January 18, 2024
3 min read

Freelancing, WFM, and Storytelling: Interview With a Book Editor

Haley Grant
Co-Founder of Sync

In a recent interview with Dana Alsamsam (@danas_ _day), a 28-year-old book editor based in Boston, we delved into her life as a creative. From her roots in book editing and writing to her evolution as a digital content creator, one resounding theme emerged — the power of storytelling.

For Dana, storytelling isn't just a craft; it's the very essence that threads through every facet of her life. From documenting daily routines on TikTok to penning down captivating narratives as a book editor, she skillfully infuses storytelling into every endeavor. 

Join us as we share Dana's unique perspective on creativity, work-life balance, and the liberating force that storytelling brings to both her professional and personal pursuits.

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Hi, Dana! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started on social media? 

Of course! My name is Dana; I’m a 28-year-old based in Boston, MA. I’m a multi passionate creative person and use my social media channels as a creative outlet for filming and storytelling, and to document my journey balancing my many passions and romanticizing everything along the way. 

I started my TikTok channel in 2020 in the depths of the pandemic by filming little daily routines. I saw and still do see these small videos as a creative outlet and little pieces of art, a romanticized documentation of the mundane. In 2021, I added a YouTube channel to the mix. 

Can you share a bit about your journey from book editor to digital content creator?

My journey to running a book editing business and the inspiration to start my TikTok are very interlinked. I believe social media, and especially TikTok, have the power to show people all the possibilities for their lives, to see that there’s another way of doing things besides the typical routes society or one’s parents have prescribed to them. 

Freelancing, or working independently, as well as social media and content creation, are these major and relatively new avenues for building a beautiful, nontraditional career. I’ve always found it natural to go against the grain and build pathways for myself. So, the moment I had more time in my days without commuting into my job, I immediately gravitated toward these creative and nontraditional avenues. 

I’ve always been a creator and maker–I’m a poet at heart. Being a writer is also deeply integrated into the content I create. Everything I post is a story or a poem, whether visually or through the words I share in my voiceovers. 

What does a typical day in your life look like? 

Well, if you want an accurate depiction, there’s about 1000 days in my life on my TikTok…joking!

Here’s probably the closest thing to a typical day: 

7AM: wake up, coffee

7:15AM: morning pages 

7:30AM: read and/or edit tiktok videos 

8:30AM: answer emails and messages for my book editing business and content creation

9:30AM: 9-5 

11AM: movement–lift at the gym or yoga/cycling at home 

12PM: skincare, makeup, get dressed 

12:30PM: 9-5, sometimes change locations to a coffee shop

5PM: Book Editing most days, some days off to a dance rehearsal! 

7PM: Make dinner

8PM: eat, do any final video editing or book editing that needs to be done for the day

9PM: no more work, hang out with hubby and watch TV 

In defining your platform, how do you strive to connect with your audience? 

This topic is interesting because so much social media advice is about niche-ing down and finding specificity in how you serve your audience–and I think in many ways I’ve gone against this. I am in love with the vlog format because it leaves space for everything within the span of a regular day. I’m a poet and writer, I’m a freelancer and business owner and book editor, I’m a dancer and director, I’m a content creator, I love to cook and work out and play my little video games. 

I aim to connect with my audience by showing every facet of who I am and what I love: a full person who refuses to be put in a box. And sure, I’m almost certain my pages would grow faster if I stuck to ONLY work from home content, or ONLY author tips, or ONLY dance videos, but then that wouldn’t be authentic. This might sound cheesy, but I guess the message I want to send is that you shouldn’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do, can or can’t be, and that every moment of this life is a little poem, even if our circumstances are far from glamorous. 

Can you share a specific skill or perspective from your career that you find valuable in the realm of content creation?

Oh, absolutely! STORYTELLING. Everything I post is a little story in and of itself. The ability to take a mundane day and show the story of that day instead of just saying “I did this and I did that” is a hugely valuable skill. 

Even a post with no words should tell a story. And those stories need to be well-written and edited down for focus and impact. I do that every day when I write and edit the writing of others, and I carry that into every post. 

What is the most rewarding part about what you do? 

The most rewarding part of my work as a book editor is when author’s get so excited about the feedback I’ve given them and I can see life being breathed back into their projects. Being able to identify potential and help others rise to the occasion in their art is such a beautiful thing. 

Posting content online is incredibly rewarding for me personally because it’s something I’ve worked so hard on, and built ever so slowly over time. I actively push myself to improve my skills and keep learning, which is something that we don’t do enough as adults. So, when even one person says “hey that piece of content really resonated with me” I am deeply rewarded by it. 

What’s one thing that you are most proud of creating?

I’m proud of creating a video that firmly shares my stance on the genocide in Palestine–it’s the first thing pinned on my TikTok. As a first-generation Syrian-American woman, it’s really important to me that folks understand that the spaces I create will always be aimed toward our mutual liberation! 

