January was a pretty flat start to the year for me. I had a couple of big work lowlights, my partner broke his heel and it was one of the quietest, slowest, lowest-income months ever. But (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?) it’s also afforded me some much needed space and time to think about what I want from 2020.
IN TERMS OF FEATURE ARTICLES FOR MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS, THIS MONTH I:
Pitched: 4 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 1
Offers: 11 (where an editor approached me with a commission)
IN TERMS OF FEATURE ARTICLES FOR CORPORATE AND B2B CLIENTS: (I DON’T PITCH THESE)
Filed: 19 (*10 of these were well-paid but very short pieces <200 words)
Lowlights of January
I had a couple of lowlights in January.
A commission mix up
The first started with a commission mix up.
One of the newer editors I’ve started working with approached me to write a (desk-research) travel story, which I was thrilled about.
I started doing some research, reached out to PRs and posted a journalist alert on TravMedia.
By complete chance I spotted another writer in a Facebook group I’m part of post a callout describing the article and the publication he writing for.
Hang on, I thought. This sounds exactly like my commission.
I emailed the editor who confirmed (oops) there had been a mix up.
She said she would give me a different commission instead.
The other writer is a very senior, very regular writer for the publication so it made sense I was the writer to be reallocated.
I got a new commission.
Except the tourism body I was liaising with for this new story was worried about one particular angle (which I wasn’t writing about) and asked if:
a) my story could be pushed back (due to their perception of time sensitive issues)
Of course, as a freelancer I have no control over when an article gets published, so I told them that.
I reassured them that I wasn’t going to be writing about the particular angle they were concerned about.
They said that would be fine.
I checked if they were still okay with providing a spokesperson – they were.
Then I received an email asking if they
b) could see the article before it went to print.
I can’t think when this would be okay (except when there are important details that need to be fact checked).
I emailed the editor to double check.
The editor’s answer?
Absolutely not, it’s against editorial policy to let anyone see the copy before it’s published.
I fed this back to the tourism body, who accepted it.
But then, the next day, I received an email.
Their spokesperson wouldn’t be available after all.
This was four days before I was due to file the piece.
As you can imagine, it was stressful (to say the least) to find a new spokesperson, but I did and I wrote the story.
The editor was happy with it and the story was printed.
I even got an email (two actually) from the tourism body saying how much they loved it.
So, what did I learn?
I learnt that sometimes as a writer you get stuck in the middle of competing agendas.
I also learnt (yet again) that there is no substitute to forging strong relationships so that you can ring contacts and see if they can provide some last minute commentary for a story.
Rewriting and revising
I also received a request to revise and add a new case study into a corporate piece I had written.
It’s never easy going back to work when you think you’ve finished it.
And because it was January, most people I reached out to were still on holidays, so it took me much longer than usual to find a new case study.
But eventually I did and resubmitted the article, but it hung over me for weeks.
Not enough time to work
The last lowlight of January was that my partner got injured.
My family was camping in the beautiful Grampians region of Victoria when we had to return early because my partner broke his heel after a rock climbing accident.
He’s fine (on crutches but doesn’t need surgery), but it’s meant that loads of the household duties that he usually does, have become my responsibility.
To be honest, I realised just how much he did around the house because ahem, it’s not quite as clean or tidy as usual.
It’s been really hard finding time to pitch and write, and to be honest, I just wanted to make sure he was okay because it’s hard to look after two small people who keep stealing your ‘stilts’.
Highlights of January
I feel like regardless of how established you are as a freelance writer, it’s normal to get the wobbles sometimes.
You might lose an anchor client, an editor might stop responding to your emails or you might have to turn down work and then you start immediately worrying that you’ll never work again (or is that just me?).
I guess what I’m saying is that even though there are great things about being a freelance writer, sometimes they’re a double-edged sword.
So yes, the things below are highlights, but they didn’t come without some aspect of shadow.
Press trip offers
I was received four press trip offers in January.
But how many did I accept?
Two of the trips were international and two were domestic, but the timing just didn’t work.
Three trips were offered from PRs and one from an editor of a publication that I’ve worked really hard to break into.
I feel so happy that I’m at a point in my travel writing career where famil offers are coming my way fairly frequently, but it doesn’t make turning them down any easier.
My course is coming
You all have been SO patient.
A couple of weeks ago I sent out an email to writers who said (at least a year ago!) they were interested in being testers for my course to let them know it won’t be long until my beta course launches.
I’m just finishing off editing my last videos and then have to set up the automation and then the course will be ready for my beta testers.
So even though this is undeniably a highlight, I’m excited and apprehensive about this next step.
A fab offer
I had a big surprise towards the end of January when an editor of a well-known American travel publication reached out to me with the offer of a commission.
She had asked around her network for suggestions of Australian travel writers and my name came up.
It was only a short piece of writing, but paid very well and is for a publication that most travel writers dream about writing for.
But I can’t tell you how much I sweated writing this piece.
I spent so many hours on it that I think my rate would have been about $2/hour.
But I wrote it, sent it off and got an immediate reply:
“Thanks! Will be back in touch soon with edits”
So even though you expect feedback, the automatic assumption that they’ll be more work to do on a piece is a bit deflating.
Because often when you write your first article for a publication, it’s not just an article, but your entry into (possibly) being able to write more regularly for them.
So we’ll see.
I haven’t received the edits yet.
A resource I’d recommend
I know most of you already follow Jennifer Gregory’s wonderful blog, but I was really struck by a recent post of hers about 2019 being her lowest earning year.
Jennifer was one of the main reasons I set myself lofty income goals, and I have always admired how generously she shares her ups (and her downs) on her blog and her Facebook group.
I loved this post of hers because it’s vulnerable and honest, but it also reflects the fact that most of us aren’t in this for the money.
Yes, you can make excellent money from freelancing, but it’s really about working out what kind of life you want and then creating a business to support that.
And Jennifer’s post was such a great reminder for me of that.
My income for January
I set my income target at $5,000 for January.
Last January was pretty quiet and I still got $6K worth of work commissioned so I thought $5K was conservative.
But even a $5K target was a stretch this month.
I was commissioned $3118 for January.
It’s my lowest income month for ages.
In some ways I know there’s an explanation because I turned work down this month, I had to have a decent chunk of time off and I knew I’d have to spend a fair bit of time editing my videos for my course.
But to be honest, it’s still deflating when you don’t hit your income goal.
Although I did end up invoicing $9432 for January because I sent off invoices for lots of work I did in December.
So there you go.
Some ups and downs this month. A tumultuous beginning to the new year.
What kind of January did you have?