Thanks so much to everyone who bought a copy of Notes from a Hired Pen: Freelancing for Laid Off Journalists (and Those Who Want to Quit). It's still $7 if you haven't gotten yours yet, if you use that link.
If you're still not sure, how about a sample? This isn't an excerpt, but adapted from the book, where I write about why it's important to tell people you've been laid off.
Why? Because, first, there is no shame in a layoff, especially in journalism, especially right now. Everyone from Accenture to NPR to Salesforce has laid off workers this year. And second, how can someone know you're available to freelance if you don't tell them? (This is true for freelancers looking for more work, too).
I get that you may not be in the right headspace to make that announcement right after a layoff happens, but once the dust has settled, here's what I suggest:
Post about it on social media. You don't need to go into a big, long thing about why you were laid off — most people get it. But posting something short and sweet to whatever platform you prefer (Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) can lead to new clients from a group of people who already know you, your skills, and your talents, all without you having to prove yourself.
You can refer to the layoff, or not. It's up to you! Some sample scripts:
- Yes, I'm part of X layoffs. Yes, it stinks, but I'm looking forward to trying something new. Until I figure out what that is, I'm open to freelancing. If you or someone you know needs a writer, let me know! I can be reached at X.
- I'm freelancing! If you need a writer who can turn in clean and concise copy on time, let me know. I can be reached at X.
- I'm looking to add a few clients to my freelance roster. I'm an expert in X, Y and Z, so if you or someone you know is looking for someone, let me know!
That last one works for long-time freelancers as well. I use it often! Also: you might have to post more than once, because not everyone is on every social media platform at the same time, or at the exact moment they have something to offer.
Contact your network — your entire network. One of the things I write about in the book is about how many freelancing opportunities there are for journalists. Most of these projects won't be advertised, so I also recommend contacting every single person you know who might be able to give you work. That includes former colleagues, former classmates, folks at public relations and marketing agencies, university corporate communications people, and people you know in your social network who might connect you to work.
Some sample scripts:
- Hello [NAME]. I know it’s been a while since we connected, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve decided to start my own freelance writing business. If you or anyone you know is looking for help for things like articles, blogs, website copy, or advertorials, let me know. Thanks!
- Hi [NAME]. It was great seeing you the other day at the gym. A lot has changed since then! As you probably heard, [PUBLICATION] recently went through a round of layoffs, and I was one of the unlucky ones. So I’ve decided to venture out on my own and freelance. I’ll be doing the same kind of work I did at [PUBLICATION] but also things like advertorials, marketing writing, and am also considering things like writing scripts and ghostwriting — really, whatever someone with this kind of background in writing and communication could tackle. If you or anyone you know needs help, let me know!
- Hi [NAME]. I know it’s only been a week, but I already miss the free snack table. Anyway, I know that you’re still probably using freelancers, so I hope you’ll keep me in mind, and let everyone else know too. You never know. I could finally write that piece about driving across Glenwood Canyon in the snow in a Honda Civic that never quite matched me as the guy who covered the religion beat. Thanks!
I get that layoffs suck (as is being forced to quit, as I was at my last journalism job when my paycheck bounced), and you'll have a lot of feelings to work through about it. But if you want to use freelancing as a path to either some financial stability right now, or to something else, telling people you're open is the best way to get started.
Want more info? Of course I'm going to plug the ebook again, I didn't get here by staying quiet!
"Why Are Public Bathrooms Still So Rare?" for The New York Times
"How ERP modernizations fair amid cost cutting" for CIO Dive
What I'm Reading
Corrections in Ink by Keri Blakinger
Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena Di Blasi
*Remember, these are links to my book blog, which you can subscribe to directly here.
What I'm Watching
- History of the World Part Two. This is extremely silly, which is why I liked it. I was worried that Brooks' style of humor wouldn't hold up, but he was smart to get some sharp writers and executive producers on this. It's wonderful.
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It was fine? I think I've finally reached Marvel fatigue. I'm not going to link to the news about Jonathan Majors but instead: if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, help is out available.
- Murder Among the Mormons. Not what I thought it was be — I think the titles does it a disservice. It's really about antiquities (and a psychopath).
- The Emperor's New Groove. I watched it while doing my taxes, and it's still a delight. If you don't know about it's backstory, you're in for a ride.