My income doesn’t rely on pitching — here’s why
Avoid the biggest time suck in freelancing (and make more money)
So much advice for freelance writers is about pitching.
As a new writer, I thought that’s what it was all about. I needed to network with editors, get clips and pitch, pitch, pitch my butt off — and build a thick skin against inevitable and frequent rejections.
Last year I made about 10x what I did in those early years (I made very little in those early years), and rarely pitched my own article ideas.
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New York Times columnist and freelance writer Jen A. Miller nailed it in this tweet that had me shouting out loud to no one, “🙌 YAASSS 🙌”:
“Pitching is such a time suck.”
Read the full thread from Black Freelance that Jen was responding to to see what other writers had to say about the topic. These anti-pitchers struck such a chord in me — you know when you’ve been feeling something but didn’t realize it, and then someone puts it in the perfect words? LOVE that.
As a freelancer, I didn’t pitch for the majority of my work because it wasn’t the best use of my time.
It’s not a waste of time, to be clear. Pitching has its place — I’ll talk about that more in a minute.
For my purpose, to make a living writing — in the personal finance niche, with a content marketing focus — pitched articles didn’t move the needle the way an ongoing relationship with an editor brimming with assignments could.
If you’re just getting started in freelance writing, I want you to know this: Pitching isn’t the only way.
3 faces of freelance work
I think of writing work in three categories:
Pitched stories: You get these one-off assignments by suggesting an idea to an editor. You write the story, get published and get paid, then move on or pitch again.
Project contracts: These are short-term gigs that have a set end date. You might work full time or for an expected number of hours per week, a commitment kind of like a job.
Recurring assignments: This is open-ended, ongoing work with a client or publication. They have content needs and offer you assignments, plus often accept pitches.
Pitching your own ideas has one HUGE benefit we shouldn’t ignore: You decide what you write about.
You don’t make commitments to clients or set up expectations that you’ll write based on their needs. You choose the topics and shape the ideas, and you do work you want to do.
That’s a big deal. For some writers, it’s big enough to make the legwork worthwhile.
Financially, you’ll get better ROI from project contracts and recurring assignments, especially if you’re primarily a business, technical or marketing writer.
Project contracts from government or corporate clients can pay very well. The drawback: They might require a chunk of your time, and you’re left to fill the gap when they end.
Recurring assignments are the sweet spot.
Find clients and editors who like working with you and have writing assignments to give you. I prefer to work this way. It offers stable work and you get to keep that flexibility I love about freelancing.
This arrangement is more common with blogs, content marketing agencies and small businesses than with news publications or big companies — so whether it’s a fit depends on the kind of work you want to do.
How to decide whether pitching is right for you
How you shape your client roster and career is highly personal. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re making the wrong choice, because they can’t say what that means for you.
Just know you have options, so you avoid the situation I was in for my first few years freelancing: desperately sending pitches and not making ends meet.
For the past two and half years as a full-time freelancer, I made my living off of recurring assignments and hourly contracts. I spent little time pitching, because, frankly, I was too busy with paid work to accommodate it.
That’s a good constraint to have. It kept me from wasting time crafting pitches for every call I saw, knowing most wouldn’t pan out.
Instead, I reserved my pitch-writing energy for select scenarios:
Occasional pitches to the editors who also gave me recurring assignments, knowing they’d likely be accepted.
To get published in high-profile publications, where I don’t have clout. These pitches have a high chance of rejection, but the legwork is worth it because assignments pay well when I do land them.
I’m super passionate about an idea outside of the personal finance niche. I would work on this kind of thing outside of normal work hours, because it’s basically a hobby project.
The best scenario for any writer is probably some combination of pitches, recurring assignments and project-based work. Experiment and explore your options to find the right balance for you.
Trying to land freelance work? This should help
I just dropped the final lesson for Land Your First Freelance Gig, a five-week, self-guided course that shows you how to get work as a new freelancer. Upgrade your subscription for $7/month for access to this and other classes from Healthy Rich.
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