Freelance writing can be hectic and stressful. You spend a
lot of time pitching topics or writing manuscripts that may not even get
published, deal with rejection, work under tight deadlines, and collaborate
with editors on revision. If you have a day job, you squeeze in freelance work
amid your other responsibilities. If you opt to freelance full time, you feel
the pressure of bringing in enough money to pay your bills.
Then there are people who make it all look easy—take Kelly
James-Enger, at right, for instance. She’s been freelancing for more than a decade, and
she’s figured out how to make a full-time writer’s income working part-time
hours so she can spend more time being a mom. And she’s willing to share her
tricks of the trade: You can regularly read her advice on the business side of
freelance writing in The Writer’s Freelance Success column.
Now you can also find out Kelly’s timesaving freelance
strategies on her blog, Dollars and Deadlines. We recently asked her about
freelancing and blogging. Here’s what she had to say:
Should beginning freelancers always start by pitching small
markets to gain experience and clips?
Not necessarily. I usually suggest that beginning
freelancers pick several markets to pitch at the same time—maybe a couple of
smaller ones and at least one national one. Why not shoot for the “biggies”
while you’re gaining experience? What’s more important is to know the market
you’re pitching, and to come up with ideas that will work for that market.
Then, even if the editor doesn’t assign your idea, he or she may assign
something else because you’ve done your homework and studied her market.
What is the No. 1 mistake that beginning freelancers make?
Focusing on what they want
to write, not what editors want to buy. Starting out, I was writing short
stories and trying to get them published. It wasn’t until I finally woke up and
realized that 95 percent of magazine copy (not including ads) is
nonfiction—articles mostly, with a few essays—that I decided to focus on
nonfiction articles. And that’s when I started selling my work—my first sale
was to Cosmopolitan, my second to
Brides. I was a new writer with
no experience, but both articles were targeted to the readers (and thereby the
editors) of each mag and that’s why they sold.
What is one thing that an established freelancer can do to
take his or her career to the next level?
It depends on your individual goals, of course. For me,
getting into books took my career to the next level, in terms of making money
and thinking long term. For other writers, it could be focusing on developing a
specialty, writing your first book, starting a speaking career, or even
launching a blog designed to continue to expand your platform and gain more
Why did you decide to blog now?
I’ve been behind the social-media curve, but I realized that
if I want to stay busy and productive as a book author and ghostwriter (which
is where I’m putting most of my time and making most of my money these days), I
need to have a stronger online presence. I’m fairly well-known as a “writing
expert” with two books on writing [Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide
to Making More Money and Ready, Aim, Specialize!: Create Your Own Writing
Specialty and Make More Money!], but my website was static and not doing much
for me. I wanted to establish myself more as a ghostwriter/collaborator and the
blog is helping me do that. And after thinking about blogging for a couple of
years, I was finally ready! Dollars and Deadlines is aimed at nonfiction writers who want to make more money in less time—as a
mom of two little kids, I work part-time hours but need to make a full-time
living, so working as productively as possible is my thing these days. I also
didn’t see any blogs with that angle, so I thought it was an opportune time to
What do you like best about freelance writing?
I love being my own boss. It sounds trite, but I like being
in charge of my career. I get to decide what kind of work I want to do, for
what kinds of clients, how I’ll spend my time, etc. As a freelancer, I can
decide on just about any career path, and that’s fantastic. Of course that’s
also a lot of responsibility—my success or failure is all up to me. Eeek! But
after 13-plus years of being self-employed, I really can’t imagine going back
to work for a boss other than myself. I suppose I’m spoiled. (And after years
of wearing suits as an attorney, being able to work in my PJ bottoms and a
T-shirt is definitely a nice bonus!)
C. Lange, associate editor