freelance writing

freelance

How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 2

Last week, I compiled a list of ways freelance writers can avoid playing themselves, and before I knew it, I had enough tips for two blog posts. As it turns out, there are more freelancing pitfalls to look out for than becoming an envy-fueled, byline-blocking spammer who doesn’t have an accountability partner (yikes). So without further ado, here are some additional tips on what not to as a freelance writer if you want to flourish instead of flounder, because it takes way more than a mean pen game.

Trying to do too much: Earlier this year, I was working six days a week, which meant bylines on bylines on bylines, but after a while, I had to ask myself for why? I am by no means rich, wealthy or anywhere near it — I needs my checks — but running myself into the ground trying to keep up with every scandal, news item or hashtag simply isn’t worth it.

Thinking that writing skills = automatic flow of work:

Your words sing, dance and twerk their way off the page, but when it comes to landing a byline, there are more politics involved, like timing, connections, persistence and the list goes on. This is precisely why you shouldn’t (but probably still will) bemoan that writer who lands bylines at that pub you’ve pitched a zillion times, despite the fact that we both know you could’ve written that article 10 times better.

Underestimating the power of your blog:

Not only is a personal blog  a great way to hone skills and work through insecurities about writing, it can also serve as a point of contact for potential clients. Also, prospective freelancers who are looking to write for money can use their posts to pitch paying publications. Trust me — it works, and you’d be surprised at who’s reading your seemingly random musings about home life or your fave polish of the week.

Allowing fear to stop you from pitching:

Honestly, pitching still scares the beejezus out of me, depending on the publication. But most of the rejection that beginning freelance writers dread doesn’t actually happen the way they envision it. Instead of nasty responses telling me I needn’t quit my day job (too late for that), the rejections I’ve received have all come in the form of silence. Writers I know who have received responses are usually told that their idea isn’t a good fit for the publication, and in some cases, they’ve been invited to pitch again. Which brings me to…

Not following up on rejected pitches:

If an editor asks you to pitch them again, do it, and soon. They receive a ton of pitches, so yours must’ve been pretty special to elicit a personal invitation to try again.

Don’t give away too much info for free:

There’s no coincidence why this little gem is last on my list. While I am an advocate of helping other freelance writers and sharing information with pretty much anyone who asks, there’s a limit to how many details I’m willing to part with for free 99. I could write a separate blog post on all the ways I have completely played myself by doing what basically amounted to consulting work because I genuinely enjoy helping others and I thought (wrongly) that I was forging a reciprocal relationship with people who would eventually help me in return. Now that I know better (and have sworn off dealing with leeches), I am making plans to package the info and monetize it in the future.

With that, fellow writers, let’s stop playing ourselves and start with progressing.

Happy freelancing!

 

 

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freelance writer

How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 1

Here’s a confession: I don’t have enough writing friends. Believe it or not, pals with whom I can lament over the joys and stresses of freelance writing are a rarity in my life, which leaves me partaking in way too many one-sided conversations with the hubs about bylines, pitches and how I should handle my latest #BBHMM moment when yet another janky client decides they can’t be bothered with paying me.

Since I feel guilty about constantly bombarding him with information he couldn’t care less about and because my constant social media lurking tells me that there are other writers who could actually benefit from this info, I’ve compiled a list of ways that freelance writers can avoid playing themselves. This list comes from some of my mistakes as well as some that I’ve observed from fellow professional scribes, so if you feel slightly embarrassed while reading,  realize that you’re not the only writer who’s engaged in some of this face-palmy behavior.

Refusing to help other writers:

When I first got into freelancing, a businessman referred me to the editor of a small local newspaper who refused to help me. She dismissed me because she was too busy, plus she didn’t already know me from the work she’d done on my college campus as a part of the National Association of Black Journalists. I didn’t get a chance to tell her that while in school, I worked full-time and had a magazine internship, which didn’t leave me much time for NABJ or anything else, but it’s all good because clearly, I dodged a bullet.

Since then, I’ve heard numerous stories about established writers who flatly refuse to help other writers with simple information such as sharing contact info or answering a question about their experience writing for a particular publication. I do realize there are some instances where sharing an editor’s contact info may not be appropriate, but I’m referring to blatant byline blocking, wherein the writer ain’t trying to help because they fear that assisting someone else will hinder their progress. But guess what: Helping another writer get a leg up isn’t going to take away from your opportunities. With all the paid writing jobs I see every single day, there’s enough room for everyone to get a piece of the pie and to be quite honest, one writer’s byline ain’t gon’ stop my hustle.

Spamming other writers on social media:

In my humble opinion, I’m not even on the freelance writer who warrants spamming level (not that any writer does, but lil’ ole me?). Still, that doesn’t stop random bloggers/writers who haven’t even bothered to say hello to me online from sending me links to their work or DMing me to share their posts. It’s pushy, annoying and most importantly ignored by me.  Why not introduce yourself and engage in authentic conversation with folk and develop a relationship first, then naturally work your writing in?

