Freelancer ‘Fame’: It Takes Longer Than You Think

from iClipArt
from iClipArt: This is not me, but I love whatever this girl is doing at her typewriter.

Or at least it took longer than I expected it to. I figured that having spent nearly ten years at a national magazine and several before that paying my dues as a reporter, every editor would immediately jump at the chance to work with me. I mean, I knew how solid my reporting skills were, how prompt I was with deadline work, how cool I was under pressure. And I knew these were serious assets as a freelance writer. The problem, I soon realized, was that all these editors didn’t know me, and thus didn’t know any of that about me.

It took more than two years of painstaking pitching and doing small assignments well before my freelance writing business became a legitimate, reasonably steady business. It took proving myself, then being recommended from one editor to the next. It took doing a lot of solid work and gaining a following, of sorts, for certain kinds of work — my Mindy Project recaps on Vulture, for instance, netted me a bunch of recent work at Cosmo when one of my readers became the new editor of their website and came looking for me. It took writing a book that got a decent amount of positive attention, enough that some fans of the book have given me speaking engagements and writing assignments. It also, crucially, took time for my former coworkers at Entertainment Weekly to go onto other places where they could hire freelance writers. They know me, they know my work, and they know I’m looking for work.

So if you’re struggling still, just know: It takes longer than you think it will. Keep plugging away.

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2 comments

  1. I can’t remember the person/writer, but the saying went something like, “Overnight sensation? Of course I am. After 15 years I became a sensation overnight!” You are right though. It does take a lot of work to be a successful freelancer. I wasn’t one of them…

    1. I’ve heard a similar saying… “Overnight sensation, 10 years in the making!”

      I have read though, that it takes 3 years to become an expert, 5 years to become nationally renowned, and 10 years to become internationally renowned.

      The main thing is to stick it out long enough to reach those landmarks.

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