NOTE: 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,
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
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
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.