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10 Survival Tips for Freelancers


explore-4585521_640I’ve had lots of e-mails about how to survive as a freelance writer especially during an economic down turn. A handful of you have told me you’ve lost contracts, clients and lots of publications are saying they’re not buying anything right now.

Stay in this business long enough and you’re going to need to weather this more than you’d like. During my time as a freelance writer, I dealt with this twice so I thought I’d put together my top ten tips for surviving the not so good times…

  1. Adapt and Adjust

When these down turns hit, you need to quickly adapt and adjust to the new reality. If you act like it’s business as usual then you’re going to get discouraged. So tip number one is to get into a new mindset and know this is a bump in the road that won’t last forever.

2.  Keep Pitching

You’re probably going to hit more roadblocks and rejections but the main thing is to keep on pitching. Even during good times, the more pitches you have circulating, the more chance of landing a gig. I always had a minimum of ten pitches going at any one time, but during lean times, I’d up that to 15.

3. Join a Writing Group or Subscribe to A Writing Newsletter

When I freelanced, I had memberships and subscriptions to lots of newsletters and writing groups. You hear about markets and opportunities you can’t find by yourself. One of the best resources I found was Freelance Success I ‘met’ lots of other great freelancers and even formed a group with three in my local area. Sometimes they’d give me leads to markets I would never have dreamed about.

4. Touch Base with Previous Markets and Clients

It doesn’t hurt to contact people you’ve worked for in the past. They might not have anything for you but will know you’re looking should anything come up. They can also direct you to an editor or someone who might need something written that week.

5. Be Willing To Take a Pay Cut

During the last down turn, I was still working as a freelance writer and took assignments that didn’t pay that well but it was a pay check. Bottom line anything that keeps the money rolling in is a plus.

6. Be Easy To Work With…always

This should go without saying that you should be an easy freelancer to work with. No missing deadlines, no tantrums about things the editor wants changed. When competition gets even tighter, you’ll be the first to get the assignment.

7. Be a Hunter

By this I mean look for opportunities everywhere. I’d pick up flyers, free magazines, look on notice boards, etc. Sometimes these were dead ends, other times, I’d find a new market or a contact who put me in touch with someone who needed work done.

8. Step Into Another’s Job

I don’t mean steal the job but lots of companies lay off full time staff at places like ad and PR agencies during lean times…in fact, these are usually the first people to go. These agencies still need work done and oftentimes use freelancers until things improve. It doesn’t hurt to contact them and ask if they are in need of a freelance or even contract worker. Even if they don’t, ask if they’d keep your details on file.

9. Learn New Skills

This is a great time to learn a new skill. During the last down turn, I took a few classes in grant writing because I’d heard that was almost recession proof. By the time, I learned all I could about grant writing, I’d switched to teaching so I never put it to use. Good times, bad times, learning something new always pays off.

10. Don’t Quit

Finally, don’t quit, don’t throw in the towel. It might take a while to get back to your pre-downturn level but believe me, things do turn around and it’s the people who stay the course that end up getting rewarded the most.



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