All in the month in review
Ah, pitching. Most freelance writers I know have a love or hate affair with pitching (and even that may change each week or day). I’ve been lucky in recent years that I haven’t had to relentlessly pitch story ideas to keep afloat, but this month was different. In April I pitched only one story and my income came to me, but my goodness, how things change in the space of four weeks.
This month felt like a bit of an experiment. I barely pitched any articles, I went on two press trips and yet still somehow made my income target (just). I feel as though I’m in a liminal space, but I’m not sure what is ahead. All I know is that freelance writing allows you to be so flexible and nimble. It feels like only a few short months ago I decided to focus on travel writing, and here I am, at the end of the month, having travelled to India and writing this post from Canada.
Helicopters. Stretch limos. Elaborate cheese boards that stretch across two tables. It’s fair to say that March has been quite the month. My income for March was pretty low compared to this time last year because I’ve been focusing on travel and travel writing, but that said, the non-financial perks of travel writing are pretty great. But while I had some incredible experiences this month, I also had some big lows.
February was a good month. My monthly income was much lower than this time last year, but I had a couple of experiences where I seriously pinched myself at the opportunities I’ve been given since becoming a freelance writer. So often we are solitary workers at home, in a cafe or a co-working space, and it’s rare to have any significant amount of time with other writers. So when it does happen it feels like a blessing.
I started 2019 in frosty London, feeling entirely familiar with the streets and landmarks despite not having visited for years and years. After a few steamy days in Singapore, I was back at my desk on January 14, with two articles due (thankfully I had written them before I left for overseas). I only worked half of January, but it’s been an important month - a contemplative one, and a month where I’ve made some big decisions.
I don’t know about you, but I feel tired just thinking about 2018. After a full on November, I really eased up this month. I had a fair bit of work to finish off, but I didn’t want to pitch much, knowing that I was headed overseas for three weeks over Christmas and new year. Despite this, it has been an enormous year, and one that has definitely proved to me that you can earn a great income from freelance writing - even working part time.
It definitely feels like we’re reaching the end of the year, doesn’t it? Most writers I know are flat out, having said yes to almost every project that’s come their way just in case things in the new year slow down or get lean. Despite being a pretty good month overall, November had one enormous down for me - one that really shook me and saw me turn off my computer for a few days.
I am used to work speeding up on the approach to Christmas, but it’s usually November when things start to get really hectic. I feel like November came a couple of weeks early this year and by the end of October, I had invoiced for a crazy amount and had an unbelievable amount of work commissioned. And never in my wildest dreams did I expect that I would be $5K off hitting my income target for the year by the end of the month.
September was a bit of a weird month – my press trips were all done, but I had 10 days away with my family at the end of the month. I thought I was being really clever by getting our car hire, some of our accommodation and experiences FOC (free of charge), but as you’ll see, I don’t think this was the smartest move. I also made some mistakes this month with new editors. Well, the one thing I can say is that I’m always learning.
It's hard to describe what a whirlwind August was - I spent the first week in Fiji, the second week at home, the third in Thailand, the fourth at home and the last week of the month in Vietnam. At the end of 2017 when I said I wanted to do more travel writing, I don't think I ever imagined a month like that! I went on three famils (press trips) in August, but I also attended the annual Australian Society of Travel Writers Conference in Thailand, which was incredibly worthwhile.
As each month passes I'm always amazed at how much can change within the space of four or so weeks. I purposefully started July slowly, because August is shaping up to be crazy busy. But somehow time always seems to speeds up towards the end of the month and before the end of July, I found myself madly finishing stories and receiving last minute commissions just days before I head overseas for my first international press trip.
The last day of June marks the end of the financial year in Australia, and editors and clients are either putting a freeze on commissions or are hurriedly trying to spend their budget. I deliberately set my income target lower this month in an attempt to bring back some balance into my life, and for the most part, it worked. But happily, my invoice total for the month was the most it’s ever been. And if you've been following my blog over the past few months, you'll be glad to know I got my cake!
I went into May after a busy April determined to take things easy - not send out too many pitches and dedicate some time to thinking about a creative project I could take on. The beauty of being a fairly established freelance writer is that work tends to flow in, but it's meant that I've found it hard to carve out non-work time. Despite this, I'm still feeling really positive about my writing and I've had an absolutely bumper month income-wise.
Even though I have written before about how it's possible to be a part time freelance writer, I have to be honest and say that this month I've found it really tough. I've only worked about three days a week, but it's been hard to fit all my work in. I had a press trip to Queensland in the middle of the month and five days later I headed off to present at The Launceston Freelance Festival. Those kind of opportunities are amazing, but there's been very little fat in my schedule in April, so it threw things out a bit. Or actually, a lot.
All through March I wondered what I was going to be writing in this end of month round up. In the middle of the month, I was nowhere near my income target and I felt that a lot of the exciting business plans that I had dreamt up at the end of 2017 were getting left behind because I needed to use the time I had to work, rather than to build a business.
None of us know what life has in store, but when you’re a freelancer, you never quite know what work has in store for you either. By the middle of February I had hit my income target, but I was also grappling with the idea of pulling out of writing a commissioned article on a very difficult topic. My family and work situation changed at the end of the month, meaning I’ve had to re-evaluate the time I can dedicate to my freelance business.
After a hectic November and fairly busy December, January was really quiet for me. I didn’t feel much like pitching, instead I wanted to hang out with my family and have some down time. Towards the end of the month I started pitching, because I realised that even though I had invoiced for a good amount of money, not having lots of commissions means that a few months down the track, my bank account will take a big hit.
On the the first of December I decided I would take my foot off the gas, and only pitch stories that I really felt strongly about. Financially, the pressure was off a bit because October and November were such big months and so I started to relax. I had lunch out with my partner and friends, I went for long walks, I started to ride my bike again (hello quad muscles), and I felt rejuvenated. This is my last post for 2017, and one where I outline my yearly income for the year.
There’s no beating around the bush. I’ve had a massive month, and one that tipped my total commissions for the year over $100K. Much of that has been earned through feature writing for magazines and newspapers – something I never thought was possible. Especially given this is my first year of full time freelancing and until now I have never earned over $20K in a year from my writing.
Oh October, what did you do to me? By the middle of the month, I felt like I was in a slump. I only had a couple of thousand dollars worth of work commissioned and felt flat and fatigued. But by the last few days of the month, it was a completely different story.