Things I’ve Learned Freelancing

Oh, the freelance life!

I was laid off from a full-time editing job about a month ago, and although Harold wrote a really nice note here urging folks to hire me for a full-time position, I’ve been pretty happy and keeping busy freelancing for a number of outlets. On that note, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned along the way, and I hope it will help fellow freelancers trying to make it out there right now.

— Connections!
Even though I was a staffer and unable to write for other outlets, I kept in touch with old editors via social media, e-mails and in-person meetings. When word got out that I needed work, a lot of old friends and acquaintances reached out to me, which was nice.

— Manage your money!
And I don’t just mean in terms of what you spend and save. When you sign up to work with a new outlet, make sure all the proper contracts and legal forms are filled out, and your rates are established beforehand to make sure nothing shady happens (see Harold’s “When You Don’t Get Paid” series for more on this topic). Of course, bad situations can’t always be helped and it’s a big pain to keep track of everything, but following up on what you’re owed is essential to surviving the freelance life. (Side note: Don’t forgot to save a certain percentage of your earnings for taxes!)

— Pitch!
As a former editor, I got a lot of inquiries about freelance work. However, oftentimes aspiring writers would send me resumes and clips, but no pitches. There are plenty of capable writers out there, and editors have a lot on their plates. Include a few original ideas to make you stand out. To boot, the easier you can make editors’ lives, the more likely they’ll use you. And once they get to know you, they’ll just hand you assignments. (I’ve also shared a lot more about pitching and dealing with editors here.

— Don’t take work that’s not worth it!
The rates that different outlets offer vary. Whatever the case, make sure the time you spend working on a project is equivalent to what you think is fair pay. Sure, work is work, but writing a 5,000-word article for $50 might not be the best use of your time. You don’t have to take everything that comes your way. Try getting the right gigs with the right pay, and you’ll stay afloat financially and still have a social life.

— Maintain a schedule!
Being a freelancer working from home can mean you can make your own schedule, which is great, but remember: everyone else you’re working with pretty much has to be in the office from 9 to 5. So working during completely erratic hours might not be best for sheer communication reasons alone. Maintaining a schedule can also keep you from working all day and night!

— Change out of your pajamas once in a while!
I’m guilty of not doing this all the time, but I think it’s healthy to wear normal clothes like you’re going to work, at least sometimes. Plus, you won’t look like a crazy person when you run to the door to get a Fed Ex delivery in bunny slippers.

There are other things I probably forgot, but these are the fundamentals. Feel free to ask me questions and check out my work at http://www.traceyjohn.com.

Best of luck!

— Tracey John

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