Hello! How have you been? I know it's been a while since I last wrote, so I have a super-sized newsletter for you to today (with more gifs, because that's what the cool kids do).
Before I get there, two orders of business:
How about an end of year sale? My ebook, How I Made $135,000 in One Year of Freelancing, is half off for the rest of the year! Use code "pancake" (it's my book so I can use whatever code I want!) That'll make it only $5. Expires January 2.
And second, I know there's still a waiting list for freelance consults. I've said I'll open up spots when I have time, but I just haven't. If you're on the list, I appreciate your patience. I am hoping to do some before the end of the year.
Speaking of 2020's end, with one month left to go, I don't think I'll reach the $135,000 mark again. But I'm going to come pretty close – yes, even in a pandemic year. Part of that is because I write about health and science, so I've been in demand. Also a help: I've added 10 new clients to my roster this year. They didn't all become anchor clients, but when I fired an anchor client over payment issues, they patched up my bottom line.
I'm not naming these outlets on purpose (though I'm sure you can figure some out). I want you to focus on the type of client, and the method of acquiring them, instead of a name.
1. Medical School Magazine, LOI
If you're a long time reader, you know that I'm a fan of Letters of Introduction (LOIs), which are short emails outlining your qualifications for that particular editor or publication. In 2018, I wrote more than 500 of these emails. In 2019, I sent far fewer, but I still sent them. One was to this medical school which – if I'll be honest – I picked because I had a long, boring drive through a particular state on a cross country road trip and wondered what medical schools were there. I sent an LOI on August 1, 2019 and got a reply the next day. She suggested I contact someone in another office who probably had more use for a freelancer. On August 20, I heard back from this person, and we talked fees right away to see if we were a good match. We were, so I had an introductory phone call with the team a week later. I filled out a bunch of paperwork, and they assigned my first story in December 2019, which was due in January 2020 (and why I'm counting them as a new client this year).
Lesson to learn: These things take time, especially at big organizations where it may mean some work to find the right person, and then more time for them to get the OK to use you. Also, even if they assign infrequently, these publications can still be worth the effort because the assignments tend to be big (in both length and in fee). I'm working on my second piece for them now.
2. Business Website, editor reached out to me
The editor was intrigued by my ebook, and asked me to write about it – and yes they paid me to promote my own work! I haven't pitched her anything else because it's a pretty niche section of a business publication, but it was nice that they asked (and I sold a few books because of it too!)
Lesson to learn: Make it easy for editors to get in touch with you. I don't publish my email address, but I have a contact button right on the front of my website, which is how a lot of opportunities come my way.
3. Health Website, asked an editor friend
A friend of mine has worked at this website for a while, and their rates had been too low for me. But at the start of the pandemic, I panicked. I remember what the Great Recession of 2008 was like, so I looked in every corner possible for work. I saw her post on Instagram that she was overwhelmed, so I reached out. I negotiated a slightly higher rate, and wrote some good stories, but in the end, it wasn't a good long term fit. I also realized that this was not going to be a repeat of 2008 for me, and I didn't need to grab every single scrap of work I could find.
Lesson learned: Not every publication is a good match. Editors typically understand this kind of stuff, and she never got mad at me. I recommended a few other writers who might be a better fit, and she's still a friend I text often.
4. Business to Business (B2B) Publication, already write for other titles
This one was easy: I wrote for two different publications at this company. The editor asked me if I wanted to write for a third, and I said yes!
Lesson to learn: Being a good, dependable writer is a form of marketing. She liked working with me, so when she had more to assign, she reached out.
5. Hospital Physician Website, asked a writer friend
Hospitals produce a ton of content, and not just for patients. They make publications just for their doctors too. I saw that a friend wrote for this one, and I asked her about her experience. She loved it and emailed her editor, saying I'd be in touch. I sent an LOI on April 20. The editor scheduled a call with me for the next day. I filled out a bunch of paperwork then had a call with another editor in July. I had my first assignment in August, and I'm working on my third for them right now.
Lesson to learn: I used my friend's name in the introduction email – but only after she gave me her OK. Never do this without asking first. Two people have tried with me – i.e. used my name without asking – and it backfired both times. Because guess what: editors ask! Those writers looked bad to me and my editors.
6. College Alumni Magazine, LOI
Are you bored with LOIs yet? But they work! I sent this LOI on July 9, 2019. I followed up on November 6, 2019. I followed up again on July 24 of this year. I got my first assignment in September.
Lesson to learn: Follow up! It works! You can see that I spaced out the follow ups too. I don't want to be a pest, but I do want to be in an editor's mind when they need a writer. Might take a few tries.
7. Personal Finance Website, emailed a former editor at a his new job
I am a member of FreelanceSuccess, which has knock out forums, but also a weekly newsletter with information on how to pitch specific publications. I saw that an editor I'd worked with before had moved to a new publication, so I emailed him. I didn't have to explain that I was qualified to write for him – I had done so for years! So I just said hello and that I was available. He was thrilled. I've done two stories for him thus far.
