the month in review

February – back on track (sort of)

By March 6, 2018 June 29th, 2019 21 Comments

None of us know what life has in store, but when you’re a freelancer, you never quite know what work has in store for you either. By the middle of February I had hit my income target, but I was also grappling with the idea of pulling out of writing a commissioned article on a very difficult topic. My family and work situation changed at the end of the month, meaning I’ve had to re-evaluate the time I can dedicate to my freelance business.  

February – the month in review

None of this is a particularly bad thing – being a freelance writer demands flexibility and I think success (however you define it) comes down to swaying with the breeze, rather than being snapped by it. 

In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:

Pitched: 12 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)

Commissions from pitches or query letters: 2

Rejections: 6

Offers: 4 (where the editor approached me with a commission)

In terms of feature articles for corporate and B2B clients: (I don’t pitch these)

Offers: 15 (9 of these articles were offered in a ‘bundle’) 

Filed: 19

Lowlights of February

I felt quite flat about pitching certain kinds of magazine feature articles in February.

I pitched a couple of big social justice/human interest-type articles; one of which was immediately commissioned and even though I knew it was a good idea, my heart wasn’t in the writing of it.

Do you do that – pitch ideas and then immediately regret it? 

It’s funny how things work out, but the two interviewees I had lined up for the piece ended up being tricky to work with (it was a highly sensitive and political topic and they had firm views on what they wanted to see in print) and after I did some further reading on one case study in particular (he’s a much more controversial figure than I first realised), I emailed the editor and said I thought I should pull the plug on the article.

He agreed that it would be best to leave the piece. So we did. Even though I ‘lost’ that income and commission, I felt relieved. A sure sign that it was the right decision. 

While I have always loved writing articles that are gritty or tackle significant issues, I am starting to feel quite drained by it, especially after 10 years in social work. I was having drinks with a social affairs journalist friend the other day and she was saying the same thing.

I think it’s really important to look after yourself as a freelancer – to put your mental health needs at the fore and if your gut is telling you to steer clear of a project – listen.

Highlights of the month

I had such a great time at TravMedia’s IMM – I met some wonderful people, and got to hang out with some fantastic writers, who I’ve known online but not IRL.

One of the big jobs that came to me in February was an opportunity to write a batch of nine articles for a website. While this job alone was worth several thousand dollars, what really thrilled me about it was that it had come via an ‘internal referral’ – I write regularly for one person within the business and she put my name forward when a colleague needed content written.

I am a big believer in the importance of relationships – it’s a two-way street and if you produce quality work, on time and are easy to work with, editors or clients will recommend you to other editors or clients. 

My coaching sessions have also really ramped up. I’ve been offering one or two sessions each week with freelancers who book in with me. I absolutely love speaking with other writers and helping them identify strong story angles for their pitches, work out where to pitch, help them with article structure, productivity and answer whatever is on their mind.

Here is what one writer shared with me after her session this week: 

“You listened with interest and then suggested some fabulous ways that I could tailor my ideas to suit particular publications. You also got me thinking about how I can turn one idea into three stories based on the angle I take and the publication I pitch to.

You continuously focussed on my needs and asked me what you could do to assist me. You didn’t shove your ideas down my throat. You nurtured my thoughts and let me take the lead.

I was delighted when you said that you would give me the contact names for the publications I am hoping to pitch to. Some freelancers tend to hold on to that sort of info because it’s their bread and butter, but you were so willing to share this, and it just confirmed that you really did want to help me.”

– Ashling, freelance writer, NSW

Towards the end of the month I received notification that I am now an official member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW). It’s not a super easy process to become a member (at least 7,000 travel-related words published in a year – this is an annual requirement) and the sponsorship/support of two full members. But I’m thrilled to be part of such an active and wonderful group of writers. The AGM is held in Thailand this year, with a pre or post-famil/press trip option, so I’m thinking seriously about attending!

But that may depend on my next news ….

