Whitney Hopler, a freelance editor and inspirational writer, is the NAIWE Member of the Month for May. Whitney very effectively uses her NAIWE website (WhitneyHopler.NAIWE.com) by including the URL in her article bios and other materials, and she continues to develop her freelance career in a direction that’s both personally and professionally rewarding. I think you’ll enjoy her interview.
Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.
A: I began my journalism career in college at George Mason University, where I served on the campus newspaper’s staff as an editor and worked for a chain of local newspapers as a reporter through an internship. After graduation, I went straight to work for the local newspapers as a reporter covering a wide variety of stories. However, several years into reporting, I began to feel depressed about my job. I had a nagging sense that I’d be better suited to writing stories that people reflected on more than newspaper reports, but didn’t know how to go about doing so.
One day I sat in someone’s living room interviewing her for a profile and noticed her pet parrot nearby. At the bottom of the parrot’s cage was a copy of that day’s newspaper, with my latest cover story featured in all its glory – and the bird had pooped all over it. That, for me, graphically illustrated the fact that my stories might have been interesting but didn’t offer much lasting value. It turns out that God had been using my restlessness to motivate me to seek His will for my life more, and when I did, I sensed that He was calling me to write about what I thought mattered most: faith. So I quit my job and devoted time to prayer while working on a freelance project.
At the right time, God provided a job that was a much better fit for me, and a much better job overall – as an editor for The Salvation Army’s national magazines. Ever since then, every job I’ve gotten has come to me through prayer and having the confidence to take risks to follow where I sensed God leading me. After my first child – my daughter Honor – was born, I needed a job with a more flexible schedule, and over the years God has provided jobs that included serving as the religion editor for a newspaper chain and editing a channel for Crosswalk.com, the largest Christian site on the Internet. I’ve been serving as an inspirational writer and editor now for about 17 years.
Q: How and when did you make this business a reality?
A: When a different corporation took over Crosswalk.com, I was faced with a dilemma: either move to a different area to keep my staff position, or work with Crosswalk.com on a freelance basis. I didn’t want to uproot my family, so I began freelancing for Crosswalk.com, and gradually added other freelance clients as I could. Now it’s been about 9 years since I began freelancing full time, and I’m grateful that I can continue to write regularly for Crosswalk.com and other clients.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?
A: When searching for jobs or freelance projects, don’t settle for less than the best, because God will provide the best if you’re willing to trust Him. No matter what your professional field is, you have a choice. You can either jump into any job or project that comes your way simply to make money and have something to do, or you can ask God to lead you to what’s best for you and work hard to earn it, taking whatever risks you need to take to grow.
The times when I haven’t trusted God to lead me, I’ve gotten by, but I didn’t enjoy my work very much or see many positive results from it. When I have trusted God, though, my work has given me a lot of joy and led to something great happening – people’s lives actually changed for the better. So I’ve learned that people facing career decisions should seek God’s will (rather than just how much money they can make, what logistics are involved with job, etc., which are secondary to the primary concern of how they can best contribute to the world through their work) and be confident that God will lead them to what’s best.
Q: Are you working on any special projects you’d like to tell us about?
A: About.com has just hired me to serve as the guide for its new site about angels and miracles. I’m excited about engaging readers of all perspectives (believers from every religion and skeptics alike) online to discuss God’s angels and the miracles that He sometimes performs. I’m grateful that I get to be a part of delivering good news to readers, since the media so often features more bad news then the good news still that happens regularly, even in our fallen world. About.com’s angels and miracles site debuted in May. Please visit the site, tell your friends, and send me stories of your encounters with angels or miraculous events you’ve experienced. I’m looking forward to posting reader stories regularly. Also, I plan to blog about angels and miracles myself both on About.com and on my NAIWE site, so please plan to check out the blogs and let me know what you think.
Q: What are some of the teachers, books, or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?
A: My high school journalism teacher, Mrs. Margo Tyree, urged me to overcome my shyness and take on an extrovert’s job – reporting for the school’s newspaper – as an introvert to gain confidence, and I did. I’ll always be grateful that she believed in my potential back when I was an insecure teen who just loved to write. Mrs. Tyree and many of my other teachers and professors also helped me become a stronger writer over the years. As for books and authors, the classic book The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White helped me vividly see the value of writing clearly and concisely, and I think every professional writer or editor should read it.
Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer an independent writer or editor who is just beginning a career?
A: Take the time to figure out what genre of writing and editing you should focus on, since you’re more likely to get hired and do a great job if you’re working on projects that are best for you. What are you most interested in? What distinctive talents and skills can you offer? For instance, some writers and editors are best suited for technical projects and others for creative projects. Some have experience covering a particular field, such as sports or business. If you’re not sure what to focus on, pray for guidance, and you’ll figure it out.
Q: What inspires you?
A: It’s inspiring for me to read a compelling story of how God has worked in someone’s life to change that person for the better in some way. I can’t get enough of stories like that! All of our individual stories are incredibly significant because they’re connected to the ultimate story of what God is doing in our world.
Q: How has your membership in NAIWE benefited you professionally?
A: The website has proven to be a tremendously valuable tool to use when communicating with potential employers. To compete for freelance jobs today, every independent writer and editor really needs a professional website like the ones that NAIWE offers. Also, knowing that I have NAIWE’s many resources to turn to for advice and support as needed encourages me a lot. It’s easy for freelancers to feel isolated, but NAIWE members are connected to a great community that can help all of us, so we never need to feel that we’re alone in our work.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: I just want to thank NAIWE for giving me an opportunity to share my professional story. Hope it inspires some other NAIWE members to have confidence that their work matters to God, and He’ll lead them to some great projects when they trust their careers to Him.