the month in review

January – a slow start to 2018

By February 6, 2018 June 29th, 2019 10 Comments

After a hectic November and fairly busy December, January was really quiet for me. I didn’t feel much like pitching, instead I wanted to hang out with my family and have some down time. Towards the end of the month I started pitching, because I realised that even though I had invoiced for a good amount of money, not having lots of commissions means that a few months down the track, my bank account will take a big hit.

January – a slow start to 2018

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

Pitched: 10 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)

Commissions from pitches or query letters: a big fat ZERO

Rejections: 2

Offers: 5 (where the editor approached me with a commission)

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

Offers: 7

Total articles filed: 15

I thought it might be useful for you to see the split between the number of articles I pitch/write for newsstand magazines and newspapers, compared to corporate and B2B (Business to Business) content.

Only two of the articles I pitched were to publications that I have written for before, and the other eight were new to me. I feel well and truly back in pitch, pitch, pitch mode and getting silence in return.

It’s a good (if slightly bruising) reminder for me that it can be really hard to break into new publications. But I do believe that following up is key, as is consistently pitching. While I had content marketing writing work, my aim going into February is to pitch an article a day until my feature writing work picks up again.

That said, I do find content writing for businesses so much easier than features for magazines. I don’t have to be as creative or lyrical (or at all) and so while I’ve felt that I should have more feature writing work, I’ve actually enjoyed not having quite so much pressure. 

I had some disappointments this month:

·      A famil or press trip I had been invited on was cancelled due to lack of media uptake. I didn’t have a firm commission so it made the cancellation less impactful, but I was looking forward to a few days away in a region of Australia that I haven’t explored before.

·      A section of a magazine that I regularly contribute to is no longer. I emailed the editor a new pitch and she let me know that they are revamping the publication and are no longer going to be commissioning for this section. It was quite a blow as I’ve had three 1400 word pieces (with one to come) published in this monthly magazine since last year. But again, it’s a reminder that this landscape is forever changing and you need to make sure that your work is spread across different publications and clients.

·      I pitched to a couple of big name dream publications, but despite encouraging rejections, I didn’t get any commissions.

But, making up for the disappointments:

·      Melinda Hammond from Writer on the Road interviewed me for her podcast – Melinda has freelanced on and off over the years, so it was great to have an in-depth chat with her about being a freelance writer and breaking into food and travel writing. If you fancy a listen you can do so here.  

·      I applied for membership to the Australian Society of Travel Writers – it felt like a big deal. You have to publish at least 7,000 travel-related words in a year, which doesn’t sound like that much, but actually when you count up all your words, it really is! You also need to have two full members (they are travel writers who publish 20,000 + travel-related words in a year) sponsor you. My application has been provisionally accepted, so I’m hopeful that next month I’ll have good news

·      I’m also attending IMM for the first time. Billed as the “leading single-day event that unites journalists and the travel industry”, IMM is a bit like speed dating for writers. This February over 145 different exhibitors (think places like Visit Britain, Destination Canada, Disneyland) will be attending. Travel writers request appointments with 22 different exhibitors and you have 15 minutes to have a chat about their destination or activity. One travel writer told me it’s where most of her famil/press trip offers for the year come from.

·      I was also asked by Rashida Tayabali to contribute to a blog post about what freelance writing is going to look like in 2018. I think this is such an great post and I loved reading what others think will happen this year. It’ll be interesting to see which predictions come true.

·      I interviewed a businesswoman for an article I was writing and after it was published she got in touch to ask if I ever created content for organisations and businesses. I’m now writing two articles a month for her blog. You just never know where your next client will come from. 

·      I’m starting to plan my presentation for the Launceston Freelancer Festival, where I’ll be talking about what I learnt from my first full time year of freelance writing.

But what about the money?

In January I had $6K worth of work commissioned.

I invoiced for just over $10K.

$6K now feels pretty low for me given the year I had in 2017, but I really didn’t start pitching until the last week of the month and I had such a lovely, relaxing January that I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

Better get my skates on in February!

What were your highlights or lowlights for January? How is February looking for you?

10 Comments

  • Michaela Fox says:

    Listening to the podcast now while bubba sleeps. Loving it!!!

  • Carol Roberts says:

    I really appreciate how open you are about the highs and lows. I never go very long without marketing, because I’m too anxious about what you’re now anticipating: the income stream drying up.

    2018 is starting off pretty well for me. The $$$ is good for both Jan. and Feb. I’m currently indexing a 675-page history of Bolivia, and the pipeline is in good shape with three more books lined up. On the personal front, I finally took some swimming lessons so I can swim lessons without nearly drowning. Really happy about meeting this long-time goal.

