Finding the Best Freelance Assignments: Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
Guest post by Kelly Boyer Sagert
When I was a teenager, I dreaded winter, with all of the ice and snow and darkness. But, when I would say that it was freezing outside, my father would say, “The air is nice and fresh today” or he’d tell me to think about how good spring would feel in contrast. And, yes. Even now he sometimes needs to brighten my perspective.
There’s almost always a “half empty” and a “half full” way to look at life and that includes freelance writing.
Half empty: There are so many freelance writers out there and most of them have more experience than I do.
Half full: There is an endless supply of writing work that needs done for companies and publications – and I have a strategy to find the best ones for me.
Half Full Strategy
I am a lifelong learner and will be persistent, flexible and strategic as I build my freelance career, being generous with others along the way.
If you embrace (not merely accept, but embrace) this as your strategy, then your chances of getting larger numbers of assignments will increase. Here’s the breakdown.
You are never done developing yourself as a writer. Ever. Continue to hone your skills through practice, by taking classes and attending relevant webinars, reading helpful books and articles and so forth. This will put you ahead of writers who are merely coasting at their current skill levels. Network, too, at writer’s conferences and on social media channels. You never know where you’ll find the next lead for a writing assignment and you may also befriend mentors.
Be persistent in looking for writing assignments and learn from rejections. Your strategy for finding quality freelance jobs might include regularly consulting these resources:
- Writer’s Market: you can get a print version or, for a little bit more money, print and online access
- Freelance Writing Gigs
- Writer’s Weekly
- Get CopywritingJobs(I’m just checking this one out myself)
- Media Bistro
- Morning Coffee
- Journalism Jobs
- Craigslist sites, such as this one in New York
This is far from a comprehensive list, but it’s an excellent baseline.
As far as rejections, you can’t let them slow you down. But, as a lifelong learner, you can benefit from them. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of rejections; ones where:
- You had control over what happened
- You did not have control over what happened
Here’s an example of the first. If you got rejected because you submitted a piece that didn’t fit the requirements, ones that could be discovered by reviewing writer’s guidelines and/or by carefully reading already published work, then you made a mistake. No use sugarcoating it. So, learn from your goof-up. How can your discovery process be different next time so that you can increase your chances of acceptance?
If, however, you got rejected because the publication simply had too many submissions, and there wasn’t a reasonable way for you to know this, then the rejection was out of your control and you simply need to move on. To continue being persistent.
Let’s say that you want to write the Great American Novel. That’s great. Seriously. But, in the meantime, be willing to accept writing assignments that will advance your career in at least one of these ways:
- Financially: you can start earning more money, which can help build your confidence and get you one step closer to your freelancing goals
- Prestigious-wise: you can build up your resume with impressive bullet points, which makes it easier to get the next plum assignment
- Scope-wise: you can develop more specialties, which broadens the job possibilities
By being flexible in what writing work you’ll do, you will build up a portfolio of work more quickly – and, let’s face it. Which of these two options will impress the editor you really want to dazzle?
- Hi, my name is Sam and I’ve been published 500 times. Examples include . . .
- Hi, my name is Sam. I’ve never been published before. Will you take a big risk and be the first?
Note that I’m not suggesting that you take on work that you find morally objectionable or work that pays you very little with scant returns.
Take a look at what you’ve already published. What’s the next logical step? Let’s say that you recently published an article about how not to gain weight over the holidays. One next step would be to find out what other articles that editor can use from you. Another logical next step is use that article as a clip and query other relevant publications with diet/fitness/exercise articles, since you have already shown that you can write in that field. (Check Writer’s Market, listed above, for relevant publications.)
Try to use each published piece as a springboard to another publishing credit; in this way, you’re building a platform and are naturally climbing up the freelance ladder, rung by rung. Create a presence that is so professional that editors will be contacting you.
Discover what writing opportunities fellow freelancers are looking for and then send them leads. After all, not every job will be right for you – but most will be perfect for someone. It’s likely that some of these writers will someday return the favor. If not, so what? You’ve done the right thing.
Kelly Boyer Sagert is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Society of Professional Journalists. She has traditionally published a dozen books and is working on two more. She has been commissioned for three full-length historical fiction plays, one of which is being made into a PBS documentary, and she has published thousands of articles. She has taught writing online for Writer’s Digest since February 2000.
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