Tag Archives: how to freelance

How To Start Freelancing Part 4: Rejection Letters

how to start freelancingby Joe Wallace

Once you have studied a publication, done some homework on who to send your query letter to and have written up a query (we’ll cover that in another installment) you hit the mailbox or e-mail and wait for a reply.

At this stage, new freelancers often have the same two questions: how long does it take to get a reply, and what happens if they turn me down?

The answer to question one? There is no set answer–it all depends on the publication. In my own personal experience two things usually happen when the editor is actually interested in working with y ou–you’ll either get a reply right away (a week or two in some cases, but I’ve had editors write me same day when there’s something they really like) or you might hear back from the editor in a year, saying “I was interested in this when I saw it last year but got busy and forgot about it. Would love to work with you NOW, though.”

Then again, editors get swamped with work, and their idea of an immediate response will definitely vary from yours. Patience is the name of the game.
When it comes to rejection, in my experience two things tend to happen–especially in the early stages of your freelance career. There’s either no reply at all, or a quick note to say “thanks, but we’re full.” A detailed reply in my own experience was rare. But that’s not to say they don’t happen. When gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson was trying to land work, he often got detailed replies thanks in part to the outrageous nature of the queries he often sent.

My rejection letters, which in the early days included Wired magazine and Writer’s Digest, were quite informative–if you get an actual rejection letter that isn’t a glorified form letter, read it carefully. My rejection letters taught me plenty. Wired told me my stories were good, but too late–the editor himself had already written a couple of pieces on the subjects I wanted to cover. In other words, I hadn’t done my homework properly.

My rejection from Writer’s Digest told me there was a line a mile long to get into that magazine and that I should find creative ways to sell my pieces to different magazines that had less competition. And that’s one of the keys of being a successful freelancer–learning where to submit your work where there isn’t as much competition as with Popular Magazine X  or Insanely Trendy Website Y that EVERYBODY wants to submit a query to….

How to Start Freelancing Part 2

how to start freelancingby Joe Wallace

In my first post on How To Start Freelancing (part one of 1,000,000) I discussed how to properly outfit yourself to do the work. From here we’ll assume you’ve got your tools and are ready to get started. What next?

Let me start by saying there are very few hard and fast rules about freelancing that apply to all comers. The first hard and fast rule you should take to heart is this:

The freelance journey is a personal one. It’s almost like spirituality–it NEVER works exactly the same for everybody. The sooner you accept the fact that you’ll be engaging in a unique journey that won’t go exactly as planned, the quicker you can recognize opportunities that come your way as legitimate ones. Even when they’re non-traditional, unusual, or otherwise not written about in the how-to-freelance books.

Now that we have THAT out of the way, here’s some specific advice on what to do next.

Evaluate the subject matter areas you know best and try to focus your earliest efforts on writing on these subjects. What magazines are you interested in within your specialized knowlege areas? Don’t discount ANY of your hobbies, either. Take stock of the websites and mags you read that cater to your passions and consider writing for these publications first.

Whatever you do, don’t just fire off a query letter at this stage–instead, look at the mags in question and ask yourself the most important question you can ask before going to an editor. “What is this mag NOT doing that I as a reader would not just like, but LOVE to read?”

Once you have an answer to that question you stand a fair chance of getting a GOOD response from the editor of that web page or magazine. Outline the article, write a first draft and see how you like it. We’ll go over next steps in the next post in this series.

One important note–as your career develops there’s a very good chance that you will NOT be writing the articles ahead of time and trying to pitch them later. But you have to get started somewhere and this is a very good way to clarify your thinking in the early days when you’re second-guessing yourself to death. We’ll cover how to stop doing that in a later post.

joe wallace editor/writer

Joe Wallace is a full-time freelance editor, writer, and pro blogger. He has been writing professionally since 1991. His gigs include web editing for Motorola.com, social media and copy writing for FHA.com and VALoans.com, he ghost writes and runs the retro/vinyl junkie site Turntabling.net. Contact him at jwallace242 (at) gmail.com. Continue reading How to Start Freelancing Part 2

How To Start Freelancing (Part One of 1,000,000)

how to start freelancingby Joe Wallace

Here we go–a series of posts that breaks it all down by the numbers–how to start a freelancing career in 1,000,000 easy steps.

Freelancing is a journey that never ends–unless you give up and find something else to do with your time. I have so many people asking me on a weekly basis that I figured it’s high time to start dispensing some helpful information from the ground up. So if you’re reading this, lucky soon-to-be-freelancer, congratulations–this is the first step in a very long and profitable journey.

Away we go.

Let’s start with the simplest of simple basics. In order to begin freelancing you need a basic set of tools to do the work. I don’t mean SKILLS, we’ll assume you have some rudimentary understanding of how to write (Subject, object, verb, noun, etc.). Like any money making venture, you need gear and resources to get your work rolling. A carpenter has her saws, hammers, screwdrivers and drills. A doctor has surgical knives, an operating table, etc.

A freelancer needs the following:

A computer equipped with Word. No, Word is NOT required, but this is the software that 99.999% of the editors in my experience will use to read your work. OR they will use something that is Word-compatible. You can use any program you like as long as you can save your documents in a Microsoft Word “Compatibility Mode” formatted document.If you don’t know what compatibility mode is, you will soon learn–we’ll cover that in a different post.

A RELIABLE Internet connection. Don’t be held hostage to the sporadic hours of that free Internet connection if you can help it. You’re going to need to be able to research, write and submit at any time day or night.