    I’m intrigued by (read: envious of) the corporate/B2B work that comes your way unsolicited. I’m trying to break into the corporate market but not yet making much headway.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks so much for your comment Carol. It sounds like you’re off to a great start for this year. A 675-page history of Bolivia. Wow. Is an area that you are very familiar with?
      Well done on taking those swimming lessons. A big step and I imagine quite intimidating, but it must be so satisfying to be able to make your way through the water.
      With my corporate B2B work – I have several clients, but to give you a sense of the work and how I got it – one is like a news site but for a big business, where they tend to have a new article every day or so (and they have a content calendar so they don’t tend to take pitches). The editor there has recommended me to other editors/content managers in different sections so I’ve been really lucky to also get work from them. I found this work when they were launching the site (announced on LinkedIn) and I got in touch with the editor and pitched a few ideas initially.
      And another is for an non-profit insurance company who produces a quarterly magazine that I write for as well as their website. I initially found them through an agency.
      Another is an insurance company eDM and monthly magazine. A freelance friend recommended me to the editor.
      These kind of gigs are definitely out there – it can take a while to land them, but once you do, it really takes the pressure off!

  • Claire says:

    An easier month with family time is a very good thing. Disappointing about the reorganisation at the magazine, as you say, the sands are always shifting. I shall listen to the podcast later and read the forecast article, I like to read things like that and see where we are all headed. IMM sounds like it will be a brilliant opportunity for you to make some good contacts and hopefully get some famil offers.

    I was interested to see your comments to Carol about content marketing. I have done some long and hard thinking and decided that for now I am going to concentrate my efforts on legal content marketing. I would still like to write in the sustainability field, but with legal content marketing I can see a clearer path forward and I feel that I have more of an idea of where to start. I would still love to write about sustainability, I definitely haven’t written that off, but at the moment I am going to focus on building a website geared towards writing for law firms. I have some (albeit small) experience in that field, and I am hoping that there is work available. I know they have money! I’m a bit scared, but happy to have a direction now after a long time of trying to work out what I should be doing. Onwards.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Do you feel relieved about your decision to concentrate on legal content marketing Claire? I think it’s a smart move, and while it may not be ultimately what you want to do, I can see that niche is immediately identifiable and attractive to potential clients. And if you find that it’s not for you, you can always change direction. Nothing is set in stone.
      I’m sure there will be lots of opportunities to explore ‘side shoots’ of sustainability stories and even sustainability issues within law firms.
      I always appreciate your open and candid comments about your "writing journey" Claire – I’m so glad that you have settled on an area to focus on for now, and I’m sure you’ll find relief in focusing on that rather than the tumult of what to focus on (I know I did). Looking forward to hearing how this all unfolds for you.

      • Claire says:

        Yes, I do feel relieved inasmuch as I feel that I have a direction now, rather than just floundering about not knowing where to start and struggling to make decisions. I have spent an absolutely ridiculous amount of time asking myself, ‘What should I DO?’ And you’re completely right about it not being set in stone, it helps me to know that. And whatever else I want to do, it would be good to have a backbone of regular reliable work. I already write content for a legal services website from time to time and I quite enjoy it.

        I met a local writer the other day which was helpful. I live in a small town, so there isn’t a community I can get involved with, but it was great to meet someone successful in the industry who lives nearby. She writes for the retail industry and it brought it home to me how choosing a niche can really help.

        Thanks for all your encouragement Lindy, it is much appreciated.

        • Lindy Alexander says:

          Yes, I think sometimes the pressure to pick a niche can be paralysing, but then once you do settle on something, there’s great relief.

          I’m so glad you’ve met another local writer – those connections are so valuable. I’ve also found lots of closed/private Facebook groups full of other writers really helps me feel less isolated.

          It’s a big switch you’re making Claire – none of us have it all sorted out! Especially in the beginning. You’re doing beautifully.

  • Rebecka says:

    Hi, really interesting post, I love the way you write about the ups and downs because we all get them. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming when you read about everyone’s success. January was the best month for me, I started my own company a couple of weeks ago and at the same time had my first article published (unpaid but still good for the first article), and got my first longterm work as a freelance translator, I’m from Sweden. So pretty good, my goal is to go down part-time at my current soul-sucking 9-5 job in June.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      You are so right Rebecka – it can be really disheartening to read about endless success when that’s not where you’re at. Well done you for three big achievements – starting your company, your first article published and your ongoing work as a translator. To me, that seems like serious success so far! It’s great to have a goal to work towards – let me know how you go.

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