Friday, December 18, 2015

To Freelance or Not To Freelance

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Last week, I announced that I want my writing to reach a larger audience. Since then, I’ve been digging deep into the world of freelancing, finding out how to actually make this work.

I’m learning that freelancing takes a lot of time, between researching, reading, pitching, and writing. And so I’ve had to ask myself – why freelance? It’s one more thing taking me away from my “creative” writing, so it better be worth it.

Here are a few reasons why I think it’s worth it –
  • Visibility: writing for different publications allows you to get your name out there. Also, it’s a good way to make contacts and network with editors and other writers. You never know how these connections might play out in the future.
  • Money: even if it’s not a lot, it feels good to get paid for your writing. Writing is a skill, and I’d like to compensated for my ability the same way as engineer or massage therapist would be. That being said, it still might be worthwhile to write for a place that doesn’t pay, but only under special circumstances.
  • Practice: my teacher tells us that everything we write is part of our “writing life,” even if it’s a thank you note. Freelance writing is another opportunity to hone your skills as a writer. We can always use more opportunities to practice writing clear, concise, and interesting prose.
  • Portfolio: it’s important to have an arsenal of writing samples, specifically published pieces. Having a varied portfolio will beget more writing assignments, which will help your freelancing machine running.

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Here are some ways to be smart and efficient about freelancing –
  • Do your homework: Take the time to read lots of different magazines to see what sort of content they are interested in. I find that it is better to do this upfront, but you can also commit to researching one or two magazines per week.
  • Spreadsheets are your friend: Staying organized is super important when you're your own boss, so make sure to take notes on different magazines – what they are looking for, who is the contact, what is the word count, etc.
  • Make a schedule: I get great satisfaction in checking items off a list, so I like to make a master to-do list at the beginning of the week to get organized. Some things to consider: Which articles will you work on this week? How many pitches will you send out? Keep track of where you’ve sent your work so that you can check back in with the editor if you haven’t heard from them in a week or two.
  • Think outside the box: lots of places need writers, not just the sexy mags like Salon and Bustle. Think about something you're interested in, say knitting or kayaking, and get in touch with magazines about that topic. Also, you'd be surprised how little you need to know about something to write about it well. 
  • Set aside time for unpaid work: This is SUPER important. It can be tempting to devote all of my time to paid work, but I don’t want to lose sight of the reason WHY I’m doing this. My freelance writing is in direct connection to my greater goal which is to have my writing reach a larger audience. Always keep sight of the bigger picture!

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