Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Starting Over with the Freelance Writing

 When a new year rolls around, most writers focus o a new writing goal. For me, in January of 2022, I decided to go back to freelance writing. I took a VERY long break from it because I felt it just wasn’t working out for me anymore. However, I decided to try again.


So, I got busy doing the same things I did when it came to working as a freelance writer: Studying markets, building relationships, creating a client pool to regularly submit to and keeping an eye out for calls for pitches.


There was one problem, though: I couldn’t remember how to write a query letter! (Nowadays, they’re called pitches.) One of my friends assured me that the memory of how to write a query letter would eventually come back, but I wasn’t so sure. It was only when I signed on with a content creation platform called nDash that it happened. Part of the work involved in writing for brands via nDash was putting together short pitches for articles and blog posts to write. This was not easy at first, because I was still struggling with how to write a query letter! Even though I read articles about how to write a query letter (including some of my own which I wrote YEARS ago) as well as book such as Query Letters That Worked! by Angela Hoy and Jumpstart Your Writing Career and Snag Paying Assignments by Beth Ann Erickson, I still couldn’t figure out how to do it. But when I started writing these mini pitches through nDash, something within me clicked. The memory of how to write query letters returned and soon I was sending them out to various markets.


I’ve been pitching markets ever since.


Now, a year later, I have taken some time to reflect on my progress so far.


One of the other things I did when I returned to freelance writing was eagerly read everything I could about being a freelance writer. After all, I’ve been out of the game for a while. Times have changed, markets have changed, and the overall landscape of freelance writing has changed!


For one thing, there were content creation services for brands. This is where I got my start, working through nDash, and while I enjoyed working with brands and I was happy to have regular work, I knew it wouldn’t last forever. Sure enough, I was no longer getting regular work through nDash, so I knew it was time to spread my wings elsewhere.


So, for 2023, I decided I would put the main focus of my freelance writing business on cold-emailing potential clients. (There is also cold-calling, but I don’t like communicating by phone.)


That brings us up-to-date.


I have been pitching to magazines and E-zines, some of which I have never pitched to before. I started pitching regularly and making it a point to get rejected pitches sent somewhere else.


In the process, I learned something else: It’s like I have to start all over again as a freelance writer. A lot of the clips on my website are really old, and editors are more interested in seeing current work. I cringed every time I mentioned only relevant clips in my queries that are over 5 years old. Additionally, a lot of articles I had published in the past are not online anymore. This has made me realize that these editors are likely going to pass on my queries, so I was going to have to start all over again in gathering the kinds of clips I need in order to break into the bigger markets.


So I am once again in the position of building my freelance writing career from the ground up. I have to start over again and just work my way up.


So far, it has been going well. Thankfully, my record for selling at least one article a month has continued from last year. (The first time I worked as a freelance writer, I’d go MONTHS without sales. So having at least one sale a month after my return has been pretty awesome.)


I have created a routine for my pitching of markets, and I have a good list of market guidelines on hand. I get this information by subscribing to newsletters such as WritersWeekly, FundsforWriters, Horror Tree, Duotrope and Authors Publish. If I see a market which I feel I can contribute to, I bookmark it so that I can query them later. Some of the markets I have come across welcome submissions on spec, so I’ll start thinking about topics until I am ready to approach them.


I am also networking with other freelance writers via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s great to get to know other writers and learn about how they manage their writing business.


As far as pitching/querying is concerned, I have a system in place. I usually send out at least one pitch a day for articles, blog posts and essays during the week. On weekends, I submit short stories and poetry. This way, I am able to get ALL of my writings out there. I try to pitch and/or submit every day, but there are some days I just don’t have enough spoons to do ALL of the things that I normally do in my day (which includes working on my monthly newsletter, working on book reviews, writing/editing/revising one or two manuscripts and participating on social media to keep those connections going strong!). But, yes, I do try to pitch or submit at least once a day. I know some writers who pitch 3, 5 or even 13 articles a day, but there’s no way I could do this. The routine I have works best for me.


Now, a year later, I am glad I made the decision to return to freelance writing. It continues to grow and evolve, and there is still a lot I need to learn, but it is something I enjoy doing and it has gone well on a financial level.


It can be frustrating having to start from the beginning again, but since I took too long of a break from freelance writing in order to have enough clips to prove my worth to an editor, it’s something that must be done. It’s just like going from one job to another; you have to start at the basic level! I am once again “new” to freelance writing, but I’m just glad that, this time, I am coming back to freelancing a little more wiser.

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