I’m scaling back a bit on my workdays. Towards the end of 2017, my partner applied to do his doctorate in psychology and we found out in the last week of February that his application was successful. It’s great news, but it does mean that I’ll no longer be able to dedicate full time hours to my freelancing business, as last year my partner was the primary carer for our two children.

At this stage and depending on the week, it looks like I’ll be freelancing 3 – 4 days each week. It’ll be interesting to see the differences in terms of productivity and income between being full time and part time.

Income report for February

I was commissioned a tad over $11K worth of work.

I invoiced for just under $8K worth of work.   

During the month, I read this post from Kate Toon, a businesswoman and entrepreneur who I really admire, about why people shouldn’t talk about how much they earn and it got me thinking.

I know that I personally found it reassuring and inspirational when I read about writers like Jennifer Gregory talking so openly about making money and how she earned it, especially because so few others were sharing that kind of information.

But I do understand that for some people, talking money is tacky and boastful.

It’s taken me a while to be comfortable sharing my income (and I’m not sure I’d even say I am comfortable with it!) – I think it’s important to break down barriers around the starving artist mentality.

But I’ll be keen to hear what you think. I’d be interested to hear if you still would like me to do my monthly round-ups, including my income report.

How was your February? 

21 Comments

  • Personally, what I loved about your posts was your honesty about payment. I work full time as a freelancer and need to earn a full-time salary. Many other freelancers I’ve met have been balancing freelancing with other things – parenting, a full-time job, etc etc – so I felt reassured that needing a proper salary wasn’t too much to ask.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thank you so much Lynne, that’s lovely to hear. I don’t think a proper salary is too much to ask, in fact I think it’s non-negotiable!

  • Chloe Braithwaite says:

    Something I’ve always loved about your writing is how honest and open you are. When it comes to your monthly income report, I can certainly understand some people not wanting to discuss it – which is totally fine! – but it also means it’s hard to set our own goals if we don’t know what’s possible and/or reasonable. Thank you for sharing thus far! If you chose to stop talking about it, it certainly wouldn’t stop me from reading your blog as I get so much from them than just the fiscal aspect.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks for your comment and thoughts Chloe – I’m really glad that you have appreciated what I have shared so far.
      I agree that it’s hard to have an accurate idea of how life may unfold as a freelancer and what is possible if others aren’t willing to share what they are achieving and struggling with.
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  • I haven’t looked for many other blogs like this one, but that’s mostly because this one is so good! I’ve been self employed in a few different capacities and it’s essential to know about the financial side of things or you’re just groping around in the dark. In fact I was thinking of asking if you had a post about how you structure your fees for corporate work. The open and honest and personal way in which you write is incredibly refreshing. Definitely don’t stop! BTW I’ll be at the Launceston Freelance Festival and if there’s the opportunity, I’ll say hi, depending on how busy it all is. Have a great day! Cheers, Fiona

  • I don’t have any comments about sharing payment. Some share. Some don’t. Unless there’s a reason that will damage you personally, it’s really up to the individual’s choice in my opinion!

    However, what you said about "Do you do that – pitch ideas and then immediately regret it? " – YES. YES. YES. Not for the same reasons as you (I stay away from controversial topics!) but, there are times when my heart is just not in the story, even if it’s travel related.

    Sounds like you’ve had a tough February!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      It was tough in some ways Amy, but in others, it was great. I think that’s the nature of freelancing. Well, for me anyway! But I feel encouraged (if that’s the right word?!) that I’m not alone in pitching and wanting a yes but then not wanting to write!

  • Olivia says:

    I really admire how open you are about the work you’ve had commissioned, your processes behind it, and what it is generating in income for you. I think it’s invaluable for women in particular to be more open about the importance of a)earning the correct amount for your work and b)not being ashamed of it. Writing being commissioned for free or for incredibly low sums is a problem in the UK media – I’m not sure if the same is true elsewhere. I know your blog has been invaluable to me in my first six months of freelancing so please keep up the good work!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thank you so much Olivia, I hadn’t really thought deeply about it from that perspective (that it’s particularly valuable for women) before. In my experience, the expectation that writers will provide their work for free or very little is widespread in certain industries. I think in Australia it’s a little less so, but I definitely know freelancers who find it difficult to find well-paying work.
      Oh, and congratulations on your first six months of freelancing!

