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the month in review

March – a month unlike any other

By April 1, 2020 23 Comments

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

Rejections: 3

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)

Offers: 9

Filed: 17

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.

Saying goodbye

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.

Saying no

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.

Photography

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.

Online training

I also watched this great (free) online session called Keep calm and look for new markets run by ACMI and Media Mentors, featuring Jenny Valentish (who very kindly mentioned this blog).

Jenny is a former editor, freelance writer and author and offers really solid advice about pitching and developing relationships with editors.

Content proposal

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?

23 Comments

  • K. Wright says:

    March was a struggle for me, as I’m sure is the same for a lot of freelance writers. Communication with past and current clients came to a grinding halt and the few that responded have shared that most projects are on hold until further notice. I don’t have any work lined up for April.

    As you mentioned, I’m also just trying to juggle multiple things and brace myself for what’s to come. I have fleeting moments when I want to create a webinar or start working on a book idea but my motivation is out the window. I think I’m still processing the fact that just a year in, my freelance writing career might look much different than I expected in the beginning. I hope things start looking up for you and congratulations on exceeding your target income even during this rough patch.

    • lindyalexander says:

      Gosh, your experience mirrors mine so much in that I have moments of feeling like I should be taking advantage of this ‘time’ when lots of projects and publications are in sleep mode, but then the reality of trying to find that extra energy really hits. I hope once (hopefully) there are some financial supports in place for the writers that need them, this will give us an opportunity to embrace the new world order and perhaps even start the book or webinar.
      Thanks for commenting. Wishing you all the best for April.

  • Loss of work started for me on March 9 and within 2 weeks, I lost all of my regular gigs (including a casual job at Optus Stadium in Perth). I’ve pitched 1 idea since but have not heard back. I feel stuck. I’m not motivated and I feel that taking some down time to relax and let go of life’s pressures to be the best thing for me right now. Hubby, who works in tourism, has also lost his job (for now) so on the money side, things could be very stressful – if I chose to be stressed. But I’m not. When you can’t change a situation, change your attitude and all is well in the present moment. Stay well, Lindy xxx

    • lindyalexander says:

      Oh Jen, what a crappy start to March for you and I can totally understand how you feel stuck. I love your attitude though and feel like this is one of the very few times in life (only times?!) when people don’t really have expectations of us, so we can ease off a little too. You’re so right too – can’t change a situation but we can change our attitude. Onwards. We’ll get there. Stay well and safe. Thanks, as always, for your comment x

  • Rachel Smith says:

    Thanks for the mention, Lindy. The tiered pricing thing can be very handy. So glad they went with your top tier – it was obviously irresistible!

    I’ve had an up and down month myself. I had lots of work that was commissioned before the crisis hit, but not so much has come in since. I’d normally have the whole of April in the bag right now and I have one project and that’s it.

    Next week I’m going to pick a few webinars to listen to and try to get my pitching / introducing / business hat back on and figure out how I want to navigate around this, but I’m optimistic that once we get past the ‘freak out’ stage clients are going to want and need content. I hope so, anyway!

    • lindyalexander says:

      Ha, I’m not sure about that Rach! But I think it’s a great way to present a content proposal and I’ll be doing it more in the future for sure!
      I’m sorry to hear that April is looking bare at the moment, but I love your approach of watching some webinars and then strategising. I’m not quite at the stage yet – much more in the hibernate and bake stage!!

  • Amanda Woods says:

    First can I just say thank you so much for sharing all that you do in here. I’m a relatively new reader (and first time commenter) and I’m so glad to now be following along especially in these changing times.

    As a freelance travel writer I know just what you mean about receiving so many emails from wonderful PRs last week to say that they were finishing up in their jobs. There are so many people in so many industries that are hurting right now that it can be overwhelming. As much as I’m taking it in, I’m also limiting my news and social media intake so that I don’t spend all day worried about what’s happening to our world.

    After being busy with deadlines last week for the first time in forever I now have a clear writing slate after all the stories on my To Write list were either scrapped or put on ice. It’s a really strange feeling, but I’m hoping there’ll be fresh story opportunities this month from my favourite editors, and I’m also going to try reaching out to new editors I’ve wanted to work for but haven’t had the time to pitch to in the past.

    I’m also going to be giving my travel blog some love. It’s taken a back seat for a while as I had so much other work on, but now that long list of blog ideas will have a chance to be born. And then there are all the things around the house that I never have the time to do between trips. And the books I’ve been wanting to read. And shows to watch.

    So while April is the first empty diary month I can remember, I’m actually excited about it. I’ve no idea what’s going to happen with the blank slate but look forward to finding out.

