Friday, August 21, 2009

Why I Freelance

My writing career has taken many paths, from local parenting magazine publisher to newspaper features writer to Christian newspaper interim editor. Currently I am pursuing fiction projects (including short stories, essays and two novels) while freelance writing and editing for a regional magazine. And raising a family.

Why freelance? Well, I have several motivations. First, writing for area publications gives me a little extra cash. Not a lot, but a little. An added bonus is being able to deduct writing expenses (such as conferences and professional memberships) on my taxes. According to my accountant, you can claim expenses for only a limited time before you have to show revenue. It’s not big revenue, but I have the 1099s to show for it.

Another great perk to freelance writing is building rapport with local editors and publishers. Right now I have an audience of over 700,000 people reading my articles in any given month—from Dallas to Houston and beyond. Some time in the near future, I’d like to be able to add to my byline: and her first novel will be published next year. Not bad publicity.

Along with schmoozing—well, emailing—those in the publishing business, I am also building an enviable list of experts in my Rolodex. One week I might interview an interior designer, a plastic surgeon or a pastor. Today I talked to a neuro/orthopaedic spine surgeon. Who knows what next week will bring? Why should this matter to me? The next time I’m working on my novel and need to know what a guy would do if he shattered the bones in his face or broke his neck, I know who to call for expert info. Can’t beat that!

So, if you are contemplating a freelance career, some free pointers:

Be proficient
Spellcheck everything from emails to articles before submitting. If you have a willing critique partner, let them double check your writing prior to sending it to the editor.

Be prompt
Never, ever miss a deadline. If you are calling it close, let your editor know why and when she can expect it.

Be professional
Submit invoices that look professional and follow up if you don’t get paid in a timely manner. Sometimes this happens and it’s usually just a slip-up. If it persists, then turn down future assignments from the client. Don’t allow them to take advantage of you.

Be proactive
Don’t wait for an editor to come looking for you. If you have a blog, great, but chances are you’ll have to go after your gigs. It’s pretty rare for an unknown writer to be discovered through her blog. Pay attention to local and regional publications. Once you have some bylines established, you can try for national publications.

Be persistent
My current account didn’t respond to my first email query about freelance opportunities. I had to take the old-fashioned approach and pick up the phone. I also get more assignments if I come up with ideas to pitch instead of waiting for my editor to call me.

Be patient
You might have to accept some less-than-thrilling assignments before you find someone willing to publish what you want to write. Essays and columns (the fun stuff) are usually given to staff writers, in my experience. News articles are easier to farm out.

If you have experience as a freelance writer and have any helpful advice I missed, feel free to leave a comment here. I find I learn something new every day.


  1. Thanks Pamela, great advice. I don't know if professional writing is in the cards for me, but you have given the greatest advice I've ever gotten...(and shame on you, you forgot to include it here!) You told me to: WRITE. That was a great thing. So I am WRITING. ha ha! Gotta start somewhere!

  2. Beautifully written and most helpful. It was great seeing you again. Wish we could have talked more. Hopefully we can before I return to Italy.

  3. I completely agree with you that merely having a blog is not going to land you freelance writing jobs! So many people make statements that lead aspiring journalists to believe that's true, when in most cases, it's simply not. I employ old-fashioned methods: networking and job hunting on sites like Freelance writing jobs . I only wish it was as easy as blogging!


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