Keith Ecker

Essayist, Journalist and Comedian at Self-Employed

Degree(s): BJ '04 (Magazine)

Whereabouts: United States, Chicago, Illinois

What do you do?
I am a professional freelance writer, essayist and comedian. I write editorial and marketing copy for a variety of clients, from international corporations to regional magazines. I also produce and host the popular Chicago-based reading series Essay Fiesta. Each month we invite a cross-section of artists to share true, first-person narratives. The show raises money for 826CHI (the local chapter of a national literacy non-profit). Since November 2009, we have raised more than $3,500 for charity. I also am a comedic writer and performer, having done improv, sketch and stand-up throughout Chicago.

How did you get your job?
I became a freelancer after I left my editor position at InsideCounsel, a national trade magazine for corporate lawyers. I was the online and technology editor, and I parlayed my skills and knowledge into a business writing for the business, legal and technology industries. As far as comedy and performance, I studied at Second City, iO and the Annoyance Theater.

What is the best professional lesson you learned at the J-School?
Listen to your editors, even if you think they are wrong. Because if they’re good, they’re probably right.

What advice do you have for current students?
Don’t try to plan your journalism career too much. Your dreams of working for The New York Times or CNN will likely change when you get out and realize the world of journalism is drastically different than the way the J-School presents it. Besides, hitting the big time isn’t everything. Doing what you love and challenging yourself is more important than having a byline in a nationally recognized consumer magazine.

What’s the best part about your job?
I love the freedom that freelancing provides me. I’m very much an entrepreneurial kind of person, and I love working on multiple projects at once. In one week, I might write marketing copy for a publicly traded company, Web copy for a non-profit and a theatre review for an arts magazine. All this helps free up my time to concentrate on my greatest passions, which are essay writing and comedy.

What is your favorite J-School memory?
There are so many.

Updated: November 4, 2011