Freelancing for Newbies

Ah, the freewheeling life of a freelancer. It’s been just a few months freelancing and I’ve already learned some valuable lessons. To save future freelancers, I’ve written a list (a listed article is sometimes called a ‘listicle’) of the top five things NOT to do when starting out as a freelancer.

1.) Do not give away your time or talent.

It may seem tempting to give new customers a “deal” because you feel so grateful for the customer giving a job to a newbie, but nothing makes you seem more like a newbie than giving your talent away. It wreaks of desperation and in general, customers will take advantage. Once you set that precedent of being a push over, they will expect it in the future. Stand firm on your rate (assuming it’s  reasonable) and how much time you need to finish the project.

2.) Edit and then edit again.

Never ever turn in a project that has not been read through twice after finishing and read out loud at least once. Why? Editing your own work is hard because you know what you meant to write so your brain makes you see nothing but perfection most of the time. However, give it an out loud read and you’ll see more mistakes and hear more awkward wording. If you have another freelancer friend, trade editing work. Fresh eyes can help a lot.

3.) Outline articles before submitting a query letter

Frequently, I will send the basic query letter and get a response of “we’d like to know more. Please send more information on sources and content.” Basically, they want an outline of what your article will include. I suggest doing the outline before sending the query. This is because if a magazine or website shows interest, you want to send the outline immediately before they have time to forget about you. If you get an email from the magazine and they then have to wait on you, they may lose interest. In freelancing, you have to be fast!

4.) Make sure you actually have time to take on the project

As a freelancer, we tend to take on a lot of work at once (from time to time, anyway) because if the work in coming in, we usually can’t afford to turn down work. However, if you are overloaded with research heavy work or a lot of little projects, don’t continue to add to your workload. Yes, you will be losing some money but losing your reputation as a competent, responsible and talented freelance writer is a bigger loss.

5.) Treat this as a business from the very beginning

I know, from experience, that it is very tempting to stay in bed an extra hour in the morning. It might seem like a good idea to go for a long lunch followed by shopping. I get that you feel like you have a lot of time now that you aren’t leaving the house to work a traditional 9-5 but from the get go, you need to treat this like a business. Get up, get dressed (you feel more productive if you change out of pajamas- even changing into clean sweats and a t-shirt will make you feel more prepared to get down to business) and plan your day. Breakfast, check emails and get to work.Working as a freelancer has a ton of perks: work from home, no traffic, you are your own boss but you have to take it seriously

Working as a freelancer has a ton of perks: work from home, no traffic, you are your own boss but you have to take it seriously. Keep working at it and remember that this is your job. Treat it like one!

Feel free to comment below and share with fellow freelancers, please!

Golden Opportunities

I was reading a book about being a better you.  Self-improvement is a goal of mine (couldn’t hurt to become a BETTER me, right?).

I was reading and all the things were common sense or cliché: money doesn’t buy happiness (but it does buy my husband that big screen TV that he has been obsessing about) older people are happier (because they get the social security I’ll never get and don’t have to work), blah, blah, blah.

Boredom was setting in until I read, “are you taking advantage of all the opportunities offered to you?”  It made me think of my friend, we will call her M.  M is fabulous.  She is one of the most amazing people I have ever met.  A poet, performer, speaker, and author, she should be here in la la land with me making movies and doing readings and book signings.  But she isn’t.  I sat there and thought how it was really too bad she didn’t market herself more.  It was too bad she didn’t really push herself to do more social media marketing of her brand.

Then I read the question again.  “Are you taking advantage of all the opportunities offered to you?”  Oh.  This was about me, not M.

Redness flooded my cheeks and I knew the answer.  No, I do not take advantage of all the opportunities offered to me.  I am too scared or embarrassed to say to the person next to me, ‘hey, I’m a writer too, how did you get published?’  Or ‘how are you getting your short produced?’  Instead I sit quietly and let these golden opportunities pass me by.

Since moving here in June, I have worked on four movie projects, two features, one second unit feature and one short.  I did not network on a single one of them.  Its not in my nature, it doesn’t come easily to me.  But shit, it shouldn’t come easily!  If it did everyone would do it!

So now I have two new goals

1.)  be less judgey

2.)  be more proactive and push for what I want instead of waiting for my future to fall into my lap.

Are you taking advantage of all the opportunities offered to you?