Should You Keep Pitching One-Off Stories?
So far, my freelance earnings are on pace to surpass my hourly earnings from previous jobs. For me, a writer who’s been freelancing for more than a year, I wasn’t expecting to achieve that. My low expectations for my first year earnings came in part from my erratic earnings while freelancing full-time.
The other day, I looked at my earnings over the past two years. In 2017, my earnings fluctuated from month to month. While I worked part-time and full-time jobs that year, my earnings rarely crossed over $1,000, often jumping between a few hundred bucks to just under or just above a grand. Typically, a good month meant I landed a story or two that paid $0.50 per word or better.
But then, while listening to fellow freelancers discuss the importance of anchor clients, I spent my first few months of full-time freelancing meeting with perspective small business clients in need of content marketing work. I pitched my heart out, writing pieces for national and Chicago-based publications.
At one point, I was unsure of whether I’d be able to pull off a career as a freelancer. You can’t make it off of less than a grand per month. But I also had the lingering sense that it would be difficult to find a full-time journalism job with good benefits, a positive work culture and leaders who’d be supportive of my goals. Could freelancing be the path toward balance? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to try.
Looking at my numbers made me question whether pitching one-off stories was worth it? A case for and against it…
When pitching stories is beneficial
When I started freelancing, I worked to build my portfolio into something that would attract either clients or jobs. As a new writer, I know I have prove to editors that I can execute the stories I pitch. I had to develop the ability to pitch and successfully publish stories in order to earn money.
For me, pitching stories allowed me to write across various beats. Though most of my portfolio consists of business and tech reporting, I’ve also ventured off into culture, personal finance and health. No day was the same. No story was the same.
Writers who are starting out almost always need to pitch in order to make connections within the industry. Internships (ideally paid) and fellowships are alternative ways to break in, but freelancing is another way to build connections within the industry without having to be in a major city.
When pitching isn’t worth it
Looking back, it took hours of effort to put together pitches, many of which ultimately were rejected. Unlike working a salaried job where you’re paid consistently regardless of how much you produce, my freelance wages are tied directly toward the amount of assignments I successfully completed and invoiced. The hours I put into pitching didn’t result in a living wage.
Once I started acquiring steady clients, I spent less time pitching and more time earning. With more consistent earning came a peace of mind that I’d be able to pitch more solid feature or investigative ideas that take more time to perfect.
I’m still working on building my portfolio, but I now get to work on projects that are more meaningful and develop long-term relationships with my client, creating a consistent schedule and semi-consistent income.
Pitching stories, in my experience, is essential in the beginning of one’s freelance journey, but finding anchor clients is has been the key to my long-term sustainability.
Is pitching stories too time consuming? Is it better to pitch individual stories or pitch long-term services? Share your thoughts in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.