Being a Freelance Writer

I had a lot of thoughts run through my head while reading a recent article by Noah Davis on The Awl:

I would love to make 12.50 an hour with my writing. Hell I would love to make 250 for every article I write. I don't see either of those things happening soon, sadly.

Admittedly I may be slightly bitter about this. I recently wrote what I think is one of the best articles I've ever written []. I wrote many, many drafts. I did about two hours of interviews, which I of course transcribed myself. To prepare for this, I read seven books on top of web research. I was working on other projects all this time, but I always thought of the John Lewis as my major project.

I won't say how little I made but it was a lot less than 250.

Of course it was a great experience. I got to meet and spend some time with Congressman John Lewis, a great man. I spent time reading and looking into the Civil Rights Movement. I had the chance to write about something substantive and meaningful and important. The result was something that was pretty good. Even though it wasn't a good money-making endeavor, I should just chalk it up as an experience – like my summer in Europe, the time in the Middle East, road trip across the United States, etc. – and move on.

Of course it would be nice to get some recognition. I don't necessarily mean that I want people to pat me on the back or pay me extra. I just would like to get some reaction from people that this is good, this is something. I'm improving as a writer.


Most of what I get as a writer is rejection. I pitch publications and never hear back. I pitch publications and get a no. I get articles published and for the most part I don't get a response from anyone about them. Or if I do, the concerns are about formatting or procedure. In the Awl article, writer David Samuels makes the point that writing is a craft and craft is learned through work and apprenticeship. I'd like to be an apprentice.

I read the article with no small amount of sadness and frustration when Davis wrote what he's been paid to write features at various publications – many of which I've pitched, many of which have never responded to me.

What's frustrating in the end is that I don't have answer. I would like to know the whys. That's one reason I'm a writer, I want to know why and how and the process. Do I get rejected because I'm pitching cold and ignore all those? Did did not go to the right school? Is it a crappy idea? Am I mediocre writer? The answer is always dead silence.

This week I know that I'll pitch some more editors. Some I've worked with before, others I've pitched before, some I don't know. I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.The thing is, you can only hop for the best and keep making a bad living for so long before it starts to wear you down. Before you start to feel old. Before you just start dreading the process of pitching and not hearing back and trying again and trying other people.

This is why people leave journalism. It's exhausting and there's no money in it. And it's hard to be rejected all day at work – or hear nothing – and then go out at night and put on a happy face, be confident and positive.

I wonder what it's like to have a job as a journalist. You know, with a desk and an office and a workplace. A salary and vacation days and health benefits. Where you don't stress out constantly about trying to make ends meet and maybe this week people won't respond to your pitches.

I wonder...

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