I went into May after a busy April determined to take things easy – not send out too many pitches and dedicate some time to thinking about a creative project I could take on. The beauty of being a fairly established freelance writer is that work tends to flow in, but it’s meant that I’ve found it hard to carve out non-work time. Despite this, I’m still feeling really positive about my writing and I’ve had an absolutely bumper month income-wise.
May – the month where I exceeded my income target dramatically
In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:
Pitched: 17 (I know this seems like loads, but this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected – and I had a lot of those this month!)
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 2
Offers: 10 (where the editor approached me with a commission)
In terms of feature articles for corporate and B2B clients: (I don’t pitch these)
After my famil to Queensland last month, I have tried (fruitlessly, it must be said) to get some extra stories out from that trip, but so far, no cigar. I’ve always managed to get at least two stories from each press trip I go on, so I am determined to find homes for a couple more stories, but I need to revise my pitches, because they are falling decidedly flat the moment.
I think Anna Spargo-Ryan said that she looks at every rejection as a step closer to a ‘yes’ – so I’m looking at my nine rejections this month and thinking I must be close to a commission, right?
Lowlights of the month
I’ve been giving myself a bit of a rough time lately because my travel articles aren’t as lyrical as I’d like them to be. I’m so used to writing features that don’t need to be uber descriptive that I’ve been struggling to write evocative travel articles.
So you know what I did? I turned to some of Australia’s best travel writers for inspiration.
Well, that turned out to be a crappy idea because reading amazing travel writing made me feel much, much worse about myself as a writer. I found myself thinking that for the kind of travel writing I wanted to produce, I needed uninterrupted time to craft beautiful sentences, but I just didn’t have it. So I did the best with the time I had, but I must admit I wasn’t 100% happy with what I produced.
I’ve also been back-and-forth with an editor over a story for weeks. It’s a long, convoluted (and not very interesting) story (the story of the article, not the story itself!), but I think I’ve put at least six hours into this piece already and I haven’t even done any of the interviews or the writing. So much of it has been liaising with PR and the editor, and I’ve wanted to pull the pin multiple times. But I’m very mindful that this editor is also connected with lots of other editors I work with and I know that if I don’t go through with the story, the editor will have to start the whole, painful process again with another freelance writer.
Highlights of the month
By far and away the highlight of my month was getting an email from one of the freelance writers that I coached in April.
After she emailed me with the news that she had tripled her income in May, I asked her if she would be happy to write a testimonial and this is what she said:
I booked a session with Lindy after a particularly tough month of freelancing. I wasn’t satisfied with that month’s earnings and felt I was spending too much time looking for story ideas or pitching to editors I scarcely knew, rather than getting on with work that came to me.
The session was invaluable for me – I came away with so many leads for sourcing work and placing stories. We also discussed a pitch I was having trouble finding a home for, and I realised I need to think more about why it would interest an editor’s readers rather than why I think it’s interesting per se.
I followed Lindy’s advice and by the following week, I had a commission for $4000. That was just incredible to me. By the end of the month, I had tripled my income from that lousy month. I am really grateful for Lindy’s generosity in sharing contacts and helping me see that I need to approach the hunt for new work a bit more strategically, rather than firing off a few LOIs every now and again.
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Lindy’s mentoring sessions and I know that it will be the first thing I invest in again when I realise my freelance career needs a refreshing.
– Jessica Mudditt
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to receive this email.
The writers I coach all come to me with strong writing skills and a real determination to succeed (whatever succeeding may look like for them); they often “just” need to talk through some strategies and ideas of how to systematically go about building up their freelance business.
And I also appreciated so many of you getting in touch with me with ideas about creative pursuits I could undertake. One writer suggested Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I read many moons ago, but I’ve been reading it this month and have felt utterly nourished by the messages in this book. Do you know it?
I have marked so many pages in the book, but this passage really resonated with me:
“I do not know of any creative soul who does not dream of calm, cool, grass-growing days in which to work without interruption. Somehow, though, nobody ever seems to achieve it. Or if they do achieve it (through a grant, for instance, or a friend’s generosity, or an artist’s residency), that idyll is just temporary – and then life will inevitably rush back in.
Even the most successful creative people I know complain that they never seem to get all the hours they need in order to engage in dreamy, pressure-free, creative exploration. Reality’s demands are constantly pounding on the door and disturbing them.”
If only I had read that before I went looking for travel writing inspiration!
Gilbert goes on to write about how people manage to create even when it’s difficult and financially unrewarding. In a nutshell, she says people persist because “they are hot for their vocation” – just like when someone is having an extramarital affair they always seem to find time to have “wild, transgressive sex”.
I love this idea of making time for your creative pursuits as if they were an undeniable passion, because goodness knows I make time for things that don’t thrill me at all, but still complain that I don’t have enough time to do what I want.
And I felt utterly encouraged by these sentences in Gilbert’s book:
“You must stubbornly walk into that room … and you must hold your head high. You made it; you get to put it out there. Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it. You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time that you were given.”
So while I haven’t enrolled in any sewing courses or set aside time for a particular creative pastime, I am getting there. I’m also applying for a new writers’ scheme to resurrect a non-fiction book I started in 2009 (!), which definitely will require me to put on my creative thinking hat. But thank you – I appreciated all of your suggestions so much.
This month saw the announcement of this panel at the upcoming Emerging Writers Festival. I’m looking forward to sharing the stage with other freelancers and talking about maintaining a steady income, balancing commercial gigs with creative freedom, the importance of diversifying and forward planning as a freelance writer.
I think there’s a tendency to conflate “emerging” with “young”, so as someone in my (ahem) late 30s, I’m glad to have the opportunity to share what I know even though I’m still a relatively new freelancer and I’m looking forward to learning lots too.
I also had lunch with a new friend that I met on my Queensland famil – I’ve said this before, but press trips are so great for meeting likeminded people. This friend is an emerging writer too (see how that’s now code for ‘writer in their late 30s’) and I was reminded at how easy the conversation is amongst writers. I have been stuck thinking about where to pitch a couple of stories and since our lunch, I received text messages from this friend, who was brainstorming ideas of potential publications I could pitch.
Seriously, fellow freelancers are the best.
And I am talking with another friend who I met on a different famil about starting a small business together (because clearly I don’t have enough to do) so stay tuned!
Income report for May
May has been another big month for me.
I was commissioned $13,162 worth of work.
I invoiced for $14,161.
I set my income target of $7000 for this month and exceeded it by over $6,000.
It’s crazy to me that even though I’m working three days a week that this month’s income is close to my biggest month when I was freelancing full time.
And it’s great you know, but money certainly isn’t everything. I know that next month I could be writing this post having only earned a fraction of that total.
What makes me happy is that I’m in a place where I’m loving what I’m doing (most of the time).
But you know what would really make me happy? If my partner hurried up and made the Katherine Sabbath cake he promised me!
How was your May? Are you finding time for creative pursuits?