March - a huge month on part-time hours
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.
March - a huge month on part-time hours
As you know, I felt quite flat in February about feature writing - I just didn't feel like pitching and couldn't get any momentum.
I was also a bit preoccupied about going back to being a part-time freelancer as my partner started his PhD and I took back some of the parenting responsibilities.
Despite me saying and believing that you can make part-time freelance writing work for you, the truth for me is that I love being a full time freelancer.
I like not having to squeeze my work into one or two hour blocks here and there - and if I'm totally honest, I suspect it's a little to do with my tendency to procrastinate. Because when you've got tomorrow to do the work, it's easy to put it off until then.
So March was a month of taking stock, of accepting that I can't have the same expectations in terms of output or income that I did in 2017 when I was full time. And that I'm back to being a part-time freelancer for the time being.
And as always seems to be the way, just as I had accepted that, I had my second biggest month in the six years I've been freelancing.
In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:
Pitched: 9 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 3
Offers: 7 (where the editor approached me with a commission)
In terms of feature articles for corporate and B2B clients: (I don’t pitch these)
Highlights of the month
What I loved in March was coaching even more writers. This month, they were all women who are at different stages in their career - some have been newsroom journalists and are transitioning to freelancing, some have moved back to Australia after working freelance overseas, some are already working at magazines as editors and want to build up their freelance work and others are looking to hone their skills and talk through their pitches and where to send their query letters.
Regardless of their situation, they have all been open and committed to the process, and I have loved speaking with them and helping them grow their careers.
Here's what one writer shared after her coaching session with me:
"The most useful thing about our session was the reassurance that I’m on the right track, encouraging and non-judgemental tone of conversations (but still realistic), being able to bounce ideas around with someone who has done it before, helpful ideas about where to pitch, how to refine them so they zing, and generously sharing contacts.
For sure I would recommend your coaching to other writers. For helping remove some of the mystery around it all. Your transparency is such a gift for new writers."
- Dene, Sydney and LA-based writer
Another writer said:
"The suggestions and help you offered regarding me getting copywriting, and the contacts you gave, which I thought was really generous (even though it was a paid session). You were also generous with time and we seemed to cover quite a bit."
- Amy, Sydney-based writer
I'm a big believer in freelancers supporting each other - we don't have the traditional colleagues that you would have in an ordinary workplace and so I think it's important that we share our ups and downs as well as information that can help other freelancers get ahead.
Another lovely thing that happened this month was the editor at an inflight magazine I write for asked me to write two regular (monthly) 'front of book' articles for her. They're not long pieces, but it's so nice to be asked and have a recurring gig.
I know lots of people say how important it is to have retainer clients, but this will be my first retainer in six years of freelancing.
If you are keen to break into travel writing, I'd recommend reading this post about breaking into writing for inflight magazines - I think inflight mags offer lots of stability compared to other forms of travel writing.
Lowlights of March
What I didn't love in March was spending a fair bit of time writing a content proposal for a small business whose owner has now gone totally quiet on me. The more content writing I do, the more I prefer to work for bigger businesses who have a clear idea of their content strategy and can provide detailed briefs. So far, I've found that small business don't always have the budget or the strategy in place to execute a proper and impactful editorial calendar.
Another one of my editors has left her post, and it's always a good (if slightly unsettling) reminder that the current media climate means you've probably only got a year or two before your favourite editor moves on.
I've also decided to ditch my Yahoo and Gmail accounts (especially after listening to this podcast) and so have switched to the super-hero-sounding Protonmail (basically it's an encrypted email provider that has no advertising) but goodness, moving 10 years' worth of emails has been a faff to say the least. So I'm currently running three email accounts and going slightly batty doing so.
Income report for February
I was commissioned $13,790 worth of work.
I invoiced for just under $7K worth of work.
Even though I had a similarly big month income-wise in November 2017, I was working full time hours (or near enough). This month, I've worked an average of 3.5 days a week. My partner's parents have been over from the UK and staying with us, my son is in his first term of primary school and needing lots of one-on-one time, so needless to say, work hasn't been my only focus.
But while it has been stressful at times with all the balls that I've been juggling, March proves to me again that it is possible to earn a very good living as a freelance writer.
And sometimes, on part-time hours, you can crack more than $10K a month.
The month ahead ...
In April I'm looking forward to going on a famil (or press trip) to Far North Queensland. I've been commissioned to write an article about the Great Barrier Reef, but the thing is I get incredibly sea sick. I'm going to try a few new remedies - so if you have any tried and true options, please let me know! I'm already starting to turn green at the thought of a whole day on a boat and in the ocean.
Last year my partner jokingly promised that he'd make me one of Katherine Sabbath's incredible cakes if I hit a certain number of subscribers and quite unbelievably, I'm nearly there ... so if you're inclined to see him make me a ridiculously extravagant cake, I'd love for you to recommend this blog to other freelance writers who may enjoy it.
Thanks, as always, for reading.
How was your March?