You want to start freelancing writing, but the landscape is INCREDIBLY daunting. There’s a never-ending ever-increasing line up of sites and publications, so many intimidating editors, and a bajillion bylines that aren’t yours. Before I started freelancing, it would make me anxious just looking at all that. I didn’t have any contacts to make me stand out among the barrage of submissions most sites get. I was at a loss.
Here are some tips that helped me when I started freelance writing, but can in some ways be useful to other fields, I hope.
1. Start something where you’re forced to talk to other people in your field.
Certain jobs can be super isolating. Especially if you work freelance. There’s no shame in finding people who do what you do, or whose work you admire, and reaching out to them. Start posting short Q&As on your blog, do a photo series of local writers, or create a podcast. There’s also nothing wrong with reaching out to editors you’d want to work for or other people whose careers you admire and asking if you can take them out for coffee and pick their brains. Editors are busy so that’s why I suggest giving them something back for their time by posting something to your blog in the form of an interview or a podcast. You don’t have to work alone or submit pitches and pieces blindly. Get to know others in your field. Then, when you go to submit, they have context for who you are.
2. Don’t try to change your writing to fit a certain place, at least too much.
It is good to know the audience of the publication and to write for that audience, but don’t try to push yourself or stretch yourself thin writing a certain way for a certain publication if it’s unnatural for you. Along the same lines….
3. Don’t take a rejection personally.
Getting rejected does not mean the idea is bad or that the piece isn’t well done or that you are a bad writer. It just means it/you weren’t right for that specific publication. Once you start letting rejections mean that you are not good, it’s a slippery, depressing slope. That said, if you really want to write for that publication, take a rejection as a learning experience. Read through the site and see what kinds of pieces they are looking for. Tinker with what you submitted or take an “idea day” and come up with some pitches that are more in line with that publication.
4. FIND PUBLICATIONS THAT WORK FOR YOU.
One of my biggest problems when I started freelancing was that I wasn’t submitting to blogs or publications that I read regularly. I was trying to shoehorn myself into blogs I didn’t even care for because they were “important” or “prestigious.” It’s must more productive to submit your work to a place you read and enjoy – you’ll understand the vibe of the publication, what gets published regularly and the audience. Your writing will also most likely fit better at that publication, and therefore – less rejection!
Believe me. Freelancing has its ups and downs. The “free” part is great. The “lancing” is, I imagine, what it’s like to do it day in and day out — like when you “lance” a boil. Just as painful. Don’t give up. Never back down, fellow freelancers. Never surrender.