@danas__day

In case my stance was not already incredibly clear, I will tell it to you as a story and maybe it will impact one of you on my small platform 🖤

♬ Belonging - Muted

How often do you work from home vs the office? 

I have a hybrid 9-5 job that is currently forcing us to come into the office twice a week… I hate it. I love being at home or working from “home” at a local cafe. If I could choose, I’d work digitally 100% of the time. 

How do you navigate the challenges of working from home?

While I know a lot of people struggle with working from home, I do not find it challenging in any way. Everything about the remote work environment is conducive for my productivity and creativity. 

Long commutes, putting my health at risk on public transit, fakeness and small talk, fluorescent lights, office politics, distracting colleagues, less comfortable/controllable work conditions: these are the things that make me LESS productive and creative. 

Working remotely allows me to be regulated physically and emotionally, comfortable in my own spaces, able to attend to my health such as healthy eating and ability to easily get in exercise, and gives me hours back in my day in which I attend to my business and content–the things that fulfill me creatively. If I feel like I’m having trouble focusing and need a change of scenery, I’ll patronize a gorgeous local cafe. #WFH4LYFE 

Have you experimented with different work environments? How does this influence your creative process?

Yes! I’ve definitely explored the idea that having specific spaces for work and specific spaces where work does not enter can help with cognitive conditioning for focus. As an example, I work only at my desk or on the couch at home. Work never enters the bedroom or the space I use for creative writing. I have a specific chair at my dining table where I do essentially all of my writing. 

As mentioned, I also like to use coffee shops as a second work environment. If I’m having trouble focusing, sometimes sitting at a coffee shop is the signal I need to be like hey, it’s time to work and you’re not leaving here until X, Y or Z is done. It’s also a joy to romanticize a cafe adventure! 

I’ve not explored coworking spaces as of yet, but when I make the transition to working for myself full time, this is of interest for me. 

If you could recommend one place to work remotely from, what would it be and why? 

Find a space in your own home/apartment to kit out with everything that makes you feel comfortable and happy–work from there. My armless chair, my standing desk, my walking pad, my monitor and laptop stand, my plants, my mushroom lamp, my candles are all really thoughtful investments in making the space I spend nearly all my time not only comfortable but also joyful. 

If not your own space, find an independently owned local coffee shop to work from. I’m based in Somerville and Diesel in Davis Square is my favorite. 

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in book editing or freelancing in general? 

Oh, SO much advice here, but I’ll try my best to distill it. 

First, you need to just start. Stop procrastinating, stop saying you don’t have time, stop saying that you’re not qualified, stop looking for excuses why not, and just start somewhere. Do something, one thing, today that gets you closer to that freelance career. 

Next, time block! It’s highly unlikely that when you’re starting out offering freelancing services, you’re 100% available and can dedicate all your time to it. (In other words, don’t quit your job…yet). You probably have a job and any other number of life things to work around. It’s a grind at the beginning, but I promise that a small amount of work consistently over a period of time adds up so much more than you know. 1 hour a day is AMAZING, but you must block that 1 hour on your calendar or it will be so easy to let it slip by the wayside. Sleep will take precedence, your job will take precedence, hell, laundry will take precedence because everything is urgent, and everything is easier than sitting down and doing the difficult work that will move you toward a sustainable business. 

Last thing–don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Freelancing marketplaces are a GREAT place to start, but join more than one, and also work toward building on your own land and making organic connections. Relying on only one avenue for your freelancing business is a recipe for anxiety, and potential disaster. 

@danas__day Heres the tea besties: everything i wish i knew before i started freelancing ✍🏻 #freelancing #freelancer #bookediting #bookeditor #sidehustle #wfh #lifestyle #selflove #selfcare #chatty ♬ Relaxing Guitar - Yunusta

How do you create a sense of community while working from home? 

I don’t have a ton of advice on this one for two reasons. One, I’m an introvert and absolutely love my own company. I don’t feel that I crave community during the work week, and I also don’t feel like my workplace should overlap with my community necessarily. Everyone should have a “third place” where they go, away from home and away from work where they do an activity, learn a skill, or build community. 

For me, I primarily find my community online through content creation and in person through the dance community I have here in Boston. While work is A community, it’s not what I rely on FOR community and having that feeling that your colleagues are like “family” can actually become toxic and hold you back in a lot of ways. I think if folks are looking for community, it would be better to join a gym, a sport, a club, an activity that brings them joy. 

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Can you share any upcoming projects or initiatives you are excited about for your social media platforms?

I love this question! This year on TikTok, I want to continue sharing all aspects of my life as well as educational videos for my author/writer audience, but I also want to lean into storytelling even more, sharing more from my journal entries and my poetry and writing practices. (Vulnerability, ahhh!) 

I also plan to invest more time and energy in YouTube this year, so look for more long-form videos there.