to go back to the office.”

Carol Brzozowski, freelance journalist and SPJ Florida member

Brzozowski knew it would be difficult to have a family working as a reporter, so switching to freelance helped a lot when she was raising her own two sons, she said.

“I knew it would be hard for me to have a family and do that job,” Brzozowski said. “I did raise two sons eventually as a single mother and raised them on a freelancer’s income.”

During Hurricane Irma in 2017, Carol Brzozowski, along with her dog, was set up in a pet-friendly shelter at the Everglades High School in Miramar, Fla. Supplied photo

Once she started freelance writing, Brzozowski covered environmental and educational issues. This began after writing a cold letter to the editor of Stormwater magazine about 17 years ago, she said.

“The interesting challenge about freelance writing, and this is what people find out when they go into it, is how you get assigned stories,” she said. “That letter led to writing for their five other sister publications which are all in the environmental sector.”

Stormwater is a part of the Forester Media Network, a media company that publishes resources for professionals in infrastructure, engineering and environmental fields. John Trotti, a former editor, met Brzozowski by chance about 15 years ago when she contacted him looking for work. She has been an amazing writer ever since, he said. Photo right: John Trotti

“ She became our primary freelance writer for all of our magazines,” said Trotti. “ She wrote for every one of them and had at least two assignments a month. She is a genuine skilled writer, knows the story and knows how to get it.”

Brzozowski has also written for Human Capital Media. Rick Bell, editorial director, started working with Brzozowski after one of her pitches piqued his interest. It was about the response of the city of Coral Springs’ human resources department in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Feb. 14, 2018, he said.

Rick Bell

“She pitched me the story idea shortly after the shooting had happened and it was just one of those stories ideas where it’s just like ‘wow, that’s a really fascinating story,’” said Bell. “Carol is just a wonderful person. Very responsive, always very chatty and friendly. We always have great conversations going back and forth.”

Freelancing did come with its challenges, including always being on the look for work. Even during a hurricane, Brzozowski was still working on a piece in her shelter so she could complete it on time and get paid, she said.

“There’s no one way of doing it and it’s probably the most challenging part of the job because when you wake up in the morning, you know, unless you have interviews scheduled or writing to do, the marketing is so important.”

Carol Brzozowki
Brzozowki’s book, “Empty Nest, Single Parent: Moving the Needle Toward a Repurposed Life” was published in 2018.

“You never know when something is going to dry up or when someone is going to get consolidated or merged or acquired. You always have to be looking for work.”

While working as a freelancer Brzozowski simultaneously worked on a book. After a few years of work, she published “Empty Nest, Single Parent” in August 2018, Brzozowski said.

“I had been a single mother and I needed that steady income that magazine writing gave me, so I was just working on that incrementally,” she said.

The inspiration for the book came from seeing so many women who became lost after all their children had left the house, Brzozowski said.

“I wanted to bring them hope,” she said. “I don’t want a life to get used to, I want a life to look forward to.”

Carol Brzozowski

In the book, Brzozowski mentioned many of the hobbies she took up after her children left including swimming, yoga and going to the gym. She even found herself in a long-distance relationship with someone unexpected after attending a high school reunion, Brzozowski said.

“There’s a whole chapter dedicated to a high school reunion where I met a guy I went to school with from kindergarten to 12th grade where I didn’t give him the time of day the whole time,” she said. “ I was very bookish and he was up on the school roof. People change over time though, and now we have a long-distance relationship where he flies from Michigan once a month.”

One of the most important things for a writer is to be passionate and hardworking, especially in a time where the market is competitive, Brzozowski said.

“It’s very competitive now and there are a lot of older journalists losing their jobs, so there are more good people out there competing for a small piece of the pie,” she said. “I love this so much, there’s nothing else I’d rather do, so that’s the big driving factor in my life.”

Natalie Beckerink is the 2019 SPJ Region 3 summer intern and reporter for SizingUpTheSouth.com. She is a junior at Auburn University studying political science and journalism. Beckerink is on the staff of the Auburn University Plainsman student newspaper. nbeckerink.spj@gmail.com

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