Search This Blog

Friday, March 30, 2012

5 Things I'd Tell my Former Freelance Self

I'll be teaching my webinar, Make Money NOW Writing Freelance Articles, through Writer's Digest, this Thursday, April 5, 2012. It's a great program for both new freelancers and more experienced writers who want to start pitching--and selling--articles to online and print publications. 

While most of my work today consists of ghostwriting and coauthoring, I started out writing articles for magazines and newspapers. For me--and for many new writers--articles (including blog posts) are the easiest and fastest way to launch a freelance career. 

Yet I made a lot of mistakes along the way. When I lead a Webinar or speak at a writers' conference or other event, I give advice that I know now, but didn't know then. If I could go back in time, here are 5 things I would tell my fledgling freelance self: 

1. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can't. You have no say whether an editor likes your pitch or even responds to it. You can contrl which markets you query, how many queries you submit, and how much time you dedicate to your freelance career. That's what you should put your energy into.

2. Be willing to cut bait. Your time is limited and precious. I collected more than a dozen rejections from Glamour early on before I finally got the clue that no one was going to assign to me. These days, I would have cut bait after three or four and moved on to more promising markets. 

3. Follow up on every pitch. It may be your follow-up letter that causes the editor to actually read your query--or to get around to assigning it. You're not being a pest, you're being a professional. 

4. Having a story killed isn't the end of the world. Early in my freelance career, I had a big story killed, even after two complete rewrites. I'll tell you, I was crushed, and I thought about giving up my freelance career. (I have a flair for the dramatic, I suppose.) I had to remind myself that a story that didn't meet my editor's expectations was only that--a story that wasn't what she wanted. In the meantime, I'd written dozens of stories that had made editors happy, so I decided to focus on that rather than my "failure." 

5. Take time off. Early on I dedicated just about every waking moment to building my freelance career. I could--it was now my full-time business and I didn't have any children underfoot to distract me. But working all the time is a prescription for burnout. Eventually I learned to live a more balanced life, but I'd suggest you set hours when you're working, and protect your non-work time from the outset. you'll be happier, and more productive too. 

***Are you a new freelancer, or know someone who wants to break into freelancing? My new line of ebooks, all branded with the Dollars and Deadlines name, are geared toward new freelancers. I take the same approach that I do with this blog--I give practical, proven strategies and plenty of examples to help you achieve your writing goals. So far the most popular has been Dollars and Deadlines' Guide to Selling your First Article, but Dollars and Deadlines 10 Essential Freelance Templates is also selling well. And if you write for love more than money (nothing wrong with that), you need to read Dollars and Deadlines' 10 Truths Every Writer Who Wants to Get Published Should Know 


  1. Great advice Kelly. I recently wrote two articles for a local publication and felt good about my work. I've since pitched and sent email with no response. I found myself questioning my abilities. This post reminded me that it's not always about me. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  2. Most of these are great tips for LIFE, Kelly!