What I Should Know By Now About the Freelance Life

Saturday, May 16, 2020


Yeah, that’s what I should know, but I continue to find myself in the same old predicaments. Having worked as an editor for four different magazines, there are a few hard and fast rules I should have picked up on by now, but every now and then I find myself with temporary amnesia. It’s been a rough week.

Lesson number one is that you can never really trust an advertiser to write an article that they will not use to self promote. We try to have plenty of special advertising sections in our publications so that we can keep everyone happy and give them the opportunities to provide their own copy or have a piece written about them. This month, I asked an advertiser to help write a health article, and we asked specifically that they not discuss their practice or their treatments. (I did this because of the above-mentioned trimmed budget for writers). The piece that was turned in was entirely self-promotional, and I found out at the last minute that a competitor had agreed to sponsor the page. Two sales reps were then upset. I had no idea who was sponsoring what, so this created an issue I had to fix, meaning I had to rewrite the health article myself and run the trimmed-down advertorial piece in another section. This all happened Friday morning before I even had my coffee. I’ve learned my lesson—advertorial stays advertorial and editorial stays editorial.

Lesson number two is that I should always batch work when I can. You would think as a freelance writer and editor I would have learned this by now. Did I also mention I decided to start up a podcast during COVID-19? The first week our shelter-in-place orders came out, I spent too much time wringing my hands, trying to figure out how my husband and I were both going to work in the same house with the kids here doing remote learning. In my defense, I didn’t even know if the magazines were going to be produced for May until the last minute.

But I know about the concept of batch working. I’ve read every productivity article there is about how to do it. I found myself editing and uploading a podcast episode Thursday night at 9 p.m. after putting in a full day at work, and I’m writing the copy I’m in charge of for one of the magazines today. Yes, there were some sections I didn’t want to pull together because I was afraid they would be cut, but there are things like the editor’s letter that I could have written in advance. It’s always the same length and I know when it’s due. But did I batch podcast scripts, blog posts for my website, articles, etc. ahead of time in the past two weeks when I had down time? No. I swear I’m learning my lesson this time.

What are some lessons you’ve learned as a writer? Please tell me I’m not the only disorganized mess around here! (I really think I’m just missing my alone time in the house to be honest).

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also hosts a podcast called Missing in the Carolinas. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--There is a lesson I've learned too well... and it's one you need to learn.

Be forgiving of yourself. Give yourself a break. Be lax with yourself when you can. So you had some down time--and you didn't cram it full of work? You obviously needed that down time. Just like our work needs time to sit, for the flavors to mingle, our brain needs inactive time now and then. If we're always rushing ahead--working--at full speed, we'll miss some of those ideas that come to us in the slower-paced times.

I'm not a runner, but I'm trying to make a case for writing being a marathon. We have to pace ourselves, and not go full-speed all the time. Otherwise, we'll burn out. However, I can also see it as a bunch of sprints. We have a deadline... and we write at a frenetic speed to meet the deadline. We get inspired while working on a manuscript... and we rush forward with a bunch of new pages.

You're doing an incredible amount of things during this crazy time. You have your "normal" amount of writing work plus a brand new project that involves a mountain range of work (and it's in new territory). AND you're doing it while you have kids at home. Be forgiving of yourself. Give yourself a break.

However, don't be as lax with yourself as I've been with myself. Don't wallow on the couch and binge-watch/read/nap as many days of the week as I have. Find a happy medium.

Think of what Sioux (currently, a sloth) would do. Think of what Renee THINKS she should be doing... and find something in the middle.