    • lindyalexander says:

      It was so lovely to read your comment Amanda – thank you. I love that you are finding and embracing the promise of an empty ‘to do’ list. I was really good a few weeks ago at limiting social media and news, but have slipped back this past week, so your comment was the perfect reminder that I need to create that space again. How great that you’ll have time to explore all those untold stories for your travels and feed your blog. Check back in and let us know how you go?

      • Amanda Woods says:

        Thank you and that I shall. I’m so glad we actually have the ability to keep in touch with people through all of this and to help each other through these rapidly changing times 🙂

  • Ara Jansen says:

    Hi Lindy – once again thanks for your honesty and transparency. Even though there are a lot of people talking at the moment, I’m not finding a lot of voices I want to pay attention to. I enjoy the way you write about the wins but also share the things which don’t work, acknowledging the pain but without the hysteria.

    I too have found jobs which were in the bag and going to be great anchors for the year have been put on hold. It certainly puts a crimp in the finances. And you can’t yell at your clients because it’s not their fault. Other jobs have simply evaporated. The coming months are going to be tough. It’s also tough suddenly thinking it’s time to write that book or start a new project. While I do have time, keeping life together feels like a bigger priority.

    Thanks for keeping a lantern lit for the rest of us….

    • lindyalexander says:

      Thank you for your lovely words Ara. Yes, keeping life together does feel like a huge priority and I find myself unable to concentrate on any creative projects for any length of time. But like you say, everything and everyone is in flux and it’s nobody’s fault. I hope you manage to find some space for calm (I wish that for myself too!) – keep us posted on how you’re going.

  • Since I’m still gearing up for life as a freelance writer, I have nothing to say about March in particular other than I am putting the final touches to my website. While I still have my permanent part-time job to tie me over, and consider myself to be financially secure, I know what it’s like to be without an income for an extended period and all the lying-awake-at night stress and worry that came with all that.
    As most of the commentators are predicting, the world will be a very different place once this is all over. I have had more than my fill of commentators.
    I worry more about my son who will soon leave school and expects to have a job on the other side.
    I worry about my wife who can’t get back to Germany to take care of her widowed mother.
    Yesterday, I sat in on an online session on how to write fiction with the author Charlotte Woods. A great session which I will write up and put on my blog. As she noted at the end of her talk, even during earlier pandemics, writers have still written and produced great work.
    I hope you all find a safe harbour during these roiling weeks and months.
    Stay away from the rip that is social media.
    regards

    • lindyalexander says:

      Thank you Richard, as always, for your thoughtful comment. It’s a pervasive sense of worry, isn’t it? Worry for your wife’s family, your son’s future … for lots of us, the worry goes far beyond what we’re experiencing now. The session with Charlotte sounds wonderful. If you can, come back and let us know when you’ve written the piece for your blog – I’d like to read it. Stay safe and keep well.

  • Last month was a bit of a rollercoaster mostly because here in Cyprus we went into lockdown and I’ve been trying to deal with the emotional and psychological side of the virus reaching my hometown. I already work from home but now that I can’t leave the house I’ve had to change my routine a bit and just figure out (or try to) how to stay sane and calm. That’s been my priority this month as all of this is still so new. Work has definitely dropped, several freelance gigs have been cancelled, but I’ve also been given the opportunity to write more interesting pieces at my stable job which is exciting! It’s a process but I think this is a great time to get creative and work through it. The only thing we can do is keep going (though some days I just binge Netflix and bake cakes and I’m fine with that!)

    • lindyalexander says:

      I love that this has given you the opportunity to write more interesting pieces Eleni, that’s a definite positive. And I think you’re right – once we get our head around it, there are definitely opportunities for us because the whole world seems to have hit “pause” for at least the next couple of months. Stay safe and keep baking those cakes!

  • Lauren says:

    Thank you for your post Well done for March. Wow.
    I’ve been having a hard time focusing and sending out pitches. I was on a roll in January and February, where I landed 5 pitches. Success for me! I feel I’ve gone through a whirlwind of emotions. Initially, I was in “productivity mode” without being productive at all. I realized that it was my way of distracting myself from everything going on and trying to feel like I had control when I really have none. Now I’m taking more time for me, even if it means my writing work is on hold for a few days or a few weeks. There is so much to navigate right now.
    I’m also in Spain where we’ve been in quarantine for over 2 weeks and we’re not allowed to take walks or go in nature- only essential shopping or doctors visits are permitted. I’ve been practicing gratitude and looking at what I do have but it’s a strange time and stranger to have things, like walks outside taken away from me.

    I’m also noticing social media is a bigger distraction than help and am contemplating deleting instagram from my phone for a while.

