I have been at this freelance writing gig for about nine months now, and I have learned some pretty important stuff. First, choosing to start this right as Covid-19 took hold was probably not the best idea. Second, networking is the single best thing you can do to help yourself succeed.
I am an introvert so reaching out to people for help is uncomfortable. But, as I have done this more and more, I have gained some valuable insight about the writing marketplace, pitching and submitting, and the ever elusive rate to charge.
Since we are all home, for the most part, I have been reading a lot. The Byline Bible by Susan Shapiro was truly a holy source. Find my review and tips here. The craft books I have read have also helped immensely, but mostly in the make your writing better game. One of the single best groups I joined was a writing group on Facebook. Generally I consider FB the devil, but this writing network is the exception. For whatever reason, writing groups abound on FB, and many have specializations like food writing, or writing for Medium, or 10 Minute Novelists. All have been priceless! I have gained so many mentors and friends to help with the isolation of freelance writing.
The best thing you can do for yourself is find a writing community, one that helps you learn where to submit, how to pitch articles, volunteers to beta read for you, and helps you up your social media game. But, make sure it is reciprocal. Offer to read and critique, if you have a contact or source, share it, promote and celebrate their publications, support the others as they support you. I dare say I have made friends in these groups I hope to meet face-to-face one day and share a glass of wine. This article has a pretty good list of groups to start with.
From these groups I learned most editors and agents are on Twitter. Naturally, I started digging and following. I came across a tweet mentioning this substack, “Freelancing with Tim” and checked it out. Tim Herarra is the NY Times Smarter Living editor, and has started a free service to help freelancers in these difficult times. He has done a great deal of fundraising for furloughed journalists, but he also puts out a weekly newsletter and does Sunday night Zoom sessions with seasoned journalists where he explores some aspect of the murky world of freelancing. Did I say it is all free? He does have a subscription and donation system set up if you can afford to contribute.
My first one was “Pitch Perfect” and I was hooked. His guest was engaging and the insight into writing the pitch was gamechanging. I highly suggest you subscribe to his newsletter and attend some panels. You can find his substack here.
In his last session he mentioned another newsletter, Opportunities of the Week, by Sonia Weiser which again, changed my life. Weiser, a seasoned freelancer, puts a bi-weekly newsletter outlining all the recent calls for pitches. Yes, you read that correctly. She does the research, finds the contacts and puts it all together in a newsletter for you to access for a paltry $3 per month, or more if you can afford it. I have only received two of these gold mines and already successfully pitched 4 articles- two in my wheelhouse of food writing. It also clued me in to who I should be following on Twitter. You can find her newsletter sign-up here.
This week has also brought on a storm of organization as I start to merge all my editor and agent contacts into one Google Sheet I can work from as I pitch. I did not go to school for journalism. I have six coming publications and a number out on pitch right now, and I owe it mostly to networking, and a little to tirelessly reading, writing, and revising.