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What I’ve Learnt in My first 5 Months of Freelance Writing

"When one door closes, another one opens."

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Freelance writing is absolutely an addiction, one that comes with immense disappointment, satisfaction, uncertainty and joy. Being an extremely sensitive person, I quickly learnt I’d be facing a lot of rejection, something I’ve often avoided in the past. I was in no way prepared for what I was about to face in this industry. I’m twenty years old, have no connections, and am also not an English or journalism major. My knowledge of freelance writing was negligible, and I was simply floating with little direction. All I had was a passion for writing, which in my opinion was the most useful tool of them all. I will say that within these past few months I have shed quite a few tears, had more lessons rather than victories, but I’ve learnt a lot and have become a much better writer. Although I haven’t landed my dream gig just yet, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks that I wish I knew before beginning this freelance writing journey

1. Be prepared for a lot of rejection

Rejection is the most common thing you will face as a freelance writer. It can take its toll so just remember that it’s not a reflection of your writing. You can write a moving essay and it just doesn’t fit the style of that publication. It doesn’t mean you should give up, or are a terrible writer, it’s simply an opportunity to grow and improve. If you weren’t facing any rejection, I’d be shocked and extremely jealous! 

2. Ask a lot of questions to clients or editors  

This is a major mistake I made not so long ago. Publications are super picky and if you don’t follow a specific guideline or format, your hard-work could be thrown away. Make it a point to ask those questions, even if you feel annoying, it’s better than making a mistake and having to start from scratch. Below I’ve listed some not so obvious questions you should always ask the editors you work with.

  • If interviews are required always ask if they should be done via email or through the phone, and if a recording is required.
  • Inquire on what the format of the article should be, word count, deadlines, if pictures should be featured.

4. Pitching is a science 

Your pitch is everything, it’s the make or break of that, “yes” or “no.” My advice is to introduce yourself in a respectful manner, if you have previously published work from a blog, add that in as well! Be friendly but cordial and always say thank you. As for the main idea of your pitch, include a striking summary of your article in the body of the email. When I first began pitching, I would write the full articles and then send them as a draft to editors. I believe that while it was a great way to showcase my writing, I am sure they never read the full piece. So, write an intriguing summary that captures the main ideas of your article. Explain why it’s a relevant issue and why you are qualified to write it.

5. Develop a niche

Whether it’s celebrity drama, mental health or relationships, find what you’re good at and write about it. No passion leads to a dull article, so ensure that it’s something you have a strong opinion on.

6. Research the publication your pitching to 

It’s important cater your article to the publication you’re pitching for. For example, university issues may not suit a magazine that’s target audience is forty year old women.

7. Spelling, grammar & overall flow of writing must be on point 

It would be quite embarrassing to spell an editors name wrong. Ensure that you have double checked your spelling, grammar and overall flow of your pitch or article. I know you want to just get it in, but this step is important. Ask a family member or friend to proof-read your work. However, if you don’t have that luxury, my best tip is to look at your work a day later. Leave it and come back when your eyes are fresh. 

8. Manage your time, burnout is very common

Remember to balance other aspects of your life evenly. When you want to become successful in any field, many tend to make their life revolve around it. Taking a break should be mandatory; you don’t have to reach burnout to become successful. Call your friends, go on a walk, bake a cake, just create some balance!

9. Pitch as often as possible 

I have read in articles that pitching to more than one editor at once is a BIG no. BUT, I must say I have to disagree with that statement. If you get more than one offer that situation is extremely awkward, and someone is left rejected. However, when you’re just starting out more often than not you’ll be lucky to get just one reply from an editor. You don’t have to keep all your eggs in one basket. Freelance writing is a hustle, and in my opinion the more you put yourself out there, the more replies you’ll get. 

13. Get used to uncertainty 

Told yes, and later get that opportunity snatched right out of your hands? It happens to the best of us. I am still learning how to manage this form of disappointment. 

14. Write for Online Platforms 

No luck getting with getting published in the big shot magazines? Write for online platforms that welcome all writers. It’s great to have examples of writing to show when pitching to editors. It showcases your work, your skills and can ultimately help get that pitch accepted. 

15. DO NOT GIVE UP 

Do not give up, I know how hard it gets. I understand that you put everything into your writing only to get rejected countless times. To have such uncertainty is far from comforting. However, if this is your dream, continue to be consistent to the editors, pitch often, develop thick skin, create trendy ideas, and I can guarantee that you will not only become a better writer but something will come out of your persistence. 

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More Thrive Global on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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