the month in review

September – the month of trying new things

By October 3, 2017 June 29th, 2019 10 Comments

2017 has been a bit of an experiment. This time last year my partner and I had finally decided that I would work as a freelance writer full time and he would be the stay-at-home parent. I promised myself that at the end of each month I would review how I was going – was I pitching enough? Marketing myself enough? Writing articles on topics that fascinated me? Was I happy? Most of all I wanted to make sure that I was trying new things in the writing world and this month I definitely have.

September – the month of trying new things 

To be a freelance writer you have to be nimble and adaptable. It can be kind of exhausting as you are managing so many things at once – pitches, follow ups, invoices, interviewing, writing, having a niche (or not), productivity – the list goes on. 

But it’s also exhilarating. 

So many opportunities have come my way this month and I’m super grateful for them. 

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

Rejections: 3

Offers (where the editor approached me with a commission): 12

Filed: 13

But this month has been particularly special because I tried new things – I went on my first group press trip (or ‘famil‘), tried out a new platform for freelance writers to find work and pitched more new editors (and was commissioned).

Going on my first group press trip

The best part of my working month in September was going on a food and travel famil. I must admit I was slightly apprehensive before I went as this was my first press trip with other freelance writers, editors and journalists. Would we get along? What would they think of me with only five years of part time freelance writing experience and nine months of full time freelancing under my belt?

I needn’t have worried. By the end of the four days it felt more like I had been a mini-vacation with friends. We were looked after so well by the tourism body and by all the hosts at restaurants, cafes, wineries, cheeseries, chocolateries (hard life, I know!)

Even though the days were long (7.30am/8am – at least 10pm each day), I felt invigorated. I love writing about food because you get to meet people who are so passionate about what they grow, produce or create.

From the bush tucker tour where one brave member of our group bit into a wiggling witchetty grub (sometimes it’s a definite advantage to be a vegetarian!), to pouring hot chocolate sauce over a chocolate sphere dusted with dried raspberry to reveal a chocolate fondant and ice-cream inside, to breakfast at a café where the owner had us dabbing away our tears as he told us an epic story of family bonds, humility and passion, to the bottles of wine, olive oil and chocolates that we were presented with nearly everywhere we went, to trying pickle beer (I wouldn’t recommend it).

So often I’m in a small room on my phone interviewing these people, but being ‘out there’, made me realise I need to do it more often. You get a whole other kind of experience and depth to your writing when you meet people face to face and spend time with them. 

I know some travel writers complain about their job but really, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed for that experience, not to mention the friendships I struck up with quality writers, journalists and editors who share similar passions to me. 

And best of all, I learnt my lesson from July and made sure I only had minimal articles to file the week following my trip, leaving me plenty of time to write up my stories and pitch new ones. 

It hasn’t all been roses though … 

I’ve had a few hairy moments this month. An editor got in touch to say she had asked a case study multiple times for a photograph and if the case study didn’t provide one, they couldn’t run the story.

The magazine pay on publication so that would mean me losing around $1500. 

I reached out to the case study and she sent me countless images that I couldn’t use. 

Eventually, she sent me a headshot but let me tell you it was so stressful thinking that this article might stumble at the last hurdle. 

Another editor sent me back a story that I’ve already spent too much time on and asked me to rework it. She apologised for not giving me a clear enough brief at the time of commissioning, but I actually think it’s my fault for not clarifying the brief with her.

When you’ve filed an article it can often be bruising to get feedback like that or a request for major revisions, but like they say, ‘The editor is always right.’ 

And as I say to my five year old son (more in an effort to remind myself), they are only mistakes if we don’t learn from them. 

My income for September

My income has been pretty steady again this month. I was commissioned over $9500 worth of work and invoiced for over $10K.

Finally my income is evening out – while I’ve still got about $3K of invoices that are overdue, I’m getting into a groove of commissions, invoices and income that is pretty reliable.

At the start of the year I would have been glad to just support my family of four with some money left over to go out for dinner now and then. But this has been a huge year with me averaging over $9K of work commissioned each month.

I know lots of you think this is exceptional, but I don’t actually think it is. 

I know of other freelance writers earning this much, but they’re just not blogging about it.

As you know, I’m not terribly comfortable talking about money, but I think it’s high time we start challenging the notion that writers have to accept crappy pay and do it for the love of it.

If you are a skilled freelance writer, who meets deadlines and briefs, then you should be getting paid well for your words.

We don’t have the security of superannuation, sick leave or ongoing employment so we need to have adequate compensation for working article to article, invoice to invoice.

With three months left of this year, do you want to join me in trying new things? It might be increasing your hourly rate, looking up from freelancer platforms like Upwork and finding your own clients, taking a course, pitching more – whatever it is, do it. 

How was your September? Did you try anything new this month?

10 Comments

  • Michaela Fox says:

    The food famil sounds like my ultimate fantasy!!! I think I got distracted by the chocolate sphere/fondant description…you may have lost me after that 🙂 x

  • Collette Beck says:

    I just love reading your blog posts and after each and every one I feel energised to get back in the game. Maybe I’ll take on your challenge to try something different. I’ve fallen in to the ‘niche’ of writing in the parenting space, but sadly it just doesn’t pay enough to earn a decent living. Once the kids are back at school I’ll sit down and brainstorm some ways to break out of the not so comfortable ‘comfort zone’ of parenting.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      You have totally made my day saying that Collette! I think it’s really important to have ‘bread and butter’ jobs, but they can get stale (sorry, terrible pun). What got you into writing in the first place? Where would you love to see your byline? There are fewer steps to your ideal publication than you think. Let me know how you go.

  • Rachel Murphy says:

    Thanks so much for the mention Lindy. Loving reading about how well you’re doing. You are a massive inspiration to many who think it’s grim out there. You’re proof you CAN earn a good living as a freelance writer. GO YOU 🙂
    Rachel
    http://www.rachelslist.com.au

  • Ruth Dawkins says:

    Great post Lindy – as a fellow new(ish!) freelancer I really appreciate your honesty and insights. Interesting to read about your experience with TFC – I’d been wondering whether to sign up too. I know that with a new website the SEO benefits would be good, but I’m holding off for now.

    Fantastic to hear that work is going so well for you – hope October is just as good!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thank you Ruth. It was a hard decision to make about TFC. Because $9/month really isn’t very much money if you get one good client, but it was just one more thing to update (in terms of my bio), another Facebook group to be part of, and I think I actually prefer approaching potential clients/editors rather than the other way around.

  • Claire says:

    Well done on a great month Lindy. This time of year always feels good for a fresh start to me – children back at school, more time at home etc. I’m going to be spending some time looking at exactly what my end goals are and thinking about how to move towards them. I find it’s easy to get lost in the daily jobs and forget the bigger picture. Along with the writing work I’ve got on at the moment I want to keep track of where I’m going and make sure I’m not drifting. Glad the press trip was good, I enjoyed the food pics on Instagram. That chocolate thing! Oh my.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks so much Claire. That sounds like a great plan. It’s easy to just put your head down and keep working, but I think it’s always good to look up and make sure the work you are doing is inline with where you want to end up.
      I’m still recovering from all that food!

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