A few days ago I was on the phone interviewing a local chef who is making and donating meals every day for people in the community when he stopped the conversation. “I hope you don’t mind me asking,” he said, “but how are you doing?”
I nearly cried.
Here he was, trying to ensure his 30+ employees have jobs, while making meals for people in need and he took the time to ask me.
How are you?
So, I want to ask you: how are you?
Because goodness knows, this is a crazy time.
And if you’d like to share how you’re going, I’d like to hear.
March for me has been the month of asking questions.
What’s going on?
Are we going into lockdown?
Will the kids’ school be closed?
When will I see my parents again?
Should I cancel our Easter plans?
How are my fellow freelance writers coping?
What will travel writing look like after the virus?
How am I going to get through this?
Looking back at February, it already seems like so much has changed.
Last week I wrote about resources for freelance writers during uncertain times and what I was doing to keep a sense of sanity and normal life.
I’m still prioritising exercise and like hundreds of thousands of others, I’ve started doing PE with Joe Wicks on You Tube with my kids.
(Although, can I just say, for a 20 minute workout, I’m finding some of the exercises to be fierce!)
And I’m baking and eating lots too.
I’m lucky enough to live in a regional area where it’s easy to escape into the bush for long walks.
I know lots of people have spoken about how this ‘pause’ is a time for reflection, to start writing that novel or finish off projects around the house, but honestly, I’m just trying to keep all the balls in the air.
I’m still trying to work, my partner is still working and my kids are at home.
Maybe things will ease off and I’ll find myself with lots of time and no commitments, but somehow I doubt it.
What I do think this time is bringing though is a sense of ‘quiet kindness‘ and that gives me great hope.
IN TERMS OF FEATURE ARTICLES FOR MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS, THIS MONTH I:
Pitched: 8 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 5
Offers: 2 (where an editor approached me with a commission – either editorial or sponsored content)
IN TERMS OF FEATURE ARTICLES FOR CORPORATE AND B2B CLIENTS: (I DON’T PITCH THESE)
I’ve found it hard to focus this month and have found that working shorter days has helped, as has turning off social media.
It hasn’t felt like a particularly productive month, but when I look at the number of stories I pitched, the offers I’ve received and the articles I’ve filed, perhaps I had a better month than I realised.
Lowlights of March
Like so many of you, I’ve now lost thousands and thousands of dollars worth of work due to corona virus.
Some of the commissions, I think will disappear forever, whereas other articles are on hold, but will hopefully be re-instated when things stabilise.
I’ve had domestic and international trips cancelled, but to be honest, one of the most devastating things has been receiving a steady stream of emails from PRs that I’ve worked with letting me know that they’ve been stood down.
These are people that I’ve developed great partnerships with over the years and who have looked after me so well as I’ve navigated the world of travel writing.
It feels so sad that the travel industry that they love can’t support them anymore.
But for me, the potential upside is that perhaps more of us (me included) will be more discerning and thoughtful about the travel we undertake from now on.
I was asked to take part in a webinar for fellow freelancers, but I declined.
I felt guilty about saying no, but I’m not sure that I’m getting through this any better than anyone else and if I’m absolutely honest, just getting my work done and staying focused is enough of a challenge at the moment.
Highlights of March
I’m thankful that I have built strong relationships with a number of editors, so this month I reached out to a few to ask if they needed any content.
Happily, some did and commissioned articles from me.
I feel lucky because I did this in early March and I have a feeling that if I had waited even a week, their responses would have been very different.
The articles I pitched were a mix of desk-based research and stories based on previous travels.
It was actually great going through my pitch document, seeing what stories I hadn’t been able to place and giving them a new lease of life by tweaking them and pitching them again.
I also caught up with a cool local photographer in early March because one of my goals this year is to improve my terrible photography skills.
We had a session and agreed that she would help me hone my skills.
Unfortunately just as we decided to meet up again, restaurants and cafes began closing and we’ve decided to hold off until this craziness eases a little.
But I feel so grateful that I live in a community surrounded by creative types.
Jenny is a former editor, freelance writer and author and offers really solid advice about pitching and developing relationships with editors.
I was able to meet my income goal this month because of a content proposal that I had prepared in February.
After an initial meeting with the client to find out what they needed, I drew up a content proposal.
I have two documents that I use in these situations: a client intake form (to get a detailed understanding of the project) and a content proposal.
In the content proposal, I usually just do one quote for exactly what the client has asked for, but I remembered reading this great blog post from Rachel’s List about tiered pricing so I decided to offer three different bundles.
I wasn’t sure how it would go, especially as the corona virus was really starting to kick off in Australia, and we hadn’t discussed their budget.
But, they chose the top bundle.
They paid the 50% deposit within a week and I’m now working on five articles for them.
A useful resource
If you’re trying to get your head around what publications are still accepting freelance contributions, and which are on hold or have cut their budget, this Google Doc (put together by Study Hall) is super useful.
My income for March
At the end of February, I had no idea what March might bring, so I toyed with the idea of not even setting an income target.
But I wanted to keep a sense of normality, so I decided that regardless of the outcome, I should set my income target at $5,000 for March.
Unbelievably, I came in over that.
I was commissioned $8050 for March.
I invoiced for $8172.
Even though March was great in terms of income, after finishing off these corporate articles, I’ve got no work on the horizon.
I’m not feeling terribly enthused about pitching either, so I’m going to see how things go.
My partner is still working three days a week, so we have a (smallish) stable source of income, and we have also been saving for situations like these.
But it doesn’t make it any easier, does it?
How was your March? How has your work and life been impacted by COVID-19?