More Lessons in Freelance Writing

Just over a year into full-time freelance writing, I recently realized that things could and should look better. I spent a few sleepless nights stalking other freelance writers on the web. Linkedin profiles, blogs, and personal websites of other people in my field, plus lots of advice from established freelance writers, pointed fingers at my mistakes. The biggest problem was my attitude. Basically, I wasn’t treating my freelance career as a full-time job. Writing a few articles every month and a short story or two, was not much with 24 long hours each day and no commuting to complain about. And of course, less work published means less money in the bank. My second big mistake was relying on one or two regular clients. One client still owes me money from January. While the other client is wonderful, a publication cannot have the same writer’s stories every week. That just doesn’t happen. Depending on the one or two regular clients also encourages extreme laziness that made me pretty much forget about the term ‘pitching an idea’. So, here are some changes I made in my routine:

– I drastically reduced my Facebook and gtalk chat time during the day. Even a freelancer needs office hours for discipline. I also figured out that it is best to work when others are working so that e-mail exchange is timely.

– I made a list of potential clients and started contacting editors. These are magazines, newspapers, and portals, that I’ve ignored just to stay in my comfort zone. Pitching at least one idea a day is part of my work schedule.

– Story ideas became priority. Every day, I sit in silence and think about possible feature articles and short stories I could write. Then I spend some time checking out relevant websites for more ideas and angles to my articles. Earlier, I hardly spent time thinking of ideas. If an idea suddenly came, I asked the editor/wrote the piece. Now I’ve made it a habit.

Just in four weeks or so, I can see a difference because my work has been accepted by new editors and I’ve been writing much more than before. When I worked in an office, I would feel the hours and get annoyed. Doing what I love to do, makes all the parts of my freelance job a positive challenge and makes me forget how long I’ve been working for!

Love and Lust

He needed her and she wanted him. He felt complete with her, but she experienced an intense hunger. They spoke on the phone as the world slept. Her eyes stayed glued to the television set, while his mind filled with loving thoughts of her laughter. When he held her hand with contentment, all she wanted was the nakedness. The day that the ring came, she wished he had been ugly.

Afternoon in the Bazaar

The fat eggplants rested by him. Most of the tomatoes and spinach had found homes that morning. It was too early to leave the bazaar but not too early to have his puffed rice. His hard worked, wrinkled hands, diced an onion to add some flavor to the humble snack. While he chewed and thought about life and beyond, his canine friend joined him. “Back from your long stroll, eh?” A little nod followed a happy bark and vigorous tail wag, before they shared the puffed rice and biscuits.

Bye Bye Hat

The leaves drifted away with the cruel wind. Every tree felt the impending nakedness. Across the rippling lake sat several flocks of birds. They struggled to hold their fur down, looking somewhat shy. The little boys and girls giggled with delight as their clothes threatened to fly away. One little child fought the busy air and water because he had to. Still, his hat could not be rescued.

Another Lesson Learnt

If you read my earlier post (March 13, 2013) called Lessons Learnt (so far), you know that my five years of freelance writing have taught me a lot about the field, social media, and people. I picked up another major realization recently; confidence (and sometimes, overconfidence) can win freelance writers and editors tons of work. I spend hours on Linkedin, noting every detail of other freelance writers’ profiles. I study the language they’ve used to describe their experiences and skills. I look at where they’ve been published and how often they’ve had bylines. Most nights, I reach the same conclusion: a large number of profiles are screaming confidence (or overconfidence). There are those who’ve had a couple of published short stories and still manage to make themselves sound like bestselling authors. Then there are some who hold workshops and the like with just a few published articles to boast of. In short, a fancy social media profile seems to help freelance writers get more work. That said, seeing the words ‘award winning’ on the profiles of numerous writers who nobody knows outside their family, is laughable.

Getting back to the Linkedin profiles, here are a few examples that I recall seeing.

– A copy editor with 6 months experience who says she launched an entire big brand magazine

– A writer with a handful of published pieces runs writing workshops at School X and School Y (both big name schools in the city)

– A ‘behaviorial psychology expert’ who has a bachelors degree in English and mostly freelance writing experience

– A blogger whose experience can basically sum up to monthly posts on his personal blog

And yes, many of these candidates get more work from their fancy profiles – I have seen cases. So watch what you write on your social media profile, because somebody could ignore you because they think Food Critic sounds better than Journalist. Or, because they prefer the person with much less experience who claims to be a ‘regular columnist’ for Newspaper X (read: three published articles in a year or something like that). Talking big often works!