Diana Kelly Levey

I’ve Been Freelancing for 20 Years. Here are My Tips for Success.

writer rosalyn page standing by laptop

April 16, 2020

This is a guest post from Aussie-based freelance writer Rosalyn Page. Read more freelance writer guest posts.

Rosalyn Page is an award-winning journalist, content writer and editor with 20 years of experience working for outlets in Australia, the UK and Asia covering consumer technology, marketing, media, travel and culture. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, websites, books and journals. Some Notes From A Broad is her side-gig, an arts and culture blog.

How did you get into freelancing and has it changed in 20 years?

I started working in magazines in my first job out of university, some 20 years ago and realized I could write for lots of other magazines in a freelance capacity. Suddenly, a world of opportunity opened up. I could see that if I had an interest or area of knowledge and there was a magazine to fit that, I could pitch them a story. (Learn more about niche freelance writing here.)

Has the process of freelance article pitching changed over 20 years?

It has and it hasn’t. Editors are still looking for stories and freelance writers still need to come up with ideas that suit a certain publication, which haven’t been done before, and they need to have a timely hook. But budgets have certainly shrunk and plenty of magazines have shuttered, although there are now many websites looking for story ideas.

I think these days there are more places freelancers can pitch to—you’re not restricted so much geographically because it’s easy to find online outlets, contact editors and pitch your ideas outside of your own location. Twitter is a good place to find editors looking for pitches and story ideas— just follow the hashtags. I follow #freelancechat and #freelancepitches as a good search term to find calls for pitches. You can search using specific phrases (with quotation marks) such as “Pitch Me”, “Call for Pitches”, “Looking for writers”, “Call for writers.” And there are sites like Pitchwhiz where you can find a huge number of publications to pitch to.

Have you always worked freelance?

Yes, in one way or another, I’ve worked freelance for a long time. I have had part-time journalism jobs and freelanced, and I’ve also had periods of pure freelancing. I spent two and a half years, in two stints, freelancing while on maternity leave. I was able to keep working, which kept me a bit sane in the midst of the baby phase, keep my hand in professionally with recent clips and give me a chance to pitch different stories to my usual beat.

Has corporate writing become content marketing writing?

In many ways, content marketing writing is the new corporate writing. I’ve done this kind of work, where you write for a business or brand, rather than for an editorial publication, on demand. These days there’s a lot of content marketing writing, just have a look at LinkedIn at all the content managers and the like, and this tells you that businesses, brands and organizations of all stripes recognize the importance of content marketing.

How do you mix editorial and content writing as a freelancer?

At the moment, I’m working in a part-time position and freelancing as well. So I can pick and choose what I do and this allows me to develop story ideas that I want to pursue for editorial and take on content marketing writing as opportunities come up. There are interesting opportunities at all sorts of organizations, from corporate to non-profit, in content writing nowadays.

Where do you find content marketing writing jobs?

LinkedIn is a good resource for content marketing opportunities. But you need to craft your profile description to send the right signals to content marketing managers and those who are looking for freelance writers. Many freelancers still have the ‘CV mentality’ when it comes to their LinkedIn profile, but you need to think ‘marketing’ or specifically how you can show that you understand what content marketing is and how your skills can create content to deliver on the marketing objectives for that brand/organization/manager. It’s quite a shift if you’re used to doing straight editorial, but once you make it, you’ll start thinking along the lines of marketing your skills and expertise to help meet their goals and objectives rather than just listing where you’ve worked or what you’ve done.

To improve your LinkedIn profile for content marketing jobs, try these tips:

  • Start with a line like ‘Content Marketing Writer. Editor. Copywriter. Digital Freelancer.’ Working across the [tech], [finance], B2B and B2C sectors.
  • Insert your niche or areas of expertise in [XXX] Include terms such as Copywriter, content marketing writer, editorial services.
  • Write a short ‘About me’ section.
  • List out outlets and clients in the Experience section.

Tell prospective clients how you can help them solve their content marketing, content strategy, content editing, social media promotion problems with blog idea generation, tips to gain more leads, help convert prospects, provide thought leadership. It’s important to use their language and show you understand what you can deliver through your copy and content skills to help them achieve their goals, objectives, KPIs etc.

Is it important to have a writer’s website?

Once, a writer’s website was a ‘nice to have’ but these days it’s important if you want to establish a professional career as a writer (or other freelancers) and be able to showcase your work and attract a range of clients, be they editors or marketing managers. It shows you’re serious and professional. But, don’t panic, with platforms like WordPress it’s not that hard, or expensive, to develop your own site. See it as your online portfolio and just keep it updated regularly so it looks fresh and links to your social media handles. Buying a basic domain name, hosting, WordPress and a linked email can all be done for a couple of hundred dollars in a few days and then you’ve got your own site.

Has getting paid changed?

It has, for better and a little for worse if I’m honest. On the downside, editorial rates have either stayed the same or even gone down, over the time I’ve been freelancing. What other industry actually has salaries going down? On the other hand, there are inexpensive online invoice and payment tracking systems that make getting paid easier and more transparent. And with PayPal and lower costs and simpler international payments, working for overseas publications is easier than it once was when I started freelancing 20 years ago.

How can freelancers diversify with other income streams?

I’m really passionate about this idea because I think the technological changes of the last 20 years have undoubtedly destabilized traditional media and led to closures and job losses, but they have also put more scope into the hands of individuals to develop some of their own incomes streams. Just like investing, diversification helps insulate those who work for themselves from suffering financially if any particular outlet or part of the media gets into trouble. I’ve recently created my own arts and culture blog called Some Notes From A Broad, it’s my passion project, and I have just added a funding component that allows my newsletter subscribers or anyone who visits the site and enjoys the content to chip in. These platforms have allowed independent creatives to help fund their work directly with their fans and I think all freelancers might want to explore this idea as part of their overall income mix. Think about what skills, expert knowledge or services you can offer that others may need and how you can monetize it to support your overall freelance incomes. (Now if I could just get enough to launch an arts and culture podcast, that would be amazing.)

Any tips for long-term success in freelancing?

Avoid writing for free if you can.

Put a simple writer website on your To Do list.

If you’re working on a large project, have a contract or at the very least payment milestones to avoid large lump sum payments.

Pitch and market yourself regularly and follow up a maximum of two more queries.

Don’t take radio silence to pitches personally.

Consider combining a part-time job with freelancing if you are starting out or in uncertain economic times. Here’s how to freelance on the side while working full time.

Be courteous, considerate and constructive in all your dealings.

Treat freelancing as a professional occupation and expect to be treated as a paid professional by clients and editors.

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Diana can help with:

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Email Diana about opportunities: Diana(at)DianaKelly.com.

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