  • Claire says:

    Congratulations to your partner on the acceptance to do a doctorate, that’s fantastic news. I’m sure you’ll continue to do well with your writing despite the reduced hours. And congratulations to you on the acceptance into the Australian Society of Travel Writers, it’s great to belong to a like-minded community and no doubt there will be plenty of support and inspiration there.

    I do enjoy seeing monthly income reports, particularly how the figures are broken down. It’s really brought it home to me how a little diversity is a good thing. It’s also inspirational and motivational to see what other people have been doing. It gives me hope! And like Lynne says, it’s good to know that a proper full-time salary is possible.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks so much Claire – he’s thrilled and I think it’s a great move for him. And thanks also about the ASTW – I’m really excited to be part of a great community like that (and a little nervous!)
      I think you’re right – diversity is so important to stabilising the freelance ship – I have no doubt that you are carving a successful freelance career for yourself.

  • Jenny says:

    I’m just starting out with my freelancing career – and I’m really enjoying your blog. I love how open you are – and you give me hope that there is potentially money to be made from writing for magazines and newspapers. Can I ask though, do you find the business writing the more lucrative?

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Jenny, thanks so much for your comment. It’s a good question about whether business writing is more lucrative – my most profitable articles tend to be those that I write quickly and that I have a word rate for. At the moment, that’s a pretty even split between quick turnaround pieces for a magazine’s website and corporate content. I think both can be lucrative.

  • Gabrielle says:

    The way in which you share your income reports isn’t in the least bit boastful or ‘crass’. Transparency around income is so important, particularly for women. You’re helping the entire freelance community by being brave and sharing — don’t doubt it!

  • Rachel says:

    I have big love for your blog as you know, and while I get where Kate’s coming from, I think she’s talking about a specific type of entrepreneur in her post. I actually really enjoy your earning posts each month. What you and I do freelance-wise is very similar (the breakdown of features and corporate / copywriting), except I’m doing it on a part-time basis because I have a toddler – so I find it a useful snapshot. Given the breakneck speed print and digital is changing, it’s especially useful for freelancers to see what IS currently possible if you have decent contacts and fingers in many pies.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      You are such a great supporter of me and my blog Rachel, and I’ve always appreciated that so much. And yes, I’m nowhere near the high 6 figure entrepreneurs that Kate may be referring to!
      Can I just say that I am so impressed by what you manage to achieve running at least two businesses while part time. Even though I see the cute Insta pics of your little boy I don’t think I properly realised you were part time – respect!

      • Rachel says:

        Likewise, Lindy! Thank you for supporting Rachel’s List so vocally over the years too.

        And yep, it’s pretty manic around here, I’ll be part-time for at least another year or 2 I think, but hopefully will build up some more days next year when my 3yo goes to preschool. We’ll see. It’s hard at times missing out on stories and things I really want to do workwise – but you can’t get this time back, as they say 🙂

  • Michaela Fox says:

    Lindy, I am so thrilled – and not the least bit surprised – that your mentoring work is ramping up and you are receiving glowing praise. You really do walk the talk and your generosity is duly recognised.
    I am also thrilled – and not the least bit surprised (do you see a theme here?) that your partner received a big YES. Not only can he conquer mountains and steps, he is a brilliant academic too. Is there nothing you two can’t do?!!
    Phone call soon, my friend. xx

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks so much Michaela! I feel really lucky to be working with such open and committed writers.
      Thanks for your congratulations about the PhD too – it’s a long road, but will be really worthwhile. I’m hoping with two doctors in the family our kids will finally start listening to us about what constitutes the need for a bandaid and what doesn’t!

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