By David Geer-
As I close in on 14 years of full-time freelancing, I find that now and then work can suddenly dry up. Whether the high-paying kind of work that I enjoy offers returns depends on how I respond to these lulls.
I used to panic and go after any and all work that I could find. This so-called work included the cheapest lowball offers in and outside my niche, accepting any style, genre and subject matter. I was desperate and looked and acted it. I attracted the worst side of this business. I lost much of my confidence in getting high-quality, high-paying work again.
After about two or three weeks of this behavior, my plate would fill with bad, low-paying gigs. Then, as luck would have it, a flood of my normal, high-paying work would come in too. Now I had twice the work I could handle, half of which I didn’t want. I couldn’t turn the good work down, and I couldn’t ignore my responsibility to complete the other work I had committed to.
I have since learned to spend those two- or three-week periods calmly, patiently and confidently going after the best work I possibly could. I did so with patience, not letting anyone know my situation, not acting or appearing desperate. Now at the end of such periods, there is no crap to deal with when my luck turns around.
I now live and work with the confidence that every time such periods come along, if I respond in a confident manner, in lieu of fearful and desperate, everything will return to normal in a few weeks.
Let me elaborate on what I do during those typically two- to three- week periods to bring a rush of new work in.
First, I approach existing editors, asking 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, and I look 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 these editors I already know. I think they respect the additional effort and commitment to the project. And the more they can see upfront, the more convincing my argument that I can finish a great story.
I do likewise with new-to-me 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. Speak about subjects in a manner no one has ever done before. Don’t be afraid to cut against the grain a little bit. But don’t let them smell your fear. That does nobody any good.
Bio: David Geer writes for national and international trade, business, and consumer publications. Follow David on https://twitter.com/geercom, http://www.about.me/daviddgeer, http://www.linkedin.com/in/daviddgeer and http://www.davidgeer.com.