Ask Susannah: How Do You Get into Freelance Work?

Q: Love your writing. Curious, but how do you get into freelance work?

Image via  Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

A: There’s no one tried and true way to get into freelancing. More often than not, it’ll happen when you undertake a series of experiments. Think of it as firing a shotgun and seeing what it hits or throwing shit against a wall and seeing what sticks. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s up to you to get moving.

I believe the first published article I wrote was for a local newspaper, and it was a book review. Come up with one idea that you can sell. A review. A photograph. A comic. Identify the publication most likely to publish it. A local rag. A small website. A literary magazine. Figure out the person to pitch it to—the editor-in-chief, the photo editor, the features editor. Find their email address. If you can’t find it easily, and you’re pitching to a publication where people have their own emails, emails usually follow one of these styles: firstnamelastname@company.com, firstnameperiodlastname@company.com, firstnameunderscorelastname@company.com, firstinitiallastname@company.com. You can see if you’ve got the right one by googling it. Usually, their email is posted somewhere, and that search will confirm you have it right. Then write a pitch. Say: I’d like to write a story about X. Or: I’m interested in covering the upcoming cow auction. Perhaps: Are you looking for an op-ed columnist? Tell them what you’ve done that’s impressive. Include some links to your work or even a sample of your work.

A lot of times, editors never respond. That’s just the way it is. I hate when I pitch editors, and they don’t respond. That said, sometimes as an editor, I don’t respond to pitches. It’s the single most passive aggressive no you’ll ever get. Learn to live with rejection. Or ignore it. It’s just one person.

Of course, you can forget that whole pitching-to-publications thing and sell your stuff yourself. I like Gumroad. You can set your own price, produce your own products, and get paid in a reasonable time period.

At first, you might not make a lot of money with your freelancing. If you keep at it, you’ll get better. You’ll connect with other freelancers. People will start asking you to create things for them. Eventually, it just grows and grows.

Good luck!

SB

Buy my digital short, “The Tumor.” It’s been called “a masterpiece of short fiction.”