    Thanks for posting and sharing your thoughts. Some sense of routine is really crucial at these times so thanks for continuing to write and send out these posts. 🙂

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Lauren, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you had a great start to the year with your five commissions. But I totally understand the need to put work on hold while you’re trying to get through this time. It must be really strange to have the outside world so close yet not to be able to go out any time you want. I agree about social media. I’ve taken FB off my phone and am thinking of doing the same with IG and Twitter. I’m noticing that I’m feeling mentally exhausted at the end of the day and I have no doubt that social media plays a huge role in that.
      Thanks again for your comment – I hope you continue to stay safe and well and that it’s not too long before you can go for long, slow walks outside.

  • Monica Evans says:

    Hi Lindy,

    I was really touched by the emotion and vulnerability in this last post.

    I wanted to say first up how massive this blog has been for me in getting my own freelance writing/science communications business off the ground, and feeling OK about being ‘business-like’ after a decade of working for not-for-profits! I’ve been using your target monthly income spreadsheet and it’s been super helpful; in this last year I’ve earned the most I ever have, even working part-time and getting to spend heaps of time with my toddler at home. Thank you so much for all that you do!

    My work has been pretty stable this past month – lately I have been helping create content for online conferences and courses, so I think I’ve been quite lucky that those things are now in high demand! Definitely finding it hard to focus and feeling the weight of the collective world exhaustion, though…

    One thing I have loved this month is that it’s suddenly super easy to get hold of people for interviews – so many of the scientists who would normally be in the field or jet-setting to conferences and meetings are stuck at home and usually seem delighted to chat to someone outside their bubble. There is this real sweetness and intimacy about chatting to each other from our basements, sleep-outs and kitchen tables – it magnifies the feeling that we’re all humans stumbling through this unknown world together.

    All the best,
    Monica

    • lindyalexander says:

      Oh Monica, thank you for your words. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to read your comment and that you feel like this blog has helped you. And yes, that’s such a great point about people suddenly being available – I’m finding the same thing. There’s a commonality when I interview people now and everyone seems to be keen to find out how everyone else is coping. I’m so glad that your work has been stable and I hope that you’ve managed to find the space a little bit of time for yourself and your son.

  • Martina says:

    Grrrr I loved your article!
    It’s been interesting as Feb and early March were months where I could really feel my biz starting to take off, but now most of it is on hold. The main challenge for me has been to stay focused, and trying to come up with content for my travel blog. But I’m like…speechless! My brain has been jumping from here to there wanting to play board games and do yoga. That comes with a bit of guilt of feeling I’m ‘not showing up’ but whatever, I’m being kind with myself.

    I live 13,000 km away from my family, and I don’t know when I’m going to see them -I was supposed to travel in June, That’s been cancelled now, so I guess I’m just processing this fact. I miss my family, I’m far from them, and I can’t just jump on a plane.

    On the bright side, I’ve been quite productive as a house goddess growing my first indoor veggie garden, learning about succulents, staying active and I just joined a bussiness mentoring program.

    I also agree we need to re-frame the way we travel, among other things.

    Thanks for sharing, now I know I’m not the only one struggling to stay focused!

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Martina,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so sorry to hear that you can’t visit your family. It’s a weird kind of grief, isn’t it? I love that you’re embracing your inner house goddess! The veg garden sounds delicious (and productive) and the yoga sounds like a perfect activity too. It definitely isn’t just you struggling with flitting between different activities and struggling to find focus. I’m right there with you!

  • Emma Lovell says:

    Thanks for being so open and honest Lindy. When you said you nearly cried. I also nearly cried,

    I hope april has been ok for you (it’s now may). No matter what happened, I hope we hear about it.

    I sent a kind little email to my former corporate writing clients (I do a lot more of that then the pitching). I just said I’m here and I always work from home so I’m working. It was after listening to a great podcast on Rachel’s List, I ended up getting three lovely replies (shows the importance of networking and reaching out) and I ended up booking in 3 months of solid work til the of the financial year.

    I’m one of the ones who’s ended up busier than ever and also trying to juggle projects that were on the one day list. So now trying to rest.

    I hope you’re well Lindy. And I’m so grateful for your advice and time you put into supporting the community.

    Also need to email you privately about some of your courses and coaching.

    Take care
    Emma

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Emma,
      Thanks for your lovely comment. I’m so glad that you reached out to former clients (and I love how you phrased that: a kind little email), but I hear you – it would be nice to have acres of space and time (and the financial security) to pursue some passion projects (or simply to rest). I hope you’re managing to carve out some time for yourself. Always here if you need to chat re coaching or my course.

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