Finding Writing Assignments, by Kelly Boyer Sagert

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.

Lifelong Learner

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.

Persistent

Be persistent in looking for writing assignments and learn from rejections. Your strategy for finding quality freelance jobs might include regularly consulting these resources:

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.

Flexible

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.

Strategic

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.

Generous

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.

KellyKelly 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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Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: mccance.wendy@gmail.com

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5 thoughts on “Finding Writing Assignments, by Kelly Boyer Sagert

  1. Pingback: Blog posts about writing: I have been blogging, honest!Kelly Boyer Sagert

  2. Thanks for the great tips Kelly. I really like the half full perspective. It helps overcome the jitters of sending your pitches out there. I’m going to put your saying above my computer for when I’m hesitant about hitting send.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Kristine! Much appreciated. I certainly wasn’t strategic early on in my career and that failing slowed my progress. Best of luck to you in 2014!

  4. Very good post, Kelly! I like how you talked about strategic. You definitely can’t wing it, and I find that each year I have to readjust my strategy as to what editors are buying/what the demand seems to be. Thanks for being a voice for common sense and expertise!

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