I think this is the first month ever that I haven’t pitched a single story.
I didn’t set out for August to be like that, but with the lockdown Victoria (the state in Australia where I live), I knew I had to be conservative in how much work I went looking for and how much I accepted.
Schools are closed here, which means I have remote schooling duties. I went into August knowing I’d only have 2.5 days a week to work. And although I’m usually systematic about thinking through my month, setting an income target and working out my goals re pitching, I felt pretty flat and overwhelmed at the end of July.
I know how lucky I am, but I haven’t physically seen my parents in months, my sister is a front line worker at a major Melbourne hospital and I must admit I wasn’t really looking forward to another two months of home schooling.
So I wasn’t feeling particularly positive about what August would bring.
But months like these always have a way of surprising me.
Just when I think I’ll be twiddling my thumbs, I get slammed with work.
But unfortunately one of my assignments also ended up being one of my lowlights of the month.
In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 0
Offers: 10 (where the editor approached me with a commission)
In terms of feature articles for corporate, B2B clients and sponsored content (I don’t usually pitch these – the clients come to me)
I didn’t pitch one story in August, yet, somehow by the 7th August I had hit my income target for the month.
Please know I’m not saying this to boast, but to let you know that it is absolutely possible to have work come to you without having to pitch.
When I started out as a freelance writer, I never would have believed it, but this month has proven, yet again, a few things:
That once you have strong relationships with editors and clients, and you prove yourself as a reliable, good-to-work-with writer, you’ll have plenty of work.
But in case you’re feeling like I’ve got some kind of #blessed life – read on to see my lowlights.
Highlights of August
I was approached by an editor I’ve worked with a couple of times to write a number of stories for an exciting new project she is commissioning for.
It’s always so lovely to get tapped to contribute and I’m excited about the articles I’m writing for her.
I was also really thrilled to be featured in this ArtsHub article about whether freelance writers really need a niche.
Lots of you already know my answer on that one – in short: NO!
And over the past few months I’ve finally got my receipt-life in order and even though I definitely do not have a paperless office, I’ve got a new system for my invoices and receipts in place and it’s revolutionised my processes.
Stay tuned because I’m going to share exactly how I set it up in a blog post in the next couple of weeks.
Lowlights of August
As soon as this lowlight happened I knew I’d have to share it with you all.
So, here goes …
In early August I was contacted by the head of commercial content of an international publication to write an article.
I had written sponsored content for this editor before but hadn’t been in touch with her for a little while.
Of course I was excited – it paid well and I was thrilled to be asked.
Long story short, I received the brief, conducted the interview, wrote the article up and filed on a Friday morning.
On Friday afternoon I got an email back outlining all the problems with my piece.
When you get critical feedback …
When I open and read an email like that, I feel a cross between shame (okay, mortification) and despair.
You’ve been there, right?
Very occasionally I’ve received negative feedback that didn’t feel warranted from editors, but honestly, with this one, it was all fair.
Because the topic was quite dry and the brief said they wanted to ensure the strong research base came through, I buttoned up my writing.
But obviously I buttoned up too much.
At one point the editor wrote: “This is going to make readers’ eyes glaze over.”
Yes, not exactly the feedback you want when a publication has sought you out and is paying you well for your words.
As soon as I received the email I replied to the editor.
I apologised that my article hadn’t hit the mark and said I’d have it back to her when she needed it (which, of course, was Monday morning).
Then I took a few deep breaths.
I made myself a cup of tea.
And I had a good talk to myself.
There’s really no place for ego when things like this happen.
I didn’t hit the brief.
It was up to me to fix it.
So I spent the Saturday reworking it.
What was initially a lucrative job didn’t turn out to be so lucrative because I stuffed it up.
I re-filed and the editor was happy with the re-worked version, but it still stings to think about it.[If you’d like to read about more of my embarrassing moments, you can read this post about my 4 best rejections from editors]
A resource I’d recommend
If you subscribe to a lot of freelance writing newsletters like I do, you might have noticed a recent trend.
Lots of writers are venturing into the world of charging for their newsletters.
And some of these freelancers are asking for contributions in order for their readers to gain access to copies of their successful pitches.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this.
But if you’re looking for examples of successful pitches, they are sprinkled throughout this blog, but you can use this great (free) database.
It details the publication, whether it was a cold pitch (e.g. whether the writer had a previous relationship with the editor or not), the subject line of the email, the word length and number of edits.
Unfortunately it doesn’t include the payment details, but there are so many other resources out there outlining what publications pay, that I still think it’s a useful resource.
My income for August
I kept my income target for my writing work at $5K for August, even though I wasn’t feeling confident about hitting it with only a couple of days a week to work.
But I was commissioned $7826 worth of writing work.
Like June, it was a pretty big month invoice-wise and I ended up invoicing for $10,556.
My expenses for August
Several people have asked for more information about what it costs to run my business and I think that’s a really important question to answer.
Because yes, you may be making $100K a year, but is that money all in the bank?
I’ve found that as my business has grown, my expenses have grown too.
And I see that as a positive thing.
I’ve moved from free invoicing software to paid.
I’ve moved from a free portfolio site to a paid one.
So, my expenses for this month were (rounded up):
Contractors/web developers: $2800
Professional development (courses/books etc) $180
Subscriptions (union fees, Patreon newsletters, newspapers, magazines etc): $246
Expenses total: $3291
This is a lot higher than usual due to payment for contractors who helped me set up my course – Write Earn Thrive.
How was your August? Have you seen your expenses grow as your business grows too?