One of the most devastating times for writers is when things seem to be going along smoothly and then the work dries up. As I close in on 14-years of full-time freelancing, I find that now and then, work can suddenly dry up for me just as it does for any writer. Whether the work and specifically whether the high-paying kind of work that I enjoy returns and how soon depends on how I respond to these lulls.
I used to panic, humble myself excruciatingly, and go after any and all work that I could find. This “work” included the cheapest, lowball offers in and outside my niche of any style, genre and subject matter. I was desperate, and looked and acted like I was. This showed. I pushed more opportunities away than I brought in. I attracted the worst side of this business to me. I lost much of my confidence in getting high quality, high paying work again.
After about two to three weeks of this, my plate was full of bad, low-paying work. Then all of a sudden, a flood of high-paying work would come in, too. Everything would be as wonderful as before, perhaps even better, except that now I had twice the work I could handle, half of which, the crappy work, I didn’t even want. I couldn’t turn the good work down, and I couldn’t ignore my responsibility to complete the other work to which I had committed.
I have since learned to spend these two to three week periods calmly, patiently, and confidently going after the best work I possibly could, and as much of it as I possibly could. I did so with patience, not letting anyone know how things were going, not acting or appearing desperate in the least. Now, at the end of such periods, a bigger flood of great work comes in, and there is no crap to deal with.
Everything turns out fine, and I now live and work with the confidence that every time such periods come along, if I respond in the same confident manner, I will get the same results, and everything will return to normal in a few weeks.
Now, let me elaborate on what I do during those typically two- to three-week periods to bring in a rush of new work. I approach existing editors, pinging them as to how they are doing, and taking a genuine interest in them, both personally and professionally. I drop them an email with tips and leads, or open up a discussion on topics that interest them.
If that doesn’t lead to an assignment, I re-read the publication and competing publications looking for unanswered questions and other material that may be the impetus for new pitches. Then, I write longer, better and more detailed pitches than I typically do for that editor. I think they respect the additional effort and commitment to the project. And, the more they can see upfront, the more convincing your argument that you can finish a great story.
I do likewise with new editors, but again only those with the best work and pay rates. I put together well-considered letters of introduction and samples to go with great story pitches. The more excited I am about a story, and the more research I have done to develop it, the easier it is for editors to become interested.
Here is the critical theme in all this: the more you need the work, the more serious and committed you have to be. You have to make your biggest investment, your strongest commitment, and demonstrate extensive preparation in your proposals in order to get the work.
More than that show your best creative writing chops in the process. Write things that are genuinely profound in unique ways. Say things that no one has ever said before. Don’t be afraid to cut against the grain a little bit.
David Geer writes for national and international trade, business and technology publications. Follow David on https://twitter.com/geercom,
https://www.about.me/daviddgeer, https://www.linkedin.com/in/daviddgeer and