July – the month of surprises
July didn’t quite go according to plan. A few days into the month I had a four-day press trip (or ‘famil’ as they are commonly called) and a few days after that I went away with my family for 10 days. If I had thought more, and prepared more, I wouldn’t have had quite the haphazard month I did have.
July – the month of surprises
I say haphazard because until a week and a half ago I only had a third of my monthly target income commissioned for July.
Yet for some strange reason I wasn't panicked. This year feels like a bit of an experiment, so I wanted to see what would happen if I did take time off for a press trip and a family holiday - would I have to madly pitch in the days and weeks afterwards? Would I have to work every day on my holiday?
The answers are: a little bit and yes.
The truth is, being away from my desk for nearly three weeks played havoc with my writing. While my four-day famil was amazing and I had two stories commissioned pre-trip, I knew that to make that trip worthwhile, I needed to get at least another two stories commissioned.
In terms of feature writing, this month I:
Commissions from pitches or query letters to editors: 3
Offers (where the editor approached me with a commission): 9
Four of my pitches this month have been to do with that press trip. Normally I would clear a few days to write my stories from the trip and pitch more, but because I was heading off again so soon, I had a bit of a backlog of work to catch up on.
Having a holiday as a freelancer
I have definitely not mastered this. I should have really read articles like this one when I was preparing for our holiday.
While I was away with my family, I did an hour or two of work each day but this was really just to finish off stories that were due while we were away and to respond to emails. An editor who I write regularly for emailed me a couple of times to see if I would be able to write a couple of quick 300 – 500 words newsy pieces for him and I did those.
It’s a bit unlike me, but I didn’t have a plan about how I was going to make my income target for the month. I thought I’d just wing it and see what happened.
When we got back from our family holiday on 21 July, I had just over $3,000 worth of work commissioned for the month. Which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t bad. But I am the sole income earner in our family this year and we were just returning from a holiday where we really didn't watch our budget.
I sent off a few quick pitches and accepted the fact that most likely I wouldn't meet my target for the month.
But a funny thing happened.
Within the last 12 days of the month, I had $6000 worth of new feature writing work commissioned.
Two pitches I sent to one editor were both commissioned (I think I'm going to send him two ideas at a time from now on!)
Out of the blue an editor I had worked with a few years ago got in touch. As a new freelance writer she was one of my favourite editors – attentive, kind but also rigorous in her editing. But, as editors do, she had moved on and we had fallen out of touch. I’d reached out to her on LinkedIn a year or so ago just to say hello but she had never replied. Last week she reached out via LinkedIn to offer me a 1500 word commission paying $1/word.
I'm not sure what prompted her to get in touch - I have been sharing a few of my articles on LinkedIn recently and commenting on other people's posts, so perhaps I was top of mind? Either way I'm thrilled. It's an article on a topic I feel really strongly about.
And the rest of my income was made up of editors approaching me with commissions.
But on the downside, one of my regular writing gigs - a newspaper magazine that I've been writing for since I started freelancing has just announced they are introducing flat fees for their articles. For me this is a drop of around 20c/word. While I’ll keep writing for them, I am always looking at new opportunities for magazines and newspapers to write for.
Freelance writing is my only source of income so I have to be aware of who I'm writing for and for how much. But it's not all about the money.
I write for a magazine that pays 20c/word and I’ve recently agreed to write a blog post for $75. In the Australian market, they are pretty low rates. But I'm accepting those rates because I believe in those publications and their mission. These are my exceptions though, not the rule.
I really believe if you want to progress as a freelancer and stay fresh, you need to have an eye on the future. What publications do you want to write for? What moves are you making to get there?
I was recently interviewed for a blog post about how freelance writers can use LinkedIn to find clients - Lori's post is here and it's full of practical, easy-to-implement advice.
I've applied for to be part of a mentoring scheme where prominent women in the media mentor other women in the field. I believe I need to keep growing and am always looking for opportunities where I can learn more.
I'm also part of a free webinar about being a freelancer in a regional town, where three freelancers from very different backgrounds will talk about the challenges and the joys of working when your market is not necessarily on your back door step. It's on Monday 7 August if you're interested in signing up.
So ... the next three weeks are what you might call a feast cycle – I’m writing 10 feature articles and have two research projects due. My temptation, of course, is not to pitch or follow up because I can’t bear the thought of more work, but I know those three weeks will roll around and I’ll need to have work in the pipeline.
It's never dull though, this freelancing life!
How was your July? What are you looking to achieve in August?