A reliable phone connection. Freelancers should be available to do their business at any time they can grab five minutes to coordinate, negotiate, interview or be interviewed. It’s a mistake in the long term to rely on those pay-as-you-go cell phones, borrowed phone lines or other temporary solutions. You’re building a business and if you need to develop a steady income to afford a cell phone line or home phone, try to keep your time spent on borrowed phone time as minimal as possible–get your own professional gear!

Once you have these three tools, you can truly launch your career. You’ll be able to get on line and in touch with editors, fellow freelancers and your sources at will. Some may think this first entry in our ongoing series is far too basic, but it’s my mission in life to outline the freelance journey in excessive detail–some people genuinely don’t realize they NEED their own phone and Internet connection in order to get started.

It’s easy to assume you can use that free wi-fi connection at the local library or the phone at Mom’s place to do some freelance business in the early days–until you get a tight deadline for a paying gig you really want and find yourself in dire need of a set of long-distance phone calls and online research just at the wrong time. Hence the very basic start to our series. Continue reading How To Start Freelancing (Part One of 1,000,000)

Helpful Tips on Staying in the Loop

Roller Coaster

By Amanda Smyth Connor

Who has enough hours in the day to work and stay on top of all of the industry trends? It’s tough, but not impossible.

Helpful Tips on Staying in the Loop:

5. Use your Google Reader. You have the lovely world of Google Reader right at your fingertips. You can add the URL of every website that you follow and Google Reader will create an RSS feed for you based on the sites you add. I’ve got NPR, CNN, Freelance-Zone and various other blogs on my reader list. This way, whenever I have a few free minutes, I can open Reader like a newspaper and see all of the blog and site updates without having to visit each and every site.

4. Make life easier – Follow Guy Kawasaki. He is doing most of the footwork for you by filtering out the best blogs for various industries, including social media and freelance writing. He also has some great humor blogs listed on his site (check out The Bloggess, she’s amazing.)

3. Read Freelance-Zone. (Guess you can cross that one off the list.)

2. TWEET. TWEET LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT! Sure, we all remember a few years ago when Twitter was born. It was new and weird and seemed pointless. Today far too few freelance writers are taking advantage of Twitter. No time to read all of the blog updates of the day? I guarantee every blog and news organization you follow has a Twitter handle. Follow them and many will Tweet only their best blogs/stories of the day. This helps you filter through the muck.

Everyone is using Twitter. You can job hunt through Twitter, make friends in the writing industry, get insider news, market yourself, learn about new trends, market yourself and oh….market yourself. If you AREN’T using Twitter to market yourself you are missing one of the best opportunities for free marketing…of…all…time. It’s FREE. FREE MARKETING! Please tell me you are all using it and are following people other than Obama and The Onion. And don’t bother being modest. Showcase yourself. No one ever got hired for their “respectable use of modesty.” Be a Diva and let the Twitterverse know that you freakin’ rule.

1. Don’t be afraid to jump on new trends. If you’ve heard through the grapevine that a new networking site has popped up, or a new piece of useful technology is floating around, (Hello Google Buzz) give it a try. I get invited to 10 new networking sites every week. Will they all last? Probably not. Does it hurt to give them a shot? Certainly not. Some might even make your life a little easier, and who knows where that next client might be lurking.

Run Your Freelance Career Like a Business: Advertise

929523_business_cardby Joe Wallace

Why is the business card in the picture above blank? Believe it or not, that’s how a lot of freelancers treat themselves. Instead of running their freelance careers like a business, they squander their energies with little or no direction.

To survive in business you must do three things:

1. Offer good products or services at a competitive price.

2. Be active in the community where you want to do business.

3. Advertise and promote your brand.

A lot of freelancers get the first two right but fall down on the job when it comes to #3, promoting your brand. I can hear some now saying, “But I already have a Twitter account and a Facebook page!”

Twitter and Facebook are inded critical parts of the puzzle. But take a look at any successful business today and you’ll see how they approach social media is more of a means to an end when it comes to PR and self-promotion–not the end itself.

Your self-promotion efforts should include Twitter and Facebook, but consider them to be communication channels instead of billboard advertising. What’s the difference?

Twitter and Facebook are seldom used (successfully) to actually SELL things. They’re most effective when used to make connections, network, and inform. People are leery of the hard sell on social media. But when was the last time you heard anyone complaining that a billboard or radio ad sales pitch was too self-serving? Continue reading Run Your Freelance Career Like a Business: Advertise

Confessions of an Editor: The Background Check

Let’s talk about stuff you can’t take back. Like tarting up your writer’s resume to make yourself look a bit more accomplished than you are. Or scaring potential paying clients away by a few ill-advised moves you think are harmless.

I won’t presume to speak for all editors, I’ll just speak for ME. As an editor, especially one who only just recently put out a call for writers, waded through the crap and hired multiple freelancers.

For me, there is a level of inexperience that I feel I can work with if a writer shows promise, or at least a willingness to learn. So at least in MY case, inexperience is not an automatic disqualifier. But what is?

Two things come immediately to mind. The first is when a freelancer comes to me with a resume full of clips designed to make them look like they have a lot of experience. Upon further investigation — about thirty seconds worth — I discover the resume is full of “pay per click” writing and stuff written for free. In fact, the sum total of the resume is this sort of thing.

This is pretty heinous–the mark of a rank amateur with no experience in the business whatsoever. Even so, as wretched as it is, believe it or not I am STILL willing to give this person a chance for another thirty seconds. Sadly for most in this boat, that thirty seconds comes and goes without me doing anything but deleting the resume and the e-mail.

Why? Continue reading Confessions of an Editor: The Background Check