Lesson to learn: Follow your editors when they move. I sometimes skim through my LinkedIn contacts to see who has what job now. I got lucky that a group I already belonged to told me of his move.
8. Medical Website, professional group
I'm a member of Association of Healthcare Journalists, and I'd planned to go to their conference in Texas this year. Of course it was cancelled. However, they still had a virtual pitchiest, where freelancers talk to editors directly. It's sort of like speed dating. I was on vacation when sign ups opened, but I put it on my calendar anyway, and snagged a call with two editors at a website I respected, one where doctors are the primary audience. I didn't have any specific pitches ready to go for the calls. Instead, I spent my time asking them what they were looking for and what kinds of pitches they hated. An idea popped to mind that both editors liked. I emailed them immediately, and had an assignment. I'm now working on my second feature for them.
Lesson to learn: Take advantage of professional groups. I joined AHCJ when I realized another popular writer group was no longer a good fit for me. This more specific group has been perfect. I'm also glad I took time out of my vacation to grab a time slot too. This time, it was worth it.
9. University Alumni Magazine, LOI
See? They really do work! I sent this editor an email on June 15, 2019. On July 18, he replied that he'd keep me on file. I followed up on January 31, 2020. I got my first assignment last month. I'm working on the edits to that piece now.
Lesson to learn: I send rafts of LOIs while watching Marvel movies. I think I was watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 when I wrote these. You don't need to change them up that much either. This LOI is not much different than I sent to the college alumni magazine referenced above.
10. University Alumni Magazine, LOI
This one is a little bit different. In going through potential marketing targets, I saw that this magazine offered free subscriptions if you emailed them and asked. On January 9, 2019 (when I was doing Jennifer Goforth Gregory's Winter Marketing Challenge) I emailed the generic inbox, and the editor replied! I then realized I'd sent this person an LOI in April 2018, and we'd had a short back and forth. So after our emails about a subscription, I followed up to that LOI again, pointing out the connection. We talked rates, saw we were on the same page, and I just turned in my first assignment.
Lesson to learn: When reaching out to someone, I try to remember to check if I've contacted them before. It worked out this time that I had.
I hope this was helpful! I plan to do a year end wrap up too. Stay tuned for that sometime in January.
"Gear Up for Cold Weather Running" for The New York Times
"How COVID-19 Changed Warehouse Management and Design" for Supply Chain Dive
"4 IT Spending Traps to Avoid" for CIO Dive
"Doctors an Easy Mark for Hospital Cyberattackers" for MedPage Today
"Rapid Responders" for Medicine@Brown
"Ship From Store Makes Sense in a Pandemic. Does It Make Sense in the Long Term?" for Supply Chain Dive
"Six Ways to Keep Your COVID-19 Home Renovation Project on Solid Footing" for Forbes Advisor
"Rosier, But Not Glowing, IT Budget Predictions for 2021" for CIO Dive
"Micro-Fulfillment: Where It Works for Supply Chains – and Where It Doesn't" for Supply Chain Dive
What I'm Reading
- The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the People's Temple by Jeff Guinn. Yikes. Just…yikes. Also, they drank Power Aid, not Kool-Aid, just an FYI.
- The Ambassador's Daughter by Pam Jenoff. Can I admit a weird thing? This is set in 1918, and it feels like the flu stuff was tacked on.
- Funny, You Don't Look Autistic by Michael McCreary. I appreciated this as an audiobook, which he read himself.
- The Viscount Who Loved Me, When He Was Wicked and It's In His Kiss, all by Julia Quinn. I'm trying to finish the Bridgeton series before the Netflix show comes out (I AM VERY EXCITED!) Entertainment Weekly did a great feature on it, including an interview with Quinn.
- Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. She's back! And this is very much worth your time.
- Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Watson. A friend raved about this and I thought it was OK. Maybe listening to an audiobook about mental illness was not an ideal thing to due during the week of the election.
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I thought this was OK. Gorgeous writing, plot sort of fell apart.
- The Forty-Year-Old Version. This was as great as everyone said!
- Sarah Cooper Netflix Special. I enjoyed this, and I think it will stand as a piece of art about a very weird time. Don't spoil the cameos by looking up who's in it.
- The Queen's Gambit. I know just about everyone loved it, but I thought it was boring. Not the chess stuff, but I could guess just about every plot point. Nice clothes though. I have one of her blouses.
- Great British Bake Off. Off the rails this season, right? They've got to do something about heat in the tent if they're going to make them do challenges with chocolate and ice cream.
- Sleeping Beauty. I associate this with Christmas because of the Tchaikovsky music, so I put it on while working and then decorating my tree. It is stunning to see it on a nice TV via Disney+ and not an old VHS tape. It's a beautiful animated film.
- Jingle Jangle. This is very nice Christmas musical! I imagine I'll be watching it every holiday season (lots of singing and dancing – they filmed it in 2019. I checked).
Jen A. Miller