It has been a little while since I’ve done a Q&A with a fellow freelance writer, but I’m so thrilled to be able to introduce you to Alex Shea. Alex is a Texas-based freelance sexual wellness and relationship content marketing specialist. Great niche, eh?
I first came across Alex’s writing in this thought provoking HuffPo article about her experience of being a Black woman in a relationship with a white man. It was written in the weeks after George Floyd’s murder and is such an intimate and poignant piece of writing both about her relationship but the wider issue of white privilege.
In her role as a sexual wellness and relationship writer, Alex writes for all kinds of publications on all kinds of topics. I hope you find this interview as interesting as I did.
Introducing Alex Shea
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your path to becoming a freelance writer?
I started writing when I was nine years old, maybe even earlier than that.
I’ve always found writing to be my way of expressing myself.
When I got to high school, my first poem was published in the school magazine and the rest is history.
I graduated from high school and went to college in order to do what I thought I was supposed to do.
I picked a terrible major and felt really out of sync with myself.
I was writing for a startup magazine at the time, for free.
I was getting to interview local artists and write their stories, which was incredible.
Except, it was all for free.
I knew I wanted to get paid for writing but I had no idea how to go about it.
So I kept my terrible major in college and trudged along for another year.
Until one day, I realized college just wasn’t the way I was going to accomplish my dreams.
I wanted to spark conversations between people about their feelings, their taboos, their fears— everything.
I wanted to spark conversations because nobody was having them anymore.
Too many times I would walk to class and see a couple or group of friends walking together but staring blankly into their phones.
I dropped out of college and started writing a book of poetry.
I worked about three jobs at any one time to pay bills and I wrote.
I worked on that book for a couple of years before finally self-publishing in early 2019.
The feedback I received from that collection of poetry was groundbreaking.
I felt like I finally found something I was meant to do, regardless of if it made me money just yet.
During that time, I researched ways to make money by writing.
And that’s when I found you and your inspirational story, Lindy.
I knew I could do what you did because I had a love for writing.
I must have sent out hundreds of applications.
This was before I knew the tricks and secrets to freelance writing.
I started by contributing to a sexual health company.
I was introduced to copywriting by Sarah Turner and the rest is history.
Now I get to write about sexual health, wellness, and relationships all of the time.
It’s the best outcome I could have ever envisioned for myself.
Nineteen-year-old me would be so proud.
Update: I’m still writing copy. But I’ve focused my work and have been able to connect with mission-driven individuals who happen to be in various spaces. While sexual wellness and relationships are still my jam, I’m all about supporting people who are doing good things and who care about what they’re doing.
What kind of split do you have with the type of writing you do?
I’d say the split is 70% copywriting and 30% features.
Update: I’ve taken a mini-hiatus from pitching while I explore and expand how I can incorporate writing in my life. First, with my business but also with my poetry and stories. My partner and I are also converting this holy mother of a van so that takes up huge chunks of my energy.
But I do pitch the occasional story. So I’d say the split right now is 60% copy, 30% stories, and 10% pubs.
Which publications do you tend to write mostly for?
You have a strong niche – sexual wellness + relationships – how did you specialise in this area?
I found a niche that needed coverage in an honest and raw way and went with it.
I immersed myself in the realm of sexual wellness.
And I love every second of it.
Update: I’m still in love with this space. I feel like everything I do will always come back to how this area of life intersects with other areas of life. And I think that’s because I try and live my life from a place of love and growth. Oh, and the poet in my analyzes everything.
Are there lots of opportunities for writers in this niche?
There’s so much in sexual health and wellness that still needs to be talked about, that needs to be brushed on, or that needs to be effectively communicated.
Everyone should have access to these resources and understand their bodies to the point where they recognize they may need these resources.
Looking at your portfolio, your stories are fascinating. Where do you come up with your ideas?
I can’t always take credit for the topics I write about.
Sometimes a client or editor I’m working with has an idea in mind without an angle, sometimes an idea and an angle, and sometimes I offer the two.
I do like figuring out a way to be as honest and raw as possible with everything I write, even if the topic has been talked about a thousand times.
There’s always a way to reach readers who want something more than fluff.
I like to flow with the person I’m working with, to bounce ideas off one another, and to roll with ideas that are given to me.