(And can I talk about your podcast for a minute? I am not much of a podcast listener. I sobbed over S-Town, and several years ago I listened to a prison one--"Ear Hustle" I think--but I loved the first two episodes of your podcast. The striking artwork lured me in, your voice is lovely to listen to, and the stories kept me on the edge of my seat. I think I signed up. Is there a way you can check to see if I did the right thing? I don't want to miss when the next episode is available.)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Renee: I relate to your post! We have so many different things going on with advertisers, freelancers, and promotions that sometimes it's hard to keep track of each piece and its goals. I feel like your sales team needs to communicate better with you and your editorial department. I know this isn't the first time, and you shouldn't blame yourself for it! You were being efficient, creative, and trying to stay on budget. The blend of advertorial (or in the online world, "sponsored posts") and editorial seems to be more frequent these days and the only way people like to advertise online anymore, and it's a struggle as an editor to find a good balance between the two. I agree with what Sioux said, don't be so hard on yourself!

I try to batch work sometimes, but mostly, I work up until the deadline every single time. Stress fuels my work, and I produce better work that way; but it's not the way most people want to work. I write the editor's letter or email intro right before deadline... every time. Then worry about it because I haven't thought it through. So you are not alone. Also, podcasting is new to you and there's a steep learning curve; but you'll find your groove!

One thing I've learned: don't put too much pressure or too many expectations on yourself, because most of the time, no one will notice if you don't do something. I know that's weird to say, but it's true! If you have to push back a project's deadline or even change your schedule from weekly to every other week or decide not to put out a newsletter or blog post, or whatever, the world isn't going to end. Our health and wellbeing should come first.

Also, your podcast is phenomenal!! You should be so proud of what you created. I'm excited for episode 3! Just got your newsletter yesterday and can't wait to check it out! :)

Renee Roberson said...

Hi Sioux! I just added you to my e-mail list. I try to send out an e-mail once a week when a new episode drops, so you should get them from now on. And opt out whenever you feel necessary! You can go to my website or SoundCloud if that's the way you prefer to listen to the next episode. And I loved "S-Town." I still get goosebumps when I hear the theme music to it. Such a sad and heartbreaking story. I do try and give myself plenty of downtime, I just feel like sometimes I procrastinate on the days that I shouldn't. With the kids here 24/7 now, sometimes I feel torn because I want to spend time with them in the mornings before they disappear into their caves for the day. Same old joys of working from home with kids, except now the husband is thrown in working from home and the kids ended up here full-time two months earlier than normal!

What is it about creative types that leave so many things to the last minute? I swear I do my best work when I put things off, too, even if I'm cursing myself the whole time. I swear I'm at least going to batch podcast scripts and blog posts for my website in the next few weeks when we're in between production cycles. SOMEONE HOLD ME TO IT! :-)
Sponsored content is a necessary piece of the puzzle nowadays but in our magazine, I prefer when it's designated for specific issues or separate clearly marked sections. The publisher has been trying to add more "sponsored pages," which is tricky territory. It's good as a sales tactic, but then whoever buys that ad feels like they have a say in what types of articles we run. This puts me in a tough spot, as you can imagine. It hasn't helped that we all haven't had an in-person meeting in two months so everyone has been feeling a little disconnected!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I don't know if I do my best work at the last moment but I find myself frequently wrapping things up with the clock ticking in the background.

Batchwork! Yeah. I tell other people to do it. Now if I could just remember to do it. How about we remind each other?

Love, love, love your podcast. Can you make sure I'm on your e-mail list?

Need a new episode to listen to while I crochet. Because I have a deadline. Shhh!


Theresa Loder said...

I enjoy writing ✍️ beach articles .. I find I’d rather write than eat or anything else really .. I live in a motor home and so I usually look at what needs to be done and just start writing .. everything else can wait ..

Morning is my best time .. I usually write three articles a week for a Sarasota Lifestyle Club .. dishes pile up and vacuuming can wait .. I tend to catch up later in the day with home matters .. since this virus I get outside in the afternoon for exercise and blowing the conch at sunset ..

What I’ve learned is communication during this challenge is so important.. we need to talk to each other .. we don’t necessarily need to be organized .. I ended up cutting my own hair and I’m waiting to get it colored when possible ..

Sending out a hello and a big hug 🤗

Theresa Loder 😀

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