Oh October, what did you do to me? By the middle of the month, I felt like I was in a slump. I only had a couple of thousand dollars worth of work commissioned and felt flat and fatigued. But by the last few days of the month, it was a completely different story.
October – how my month turned around
I’ve come off the back of a couple of pretty big months and I had a very quiet start to October. In fact, by the middle of the month I was SO far away from my target monthly income that I thought there was no chance I’d make it.
But I have to admit I wasn’t feeling too stressed, not because I knew it would turn around, but I actually felt quite tired. It’s been such a huge year and I really enjoyed having a couple of slower weeks where I wasn’t working in the evenings and on weekends.
But then, of course, you know what happened don’t you? I got slammed with work.
In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:
Pitched: 5 (this includes re-pitching ideas that have been rejected)
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 2
Offers: 19 (where the editor approached me with a commission)
I know those numbers above don’t look particularly extraordinary, but they probably don’t quite reflect the amount of work and number of articles I’m working on.
In the middle of October a lovely content marketing manager I have worked for previously got in touch to see if I’d be keen to write several articles for her. Of course I was and a few articles turned into 21.
I haven’t been briefed on them all yet and so haven’t included them all in the numbers above but they are going to keep me busy for the next few weeks at least. And the joy of these articles is that the briefs that accompany them are so detailed. I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of being briefed well.
Some articles just keep coming back to you.
This month two articles I had written for Australian magazines return to me with requests for revisions. One was a major rewrite with the editor requesting input from a new case study and the other was a lot of back and forth with the editor.
This is, of course, part of the job and I know that until a piece is published, that your work is never quite done. But for the latter article, it’s a passion project (paying 20c/word) but repeated requests for revisions and “more beautiful quotes” from case studies has tended to drain my passion slightly!
I’ve also had to put my big girl pants on this month. Not once, but a couple of times.
I’m working on a big research project that was due in the middle of December, but I received an email from the research manager saying the deadline was now the middle of November.
Not asking me, but telling me.
Like any people-pleaser, I tried to work out how the hell I was going to bring the deadline forward. How was I going to fit in all the interviews and additional days of work into my already packed schedule? I went on to the Freelance Jungle Facebook group to ask advice.
It was fab. The community were so full of sage advice and wise words. Ginger Gorman even scanned some pages of her Power Phrases book to help me find the words I needed to politely, but firmly, push back.
I now I have new agreement with the research manager – one that we are both happy with.
I also went to a Women in Media event run by the MEAA. I love talking to people, but I’m not a natural extrovert so going along to a networking night where I didn’t know anyone was a bit nerve-wracking.
The night was like speeddating but with 10 high profile editors. The editors had six minutes at each table (with three or four people at each table) and we could ask them anything we liked.
It was fantastic. I realised how much pressure editors are under – for page views, clicks, engagement time and so on. While I might feel that I’m only as good as my last article, editors also feel the pressure about how many eye-balls they have reading their content.
But there have been disappointments
I had spent a fair bit of time developing pitches for a couple of inflight magazines who were keen to send me overseas for destination stories for their publications. But in the end, they went with a local freelancer because I couldn’t travel to the destination soon enough. I don’t have hard feelings because I know that nothing is guaranteed, but I do feel slightly sorry for all the hours and hours I lost researching stories and coming up with interesting pitches.
I was also commissioned to write five or so articles about fairly heavy topics for a news site. Not since my social work days have I been on the other end of a telephone with people weeping about their life’s situation.
It really brought back to me the enormity of this job, of the pressure and responsibility we carry in asking people to tell their stories to us and the faith they put in us by entrusting that we will share their history and words with sensitivity and kindness.
But other nice things have happened
I was interviewed for a Q & A for HEEK, a startup that makes websites.
I also was successful in my application to get a mentor through the MEAA. We had our first meeting last week and I think it’s going to be great. She’s a straight-talking, super experienced editor who is doing interesting work online and is more than happy to drive to my little country town once a month to meet.
Ok, so, you said you had a slow start to the month. How did you end up financially?
By the middle of October, I had about $2,500 worth of work commissioned.
But by the last day of the month, I was adding new rows in my spreadsheet.
I’ve had over $10,500 worth of work commissioned in October and invoiced for over $9K.
But I have to say … I’m looking forward to a rest over Christmas. Is two months too long to wait for a break?!
How was your October? Have you set and reached any goals this month?
Oh Lindy, what a bummer about the O/S gig! Sorry to hear this, but I know it WILL happen soon!
Thanks Mich, yes a real pity. But in some ways I’m kind of glad – I thought work might slow down in November but it looks like it’s only getting busier. So perhaps it wasn’t great timing for an OS trip after all.
Wow, what a month! Well done on the new commissions, 21 articles, that’s really fantastic. I coasted a bit in the first part of October and ended up a bit frantic, what with the children being off for the last week of it. I’ve learned my lesson, and I shall start November at full throttle. A shame about the in-flight magazine gigs, hopefully they’ll give you something down the line. It must be harrowing to listening to people in distress; good that you will be telling their story for them though. Good luck in November Lindy.
Thanks Claire. I definitely know that feeling of taking it easy and then panicking as the month comes to the end! I hope your plan of attacking November early goes well!
Fabulous post as always Lindy, you’re a star!
Thanks so much Emily!
Wow!!!! Way to go!!! You inspire me!! Thank you!
Thank you Janine 🙂
Wow, good job! You are an inspiration. It’s amazing how much hard work and hustle from freelance, isn’t it!
Thank you so much Kristin!
What a useful post, Lindy, i’ve picked up so much information. Starting with the Power Phrases and having a look at the book online as I can sure use the phrases in other areas of my work.
It is annoying and very disappointing when a pitch you work really hard for doesn’t come through; I often find writing the perfect pitch is almost half as hard as the article depending on the editor/publication.
And I’ll be following your mentoring journey closely as i’ve heard that works really well. I wish/wonder if they have similar mentoring pathways for creative writers…
Thanks again Lindy for being such an inspiration.
The parts that Ginger scanned to me were fantastic Zohra – I often find that picking the right words in those situations can be so tricky so it was super helpful. And yes, I think sometimes writing a pitch can be just as tricky as writing the piece!
I’m sure there would be similar mentoring schemes out there for people in creative writing.
Thanks for your lovely comment.