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Tim Tucker

Tim Tucker, senior writer for BASSMASTER Magazine and "Bass Times" and writer for Universal Press Syndicated Outdoor Page, has been a full-time freelancer since 1985. Tucker is a former Palm Beach Post outdoor columnist, a former The Gainesville Sun outdoor columnist, and has won over 100 writing and photography awards.

QUESTION: How'd you get your writing career started, Tim?
ANSWER: I started in the newspaper business when I was young. I knew from a school project that I wanted to be in the newspaper business.

QUESTION: How old were you when you started?
ANSWER: When I was a freshman in junior college, I had a job as a copy boy, and I did everything extra that I could. They gave me the leeway to move up and try new things. So, by the time I was 19 years old, I had a full-time general- assignment news-covering job for the Palm Beach Post, which had a circulation of 200,000.

QUESTION: So then what happened?
ANSWER: I did various things at the newspaper to try to round myself out. I covered news, cops, courts -- any type of features. I worked in a bureau to get that experience, which was good because it taught me things like self-discipline and self-motivation, and also that competition is good. Back in those days, a lot of papers in south Florida were in competition, and when you covered a beat like a municipality, that was very competitive. And then I had a chance to move into the sports.

QUESTION: You didn't finish college, did you?
ANSWER: No. I quit after one year of junior college. I don't know how smart that was, but I had a general-assignment reporter's job and was learning a lot more there than I was learning in journalism class. I probably should have persevered, but I didn't and I don't have a whole lot of regrets over it.

QUESTION: So what happened after you wrote for the newspaper?
ANSWER: I thought I would get into covering sports, and I didn't. I got into the news business. If sports had opened up, I would have jumped at the chance to go back to the main office and cover sports. But the two beats that were open were the outdoors and paramutuals. I chose outdoors in 1981 because I thought that at least would let me get outdoors. I didn't know the first thing about the outdoors. I didn't even know the right way to hold a rod and reel. The first person I fished with was Roland Martin, and I remember he turned the reel right-side up for me the first time I fished with him. That was the beginning. I fell in love with the outdoors. I didn't know anything about it, but I just acted like a sponge and tried to learn as much as I could. I fell in love with the tournament side of bass fishing because it was the easiest thing to understand. From there things took off. I wrote outdoors for the Palm Beach Post from 1981 to 1985, and then I quit to freelance full-time. I still wrote outdoors stories for the Palm Beach Post as a freelancer until 1995 or 1996. When I began freelancing, I got into magazines hot and heavy. Magazines were my income for a lot of years, with a little bit of income from freelancing newspaper work. Then I got into books in about 1988 and 1989 and started self-publishing books. I've done nine books, eight of which I've self-published.

QUESTION: What's the hardest thing about freelancing?
ANSWER: You have to write every day. You don't have a choice. It's a real eye-opener to know and understand that the amount of money that comes in is directly in proportion to the amount of effort you put out. When you work for a newspaper, you may not write but twice a week. That's the cushiest job in the world. There are days you just don't write, but you still get the same check. But when you're freelancing full-time, it's directly proportional to the effort you put out. There's also an adjustment of not having a regular paycheck. That's pretty scary. You live to see the postman every day. I don't love to write; it's a job. It's not literature, but it's what I do best, and it beats anything else I could do.

QUESTION: What do you say to people who say freelancers never can make more than $7,500 a year?
ANSWER: If you can't make $100,000 a year as a freelancer in this economy, you ought to be doing something different. And I'm not talking about outside income. I'm talking about stuff directly resulting from your freelance work. There's so much opportunity. Magazine pay rates will come up; new magazines come out of the woodwork; and the internet is an incredible source of money now -- I made over $60,000 this last year off the internet.

QUESTION: Why would you advise a young person to go into freelance writing?
ANSWER: Being a freelance outdoor writer is a great life. You'll meet some of the finest people in the world, both the other writers in this business and the people you deal with, like the sportsmen. I've got 3-year-old twins, and I hope one or both of them will want to be a freelancer. It's not the easiest life in the world, but it could be the most rewarding. Who else gets paid to do research, and by that I mean be in the fields, hunting or fishing something? There are worse things you could be doing.