January - a contemplative month
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.
January - a contemplative month
In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:
Pitched: 7 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 3
Offers: 3 (where an editor approached me with a commission)
In terms of feature articles for corporate and B2B clients: (I don’t pitch these)
Overall, for January I filed: 6 articles
Gosh, it was hard to get going in January.
I had such a wonderful Christmas and new year in the UK and Singapore, and for the first time since 2017 it was a proper break without doing any work while I was away.
But that meant that getting back into gear was all the tougher in the middle of January (especially as the weather was in the high 30s - around 104F - and my family and friends were hanging out at our local pool).
But despite having only half a month to reflect on, I feel like I’ve made some big decisions for the coming year.
Lowlights of January
As lots of you know, I’m launching my first online course this year, and I had hoped that by mid-late January I would be set to open the figurative doors.
While the content for my course is all written, I’m having enormous problems with the technical side of things (I’m moving from Squarespace to Wordpress, need I say more?!) and this has slowed down progress enormously.
I’m feeling terrible for all the people on my ‘interested’ list, who are waiting patiently for more news and information about when the course will begin.
But this experience has made me realise that I need to prioritise the course until it’s up and running.
So I’m setting aside at least a day a week to work with my tech person to ensure it gets the attention it needs. Previously, I had been squeezing the course into a spare 15 minutes here or an hour in the evenings.
But because I’m focusing on my course, something had to give.
And I’ve come to the decision that I’m not going to offer coaching for the time being.
This has been a huge decision for me because I love coaching freelance writers and seeing them get results, but for the next couple of months I need to put all my energy into making my course accessible.
(That said, if you’ve already booked in for a coaching session, please rest assured that I’m going to honour that booking - I’m just not taking on any new writers).
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Another thing that happened in January, and it’s not really a lowlight, but more of a learning experience was that I went on a famil, or press trip.
This particular fam trip has been in the works for ages, and I’m not going to go into heaps of detail, except to say that not every venue that I needed to cover (according to the editor’s brief) was included in my run sheet for the three days I was away.
Why? Because the PR company that hosted me wasn’t responsible for those venues.
Of course, in retrospect, it seems so obvious.
Why would the PR company organise for me to go to particular restaurants and cafes when they weren’t representing them? But I thought that during previous phone conversations with the PR when we went through the entire list of venues, she said she was going to work with the local tourism board to get me access to the additional venues.
Long story short - it was quite stressful the evening before I left when I received my schedule for the famil (and yes, it’s not at all uncommon to receive a run sheet that late!) and I realised four venues had been left off the schedule.
In the end it was fine because I rang each of the venues the day I arrived and organised my own transport there and back, did the interviews and fitted everything in, but it’s been such a big lesson for me of how to manage when you’ve got two sets of expectations (the editor’s and the PR company).
Needless to say, next famil I’ll be much more explicit about needing to know who is doing what.
Highlights of January
I had lots of highlights in this short month.
A few months ago, I connected with an editor of a well-known international publication on LinkedIn with no plan except to make contact and introduce myself.
He accepted my connection request but we didn’t have any conversation except the usual, ‘nice to be in touch’.
In early January, the editor got in touch and asked me if I had any Australian story ideas to pitch him.
I pitched him three ideas and he commissioned one of them.
It’s a publication that I’m excited to write for and it just goes to show that whatever misgivings you may have about LinkedIn, it is definitely a platform that editors and clients are using to find writers.
Another thing that I was really excited about (and almightily nervous) in January was being interviewed for one of my favourite podcasts.
I won’t spoil the surprise as the episode isn’t scheduled to run until March, but I loved every minute of speaking to the host and was really humbled that I was chosen to be featured.
Being on this particular podcast was on my 5 year goal list, so I’m thrilled that I can tick it off three years earl
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Lots of you have been in touch with me about my post about running, so I thought I’d give you a quick update.
I’m still running several times a week and like I mentioned in my original post, this has had such a big impact on my business.
I have to say though, that it’s still a bit of a struggle and I don’t enjoy it, but at least now there are moments during every run when I feel good, when moving feels relatively easy.
And then just as I start to feel comfortable, I notice how hard it is, how ragged my breathing is and I’m back to labouring away and gritting my teeth!
But running for 30 minutes three times a week has been so good for me and for my business.
I can see how I’ve developed a habit that I now don’t want to break.
And lastly, I was beyond thrilled for The Freelancer’s Year to be named as one of the best websites for writers in 2019 by The Write Life.
A resource I’d recommend for freelancers
This month it’s not so much of a resource, but a blog post that delivered me an ‘aha’ moment.
I know lots of you are members of the fantastic Rachel’s List, which has a jobs board, blog, private Facebook group and some super resources .
Well, there was a blog post from a couple of weeks ago that really made an impact on me.
Forget about the writing and being a creative. If you are a freelancer, you are running a business. Act like it. Get organised. It took me 15 years to learn that!
The two tips? Play to your strengths – don’t stretch yourself too far to try and win every job. Take the jobs that will make you shine and take you where you want to be. The other: Know your worth. You teach the rest of the world how you deserve to be treated.
This little snippet came at just the right time for me.
I’m someone who regularly gives that advice to the writers I coach, but I don’t think I’d ever let it sink in properly for me.
Don’t try and win every job. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Is this gig going to help meet your goals?
I feel like I’m finally in a position where those sentences and question come into play when I’m thinking about each opportunity that comes my way.
Just an example for you - at the end of last year I pitched an editor a travel idea. I didn’t hear from her. I followed up, but still didn’t hear back so assumed it was a ‘no’.
Then, as often happens, I received an email saying they wanted to commission the story and could I file within a week or so.
And I could.
I mean, I could if I worked extra evenings, shuffled child care, gave up a day of my week to travel to the location and interview everyone involved for a 500 word story for $200.
So I said no.
I offered to put the editor in touch with another freelance writer who I thought may be interested and could possibly spin more stories out of the trip, but in the end they wanted to assign another writer to the story.
(Let’s for a minute forget that I pitched, they ran with my idea and gave it to someone else).
But what this experience, and Rachel’s Q&A with Jac taught me was that I have to spend more time on my business rather than just in it.
When you’re starting out as a freelance writer, you need to spend a load of time in your business - pitching, prospecting, marketing and so forth. But as time goes on, I’ve found that you really need to step back and think about where you want your business to go.
And for me, I want to continue writing articles that I love, but I also want to start supporting more freelance writers to earn a great living. And I have to carve out time each week to do that.
My income for January
I set myself what felt like an achievable target of $6,000 for January, especially given that I only had half the month to work.
I ended up getting commissioned $5898 (aaah, so close!)
I don’t think this is too bad seeing as I only got my first commission on the 16th of the month.
As I had a huge invoicing period in December, I barely invoiced at all in January - my total was $1980.
I’ve got a couple of small domestic famils coming up in February, a trip to TravMedia’s IMM and some fascinating stories to write. What about you?
How was your January? Have you set goals for the coming year?