Nowadays, what’s your favourite kind of writing job and why?
I really like writing blog posts.
It’s such a fun way to share ideas and information without getting bored halfway through.
Sometimes you want to read with a purpose.
And blogs tend to let you do that.
Update: After a bit of working with clients writing blog posts, I started to feel this weight. It was like my inspiration was flickering. I didn’t want to write a word. So I sat with myself and thought of what kind of writing lit me up. The answer? Website copy.
I like connecting with people 1:1. I like hearing and experiencing their personality. And I like putting the puzzle pieces together into a well-written website. Deny it if you want, but websites are crucial, and sometimes the first look at who someone is and what they do.
I know not everyone likes writing. I can’t fathom it but I know it’s a real thing. So I offer a one-day intensive where I help clients create their website copy. Like the whole thing — in a day.
Do you have a writing routine? What does ‘a regular week’ look like for you?
I don’t actually have a writing routine.
I just make sure to give myself enough “cushion” time to write for others, write for myself, and enjoy other joys in life.
What are your favourite ways of finding copywriting clients?
Believe it or not, email has got to be my favorite way to connect with potential clients.
As a copywriter, an email says so much more about you than a regular email.
This is what you do, and you get to have fun sparking up a conversation with someone you may not know or have heard about and are interested in working with.
As a copywriter, emails are something I pay closer attention to. I have a firmer understanding of what goes into an email, different types of emails, and the language used in an email.
The technique is different, more refined than when I was a journalist or before I was a journalist.
Before I was a copywriter and paid attention to these techniques, I would write emails with an intent, sure, but I never thought the subject line I used mattered or how I arranged the email made such a big difference.
It’s little things that I think about now when I email people (and even when I text).
Email truly is a slogging, yet beautiful way to connect with people.
And by slogging, I mean writing emails can be time-consuming.
A lot of time goes into creating an email that won’t go directly into a spam folder, especially when you’re emailing companies.
But I enjoy cold emailing potential clients because I get to share a little bit of my portfolio within the email I send— since emails are something I help clients create.
Update: Email is still an incredibly powerful way to connect and find copywriting clients. But one that I never expected to enjoy was using Instagram and Twitter to lightly connect with potential clients.
What do you find most challenging about being a freelance sexual wellness and relationship writer?
The most challenging thing about being a freelance sexual wellness and relationship writer is balancing my work life with my personal life.
Everything I do and everything I’m about is balance.
It’s the most important thing for me.
And the best thing?
The best thing is being able to share my passion with other people who are just as excited about this topic.
It’s so filling to talk with someone who wants the same thing for sexual health as I do— to help it grow.
Update: The best thing about being a freelance writer is being introduced to some of the most incredible beings. That’s people I work with, interview, peers, etc. It’s my favorite part. Supporting people who value what I value is a bonus.
You wrote an incredibly powerful personal essay for HuffPo. What have the past few months been like for you in terms of being a Black writer? Are you are seeing a shift in the way that publications are working with and seeking out BIPOC writers?
On the editorial side of my writing, there was an immediate shift in the way publications accepted pitches.
All of a sudden, there were dream editors calling out for BIPOC, specifying how they wanted to “hear the experiences of BIPOC.”
Which is totally fine.
I just found and still do find it odd that more of “those experiences” weren’t covered before then.
I was conflicted about whether to pitch these editors and earn the paycheck or stick to editors at publications who value those voices every day, not just as a trend.
Luckily, there are a lot of good publications and editors out there who do care all the time.
And I just listen to my gut when I interact with anyone.
My gut knows best.
Is there anything else you want to add, Alex?
I love what I do, and I love who I am.
I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I get to realize my dream and help other people realize theirs.
It’s the most fulfilling feeling in the world.
Lastly, how can people get in touch with you?
If someone wants to message me via email, even just to say hello, they can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s also a contact form on my website.
And LinkedIn is the primary social account I’m ever on.
Don’t take it personally if it takes me a week to reply to a DM on Twitter— I’m just never on it!
Update: Email is still good to go! But if you’re looking for a social to catch me on, it’s Instagram — @warmlyalexshea 🙂
Have you ever written about sexual wellness or relationships? Do you have any questions for Alex?