Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor

If I Knew Then....

By Jayda McTyson
2004, Jayda McTyson

Late last year while doing an internet search, I stumbled upon the idea of freelancing through writing.  I thought this would be something I really would enjoy doing.  Writing and submitting sounded manageable, but they proved just a tad more complex than it appeared at first glance.  There were some things that I should have known at the outset, but only realized in hindsight. . Looking back, I realize it would have saved me invaluable time to have had a more structured approach to my writing.  I've since streamlined my efforts and organized properly in order to achieve my goals.  For those looking at freelancing, I would recommend the following course of action. 

Do Thorough Research

Research into markets, while sometimes tedious, is a worthwhile activity.  It saves valuable time and effort if you know what is expected by the editors to whom you are submitting your work.  Normally, I do nothing until I have completed a thorough investigation, but in my wild enthusiasm to submit I went ahead and sent my articles, minus a 'sparkling' query letter.   I'm a quick learner, so I later saved myself more headaches by reading every 'how to' article that dealt with submitting or querying for a piece of work.  I should have done this before I got carried away on a wave of eagerness.

On the other side of research, it is pointless to produce an article riddled with inaccuracies when information is free and readily available on the internet.   Editors are not going to do the research for you.  That's not part of their job. That role became yours when you undertook to write an article on your chosen subject matter.

Be Focused in Your Approach

Achieving one's dream of being a published writer takes perseverance and self-discipline.   Searching for publications to query and submit your work to takes a fair amount of time.  It then becomes a waste of energy if you don't follow through by actually sending off a piece of work or at least attempting to get an assignment.

Getting all your submissions out takes time.  There will be more rejections than acceptances, so you need some stick-to-it-iveness to keep at it until you start receiving jobs.  

Organization Is Key

An orderly approach is vital to freelance writing.  Each of us works differently, but organization is what brings all the various components together for the final output of either an article or a query.  I do all my searches at one time. Bear in mind that there's a lot of reading to be done if I don't know exactly what each publication covers.  I copy and paste all viable prospects to Microsoft Word. 

After that, I focus on preparing one query at a time and try to complete each one before moving on to another.  As obvious and sensible as this approach may be, it is easy to fall into a pattern of trying to complete more than one query at a time by moving back and forth between them. This might work for some, but it is more practical to concentrate on one project at a time.  Your work is more easily managed when this approach is taken, and there is less likelihood of having confusion set in if tasks are broken down into individual steps.     

Build a Resume

One of my first accepted publications was inadvertently given away.  I truly did not realize when I submitted the piece that it was not to a paying site. I thought that surely if the article was good enough to be accepted, then it should have been good enough to be paid for.    I did not comprehend how valuable and handy those freebie pieces would become in the near future, and determined not to let any more of my work go without a price tag attached.   

When the time came for me to try to get paying jobs, it became apparent that many publications made it a matter of course to request a resume and clips, which yours truly definitely did not have. The 'How to' articles I read by the ream pointed to the fact that published 'clips' could be used in building a portfolio.  My point?  Don't discount the process of building up those writing credits.  One day -- sooner, rather than later -- you're going to need them!

Maintain a Positive Attitude

It is difficult to maintain a positive attitude in the face of rejection after rejection, but be determined to succeed. Countless writers that have gone before you and had to deal with numerous rejection letters before finally having a piece of work accepted.  Rome was not built in a day; keep writing and one day your name will be in print.