there's never been a better time to be a freelancer. But how do you make the leap from writing as a hobby to full time freelancing? the freelancer's year has all the tips and tricks you need to be a successful freelance writer.

May - the month where I rested on my laurels

May - the month where I rested on my laurels

I have been lazy this month. I have felt little inclination to pitch or to chase work. For the second month running I have had editors come to me with articles they want me to write - #freelancedreams, right? But I think it's going to bite me on the bum in June.

resting on laurels

May - the month where I rested on my laurels

It’s an amazing feeling to see a request from an editor in your inbox asking you to write a story for them. It’s something I never imagined would happen when I started freelancing - an editor asking me to write for them without me having to pitch or follow up.

But unlike other jobs I've had, you can't be complacent as a freelancer. Without anchor clients or a monthly retainer, you don’t know where your income is coming from each month. That’s part of the challenge, and at times I find it exciting, but I've also found it exhausting. So that's why I've loved having two months off the hustle of pitching feature articles. 

Don't get me wrong, I haven't been lazy in terms of writing - I have been writing and producing so much, but I haven't been actively sending query letters out to editors, nor have I been sending out letters of introduction (LOI). I've just been tinkering at the edges, in maintenance mode, where I may send an editor a journal article of new research I think they'd be interested in, or touching base with a potential client, but I haven't been actively seeking new work.

In terms of feature writing, this month I:

Pitched: 4 articles

Commissions: 1

Rejections: 1

Offers (where the editor approached me with a commission): 5

Filed: 6

I also finished up a big literature review for a charity and have started a discussion paper for another health organisation. But most of my work and income this month has come from feature articles for magazines and newspapers.

Two of my regular corporate content clients have gone quiet. I’m not sure what the situation is (with one my emails are going unanswered) but it’s a good reminder of how quickly things can change.

So, I still have a few pitches out there and a couple of editors have hinted at work that is coming my way, but going into June I’m starting fresh at $0 with only one project I'm working on.

That said, there have been some real highlights in May:

I was thrilled that my first piece for Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia was published this month. My article is about the extraordinary Jackalope hotel, which has just been voted hotel of the year by Gourmet Traveller.

I've also been in touch with the wonderful Lori De Milto, a US-based freelance medical writer who runs The Mighty Marketer - a site dedicated to helping freelance writers earn what they are worth and finding clients to pay what you deserve. Lori asked if she could interview me about how I earn a living from food, health and business writing, as well as including me in a post with two other freelance writers about how we all need to make time for marketing.

I had my third Skype call of 2017 with two other freelancers and when we chat, this is often the highlight of my month. We have frank conversations about the ups and downs of freelancing. I'm always so struck by how even though we are each writing about different things or working in slightly different areas, we tend to be looking for the same kind of things - informal/formal mentoring by others who have walked this path before us, great clients, interesting work, the next challenge and balancing work with our families.

And a lovely writerly friend of mine, who I used to write for when she was a content manager, has introduced me to a friend of hers, an editor of a trade magazine. You never know if these connections will eventuate in work, but how good is it that there are people life willing to go out of their way to help others.  

But how are you going financially?

This is the question that most people want to ask but are too polite to do so. As for my income, well, I’m managing to keep our family of four afloat. But freelancing isn’t for the faint hearted. While this has been my biggest invoicing month (over $11K invoiced) and I’ve had over $8K worth of work commissioned, a maximum of 60% [of what I invoice for each month] flows into my account.

That’s because some organisations (and international publications) I write for have tediously slow payment terms. Some I’m waiting for up to 50 days after invoicing to be paid. I have numerous invoices that are overdue by more than 30 days at the moment and there’s not much I can do to hurry up the process.

Having a good cash flow is quite different from reaching an income target each month. When I was hobby writing, my income was always a bonus - a nice to have - but now that it’s what my family rely on, I’ve realised I have to have a good mix of publications and clients so that we aren’t in financial difficulties if invoices aren’t paid when I expect.

if you’re not freelancing full time, but want to be, I’d really advocate having a good buffer of cash that you can draw on if things get lean.

Another writer recently asked me what my plan is for this blog, and at the moment it’s a chance for me to put my thoughts down about freelancing full time and how it is possible to earn a living from writing.

But I’d love to hear if there are things you’d like me to write about. I’ve got a post coming up next week where three freelancers talk about writing for trade/industry publications, but if you have topics you’d like me to cover please let me know.

How was your May? Is there anything you’d like me to cover in a blog post?


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