The Unexpected Challenge of Writing for Publications

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Thanks to the slower economy and chaos the world is in, I have had more time to write for publications, yet had fewer clients giving assignments. In one way, this has been great. I recently had two articles accepted at dream publications! With a third semi-dream pub in the works.

But it does remind me of the challenges we freelance journalists have. Some publications are splendid at paying in a timely fashion (usually 30 or 45 days after invoice, which comes after publication in many cases). Others, not so much.

Last year, I sold an article to a large publication for a sizeable amount for me, but pittance for them. The editor I worked with was marvelous. The story turned out beautifully! But it was a nightmare getting paid. The check wasn’t sent for 4 months. I moved. And because of the long delay, it went to the wrong address. It took another 10 weeks to receive the check again.

If this had been an isolated incident, I wouldn’t tell you about it. But many other journalists face the same issue. As I commiserate with fellow writers, the story repeats hundreds of times a year.

Practical Thoughts

If you are looking at going into freelance journalism, don’t expect to be paid immediately for next month’s bills. Hopefully, you will, but you’ve got to have a backup, especially when you first start out.

  1. If you have a job right now, wait until you can save at least two months’ expenses before handing in a resignation in pursuit of a writing career.
  2. If you are unemployed and looking to start in journalism, look first for content writing jobs and develop a client base that covers your bills for at least the first few months. Then start pitching publications.
  3. Develop a solid portfolio to accompany your pitches.
  4. Build a website with a bio, links to articles (or your portfolio), and start a blog (maybe).
  5. Understand that many – possibly most – freelance journalists also have regular clients of other kinds (content writing, social media, etc.) and/or have other gigs (dog walking, house sitting, consulting, life coaching, teaching, etc.).

When I first started out, I was scouring Craigslist want ads for one-off gigs, part-time work, and writing work. I did things like running booths at craft fairs, product tests, consumer research panels, home organizing, and became an occasional assistant to a magician (a job I still love doing, and look forward to doing again once the social-distancing lifts!).

Backstage getting ready for a magic show one night

I maintain a solid client base (or at least attempt to – it’s tough out there!) while also writing for publications like Al-Jazeera, CNN Travel, Her Agenda, The Points Guy, VA Bride Magazine, and others.

Published by ritajpike

traveler, adventurer, writer, director, actor, granddaugher of Jerrie Mock (first woman to fly around the world), happily married.

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