Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What FT Freelancing Has Taught Me

I can hardly believe that Labor Day has come and gone, so yes, friends, this means we can officially wish summer a fond farewell. Temps are in the 60’s here today, too, which drives the point home even more.

September 2 marked three months since I bid my job farewell, too, and decided to pursue freelancing for awhile, just to see if I could make a go of it. I realize that it’s an incredibly crummy time to give up the security of a regular job, but as I’ve said here before, I felt it was time to go for a long list of reasons. But still—the reality of making the leap and trying to make a go of it was a little too much for me. However, since writing was my only income over the summer, I didn’t have much choice but to work at it. Work really, really hard at it.

And I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and also about the worlds of freelance writing and self-employment. But what have I learned? Glad you asked:

· You simply won’t like every project. I’m not thrilled about covering local school board meetings, but I realize I’m paying my dues and it’s all money in my pocket. (But I’ll be covering some shows at our local concert venue, which I do enjoy, so it’s a bit of a trade off). I also wrote an article about stinkbugs for my local business journal and an article on pet stain and odor removers for a trade magazine. Are they subjects I would normally embrace? Probably not. But these pieces showed that I can write about virtually any topic. And anyway, I don’t have to find the finished piece compelling—as long as the editor and reader likes it, I’m happy.

· Follow up, follow up, follow up. Most of the work I received this summer came about through follow up emails to editors and potential clients (or to ask about invoices). I’ve always been pretty persistent when it comes to following up, but I’ve gotten even more strict about it since my bank account depends on it.

· I have more ideas than I thought... I’ve never had that much success with queries, but I’ve been trying to develop my ideas a bit more and take more time with them than perhaps I’ve done in the past. I’ve been sending out more queries in general, but I like to think they’re better crafted ideas, too.

· …but not every editor will like them as much as I do. But I realize many of them will never see the light of day, and I have to be OK with that and hopefully find a new angle on the story or a new market for it altogether.

· Writing is hard work. I can’t afford to not sit at the keyboard for a good portion of the day. I realize that a major perk to the freelancing life is the ability to set your own hours, so I do give myself a break now and then, but from 9-4 (and sometimes during the evening hours), I’m here in the chair, working on assigned pieces or trying to land new work. There are some days when I quite frankly don’t feel like writing, and they are obviously not my best writing days, so I’ll focus on other business instead—updating my query spreadsheet, emailing sources, following up with editors, or working on materials for the class I’m teaching.

· Details matter. It’s important to get sources’ names and job titles correct, as well as spellings, dates, and finer points of each story. Those little details may not mean much to the writer, but readers and editors will certainly notice. I’m particularly sensitive to getting people’s names right since so many folks spell mine incorrectly (if you can even imagine), but all of those little seemingly insignificant points matter.

What about you? What has the freelancing life brought to your life?

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