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.