Also, that tit-for-tat business doesn’t work very well either, at least not for me.  I tried that “you share mine, I share yours” arrangement, but that grew old really quick, and it just doesn’t feel genuine. Like, why am I sharing your piece on the horticultural interests of 17th century Spanish aristocracy when that topic doesn’t interest me, the piece is not well-written and/or I only did it because you retweeted my article on Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt” video?

Repeatedly doing business with people or publications that have burned you:

OK, so opinions may vary on whether writers should permanently sever ties with a publication that wronged them, but I’m of the “Oh, hell no, not again,” mindset. In my experience, when given the opportunity to redeem themselves, my list (yes, list) of repeat offender pubs failed miserably. Bottom line is I’ve been there, done that, got multiple burns to prove it and I’m done.

Not having an accountability partner:

God bless Andrea, my writing partner and the other half of Un-Edited. She’s dope as hell, has helped me minimize my writing-related backsliding and holds me to my words (even when I forget them). Honestly, if it wasn’t for her, I would’ve probably beat a hasty, yet regret-filled retreat back to cubicle life by now. If you don’t have a writing accountability partner in your life, I suggest you get one ASAP.

Underestimating the value of your time: So, now it’s my turn to face-palm. I once spent several hours writing and sourcing photos for an article that I earned $15 for just because I thought writing for so-and-so would put me on the map, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. By the time I submitted the story, I was in the hole. You’ve been warned…

Writing strictly for pay: I believe in dabbling in a little bit of everything because you may find that you’re interested in previously unexplored topics that a publication asks you to cover. But don’t let writing to pay the bills become your sole motivation for pitching or targeting certain clients because that’s the fastest route to burn out.

Welp, by now you’re either cringing with embarrassment or feeling aptly prepped to go forth into freelancing.

In between licking your wounds or penning the next greatest pitch, make sure to stop by for How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 2, coming next week. (Yes, there is more.)

 

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writing

5 Fallacies of Full-Time Freelance Writing

writing

Last night, I went to sleep with tense shoulders and a clenched jaw, thanks to my masochistic habit of reading work emails on my days off. However, on this most wonderful day of hindsight-induced clarity that the Lord hath made, I vow to never — ever, ever, ever (!) — do that again. In a recent article published in The New Yorker, the author explored why Americans work so much, but just like I can’t explain my obsession with continuously checking my email, he too, came up rather empty-handed when attempting to answer his question.

Part of the blame goes to the fact that I chose to write full-time and nearly two years after taking the plunge into making my own schedule and working independently (to an extent), I still struggle to maintain a healthy life-work balance. After feeling that old, familiar stress-related neck strain forcing my ears to damn near touch my neck, I thought to myself, What part of the game is this? Truth be told, I didn’t anticipate half the experiences I’ve had with freelance writing for a living, including some of the troubles that have recently landed in my inbox.

And you wanna know something else?  I don’t feel like writing a damn thing. In fact, it’s the last thing I want to be doing at the moment. But then, I hear my voice of years past echo from beyond my old cubicle and make its way through menial tasks and co-workers I hate(d). It rounds the bend by where my old desk was located and gently taps me on the shoulder to say, But this what you asked for. You’re living your dream. And I am instantly grateful for the courage, growth, opportunities and knowledge it has brought me. But honestly, sometimes this entire arrangement feels more like a nightmare.

Two years in and I’m far removed enough from the beginning to realize that I had the game all twisted. In the emo words of Drake, “Nothing was the same” once I found out the real deal. So, in the spirit of my prior naiveté and overall shitty attitude du jour, I’m here to set the record straight for anyone who’s all googly-eyed over the prospect of living out their dream of writing full-time.

I’mma let y’all finish daydreaming, but here are five fallacies you might currently have about freelance writing full-time that are nothing more than lies from the pit of hell:

Mellifluous words of profound inspiration will constantly spew forth from my pen.

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I tried to come up with an elegant way of saying this, but all I got is HELL NAH.

I am overflowing with gratefulness that I’m living my dream.

dreams oitnb season 3 brown jumpsuit

OK, so there’s a caveat. It depends on what you’re paid to create and I’ve learned that a) sometimes I’m expected to cover topics that don’t interest me and b) I don’t absolutely love everything I create. It’s difficult to remember gratefulness when you’re struggling through a godawful assignment.  For this reason, I plan to be more selective about what I write, but depending on the circumstances, beginning freelancers may not always feel like they have that luxury.

It’s so much easier to write a book now that you’re writing full-time.

rihanna high ponytail brown coat

I mean, the ideas are just nonstop, right? You’re already writing other shit, so just ride that creative wave into a book, right?! Um, that’s cute and all, but my mind has repeatedly rejected that notion. I haven’t abandoned the idea altogether, but I’m finding less reasons to put up a fight.

People will praise me constantly for breaking into a competitive field – and I will expect and need them to care about my writing.

coming to america guy clapping

Bottom line is they really haven’t, they ain’t and I don’t.

Since you’re doing what you love, it’ll never feel like work.

tamar

SIGH. Maybe when I’m Oprah, I’ll agree with this sentiment, but until then? Lies.

And that, my dear would-be full-time writers, is ALL truth, no backspace.

 

Images: CreateHerStock; ReactionGifs; Giphy 

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