Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fighting the Freelancing Rut

No matter how long you’ve been freelancing, if you stay in the game long enough, there’s bound to be a time when you hit a bit of a rut. Though there’s plenty of work, there seems to be a lot of the same type of projects. Things are getting a bit stale and you could use some new challenges.

This could be a great time to step up your marketing efforts or take a look at those rejected queries. Can any of them be re-slanted, any of those ideas salvaged? Maybe it’s a matter of trying to get into new markets. Most of my assignments have been with regional publications, and although it’s great to share the stories of exciting people and places with the rest of the world, I’m always hoping to break into bigger markets with a larger readership. I’ve been taking the time to really add a “fresh” spin to my queries, with more of my own voice and writing style in them. For years I’ve been following the query-writing formula I learned at the very beginning of my freelancing days—though I’ve had a bit of success with that template, changing up how I approach my pitches is giving me a much-needed jolt of enthusiasm for my ideas, which I hope is coming across to editors.

The feeling of being in a “rut” can come from many things. It can be the type of work you seem to be attracting (“Another business profile? Yawn”) or it can stem from your approach to finding work—it’s not that you’re marketing or pitching, but it’s how.

What about you? What do you do to change things up and keep yourself from falling into a project “rut”?


  1. Two comments in one night! It's nice to find another freelancer out there to share thoughts with. Here's my rut: querying, period. I've been planning for ages to start sending queries to magazines, both regional and national. But I've been busy enough with my day job/everyday life/regular freelance roster that I haven't had or haven't taken the time to start doing it.

    Now I'm working sort-of full-time as a freelance writer, so my well of excuses has pretty much dried up. I definitely need to challenge myself to START SENDING QUERIES.

    How long have you been querying publications? Any major pieces of advice come to mind for somebody new to the querying thing?


  2. Hi Stacey!

    Thanks for the comments! Querying is definitely a skill that takes some practice. When I first got started as a freelancer (and even still, to some degree), the hardest part was finding ideas. I remember telling a fellow freelancer, "I really want to write but I have no ideas". Her response? "You must be joking", and then rattled off a few suggestions from an initial list of topics I'd sent her that I wanted to write about. Actually, you have an advantage as a journalist, because a big part of querying is finding the story where there may not obviously be one. I like history, and some of my first big articles were for a history magazine. I also write a lot of features for regional publications. I started making a list of things that interested me, then narrowed them down (or broadened them) to fit a particular market. For me, I'll get on a roll with queries, then hit a dry spell. If I were you, the first thing I would do is simply start brainstorming. Your design business could be a place to start...women's magazines, interior design trade pubs could be great markets for you to target.

    Please feel free to comment or get in touch if you'd like to share ideas or compare notes!

  3. Thanks Sara! Great advice. I also read a good blog post this weekend at Words on the Page: The tip that jumped out at me the most was "I've learned that chasing the paycheck results in lower earnings. I worked hard for a handful of clients. I was so focused on the paycheck that I didn't focus on finding more clients and building a career." That's kind of where I am right now. I have enough regular work from local journalism contacts that I'm not super motivated to find new work, and I need to - in part to increase my income, but mainly because my goal in freelancing is to write for design publications. And I'm doing design writing for general interest pubs right now, but I've yet to query a single trade publication or shelter mag. I've got to jump out of that rut, stop procrastinating and do it!

    I might contact you soon for more query advice, if you really don't mind. It's so great to connect with another freelancer.

  4. Hi Stacey--

    Please do! I'm always happy to connect with other freelancers! I'd be happy to help if I can!