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February - back on track (sort of)

February - back on track (sort of)

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.  

February - the month in review

February 2018.jpg

None of this is a particularly bad thing - being a freelance writer demands flexibility and I think success (however you define it) comes down to swaying with the breeze, rather than being snapped by it. 

In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:

Pitched: 12 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)

Commissions from pitches or query letters: 2

Rejections: 6

Offers: 4 (where the editor approached me with a commission)

In terms of feature articles for corporate and B2B clients: (I don’t pitch these)

Offers: 15 (9 of these articles were offered in a ‘bundle’) 

Filed: 19

Lowlights of February

I felt quite flat about pitching certain kinds of magazine feature articles in February.

I pitched a couple of big social justice/human interest-type articles; one of which was immediately commissioned and even though I knew it was a good idea, my heart wasn’t in the writing of it.

Do you do that - pitch ideas and then immediately regret it? 

It’s funny how things work out, but the two interviewees I had lined up for the piece ended up being tricky to work with (it was a highly sensitive and political topic and they had firm views on what they wanted to see in print) and after I did some further reading on one case study in particular (he's a much more controversial figure than I first realised), I emailed the editor and said I thought I should pull the plug on the article.

He agreed that it would be best to leave the piece. So we did. Even though I ‘lost’ that income and commission, I felt relieved. A sure sign that it was the right decision. 

While I have always loved writing articles that are gritty or tackle significant issues, I am starting to feel quite drained by it, especially after 10 years in social work. I was having drinks with a social affairs journalist friend the other day and she was saying the same thing.

I think it’s really important to look after yourself as a freelancer – to put your mental health needs at the fore and if your gut is telling you to steer clear of a project – listen.

Highlights of the month

I had such a great time at TravMedia’s IMM – I met some wonderful people, and got to hang out with some fantastic writers, who I've known online but not IRL.

One of the big jobs that came to me in February was an opportunity to write a batch of nine articles for a website. While this job alone was worth several thousand dollars, what really thrilled me about it was that it had come via an ‘internal referral’ – I write regularly for one person within the business and she put my name forward when a colleague needed content written.

I am a big believer in the importance of relationships - it's a two-way street and if you produce quality work, on time and are easy to work with, editors or clients will recommend you to other editors or clients. 

My coaching sessions have also really ramped up. I’ve been offering one or two sessions each week with freelancers who book in with me. I absolutely love speaking with other writers and helping them identify strong story angles for their pitches, work out where to pitch, help them with article structure, productivity and answer whatever is on their mind.

Here is what one writer shared with me after her session this week: 

"You listened with interest and then suggested some fabulous ways that I could tailor my ideas to suit particular publications. You also got me thinking about how I can turn one idea into three stories based on the angle I take and the publication I pitch to.

You continuously focussed on my needs and asked me what you could do to assist me. You didn’t shove your ideas down my throat. You nurtured my thoughts and let me take the lead.

I was delighted when you said that you would give me the contact names for the publications I am hoping to pitch to. Some freelancers tend to hold on to that sort of info because it’s their bread and butter, but you were so willing to share this, and it just confirmed that you really did want to help me."

- Ashling, freelance writer, NSW

Towards the end of the month I received notification that I am now an official member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW). It’s not a super easy process to become a member (at least 7,000 travel-related words published in a year – this is an annual requirement) and the sponsorship/support of two full members. But I’m thrilled to be part of such an active and wonderful group of writers. The AGM is held in Thailand this year, with a pre or post-famil/press trip option, so I’m thinking seriously about attending!

But that may depend on my next news ....

I’m scaling back a bit on my workdays. Towards the end of 2017, my partner applied to do his doctorate in psychology and we found out in the last week of February that his application was successful. It’s great news, but it does mean that I’ll no longer be able to dedicate full time hours to my freelancing business, as last year my partner was the primary carer for our two children.

At this stage and depending on the week, it looks like I’ll be freelancing 3 – 4 days each week. It’ll be interesting to see the differences in terms of productivity and income between being full time and part time.

Income report for February

I was commissioned a tad over $11K worth of work.

I invoiced for just under $8K worth of work.   

During the month, I read this post from Kate Toon, a businesswoman and entrepreneur who I really admire, about why people shouldn’t talk about how much they earn and it got me thinking.

I know that I personally found it reassuring and inspirational when I read about writers like Jennifer Gregory talking so openly about making money and how she earned it, especially because so few others were sharing that kind of information.

But I do understand that for some people, talking money is tacky and boastful.

It’s taken me a while to be comfortable sharing my income (and I’m not sure I’d even say I am comfortable with it!) – I think it’s important to break down barriers around the starving artist mentality.

But I’ll be keen to hear what you think. I’d be interested to hear if you still would like me to do my monthly round-ups, including my income report.

How was your February? 

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How to find editors' contact details

A beginner's guide to TravMedia's IMM

A beginner's guide to TravMedia's IMM