How to Get Tons of Freelance Writing Assignments by Pumping Up the Volume

By Linda Formichelli

“I sent out five LOIs last week and I didn’t get any assignments!”

“I have a really great travel query out there and I’m dying to hear back from the editor.”

“I wrote to my local hospital on LinkedIn a week ago asking if they needed any writing and haven’t heard back.”

“I got a rejection last month and it really hurt.”

Have you found yourself uttering any of these phrases?

If so, here’s the reason you’re not seeing the success you want:

You’re not getting enough out there

You sent out five letters of introduction? How about Julie Knudson, who sent out 300 and ended up with nine regular gigs and 80 requests for her clips?

You got one rejection last month? If you’re not getting lots of rejections, you’re not trying hard enough.

You’re waiting by the phone to hear back on your single all-important query? That means you don’t have enough queries out there.

Too many writers send out a query or LOI here and there, or connect with an editor every once in awhile on Twitter or LinkedIn, and then get upset when they don’t see immediate results. But here’s the thing: If you get a huge volume of stuff out there, you almost can’t not succeed.

Why pump up the volume?

If you send out 300 LOIs (and your LOI is good, of course), you’re pretty much guaranteed to get at least one assignment.

If you have a dozen queries circulating to five magazines each, you’ll have a way better chance of landing an assignment than if you have just one pitch sitting at one magazine. And if you market in volume via LinkedIn, Twitter, queries, LOIs, sales letters, and phone calls, you’ll beat out the writer who relies on only one type of marketing.

Having a lot of work out there also helps cure you of sitting-by-the-phone-itis, where you wait with bated breath to hear back from that one editor on that one query you wrote, and are devastated when you get a rejection.

If you have a dozen queries and you do simultaneous querying, you’ll be able to brush off rejection because you know you have a lot more chances left.

So what’s keeping you from blasting out your work — and how can you get past those obstacles?

Puncturing perfectionism

It’s hard to churn out a dozen queries when it takes you two weeks to perfect each one, or to send out a boatload of LOIs when you struggle over every bit of punctuation.

You know the expression “Good enough never is?” Well, I like to say “Good enough often is.”

You’ll have a way better chance at success if you send out 20 “good enough” queries than if get none out because you’re still tinkering with them to make them perfect.

I’ve had mentoring clients who labor over every word in their LOI — while I’ve gotten assignments based on queries with typos in the very first sentence.

So do your best, put it aside, read it over a day later — then let it go.

The cure for lack of time

I’ll admit it — it takes a big time commitment to craft and send lots of LOIs, queries, sales letters, and so on. But you need to make that commitment because it’s the only way you’ll be able to make a living as a freelance writer. (Until you’re at the point in your career where you don’t need to pitch much anymore, that is.)

There are ways to trim down the size of the task, however.

For example, you can batch similar tasks like researching a bunch of trade magazines one day and then sending LOIs to all the editors the next — instead of researching one magazine and sending the editor an LOI, then moving on to the next magazine, which isn’t a very efficient way to work.

You can also challenge yourself to, say, connect with 50 potential clients on Twitter in two hours or send out ten LOIs in an hour — and set a timer. This will help you focus and get more work done than if you made the wishy-washy decision to send out an indeterminate number of LOIs in an indeterminate amount of time.

How to fight the fear

This is a biggie.

It’s hard enough to send out even one query if you’re afraid you’re doing it wrong, or generate even one idea if you’re afraid you’re going to make some giant faux pas and be blacklisted from the world of writing forever.

If you feel like you need to build up your skills, Carol and I have come up with a solution. It’ll help you gain the knowledge you need to become a seasoned freelancing pro, with the confidence you need to put lots of your best work out there. We call it 4-Week J-School.

We’ve condensed all the knowledge about freelancing you’d get in two years of journalism school — and that we personally learned through long years of trial and error — and giving you the critical bits in four weeks flat. You’ll learn about how to generate salable ideas, how to do research, where to find credible sources, how to prepare for and conduct interviews, what ethical snafus to look out for, and much more.

Sign up for the waiting list here.

How do you pump up the marketing volume? Tell us in the comments below.

 

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25 comments on “How to Get Tons of Freelance Writing Assignments by Pumping Up the Volume
  1. “How to fight the fear” hit home with me. I spent a large portion of my life writing, but afraid of rejection. My career bloomed late because I was scared to submit anything.

    I got angry about a local political issue and wrote a letter to the local newspaper editor. She actually called me the next day and complimented my writing and asked me if I was interested in being a stringer for their paper. Since then, I have blown off rejection with ease.

    To make a long story longer, fear of rejection can cripple a writer- but never being published can be far worse.
    John McDuffie recently posted…Free Sports Themed Facebook Timeline CoversMy Profile

  2. Great tips! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  3. I love this blog! It spoke to me in so many ways and reading the comments just made it more fun to read and realize — I need to get my butt in gear! And because of recent changes over the weekend it’s not longer a “gee I need to do this,” it’s a “heck yea, I gotta do this!”

    Katherine Swarts is correct, most unemployment requires people to look for at least three jobs a week to qualify for unemployment. Especially anyone who was on the Fed-Ed, #4 extension, before that was killed for 200,000 people. But I was thinking today after leaving a networking group I sponsor for unemployed people–living on welfare or unemployment is easy–no work, play all day, use the income to pay basic bills and deal with the rest.

    Not for me. I’m a journalism major with experience querying magazines, dealing with editors, and ghostwriting essays, and other stuff. I know how to do the work, but I got lazy and didn’t. Now, it’s time to brush off the saddle (I’m a horse oiwner and love riding), put my foot in that stir-up and settle into that saddle for the long-haul to find editors and businesses who need my writing. I need their money!

    I need to forget the perfectionism, and focus on writing a “good enough” LOI or query, make a few calls, and get my blog going to connect with readers on my website. Stop thinking–I’ll get to it and make the time to DO IT! Carol and Linda are right, this is a numbers game and submitting one or two items a week won’t cut it. Submitting 15-20 or more a week will get you in front of editors, business owners, get your name out and spark the idea that “Hey, I need a writer, let’s call Linda H!”

    Carol’s Den call on Overcoming Fear, her blogs on overcoming fear, Linda’s blogs on writing fast so you can make more money, and all the other blogs and calls both have done are priceless. So — stop procrastinating, making excuses, standing behind the wall of fear or being lazy — and get my horse in a steady lope toward my goal; then I can write a blog that tells about how I found success and made a living writing. Isn’t that what this is all about anyway?

    PS: I recommend Linda and Carol’s 4-week J-school class. I’m a Journalism, news reporting/editing major. The education I got took 4.5 years; was tons different that what a BA in Communications covers, and has worked well for me. From them you get it cheaper, in 4 weeks, and the return on your investment will help you laugh all the way to the bank.

  4. Thanks again for the great post! I have been trying to find ways to improve my skills, my confidence, and gain more clients.

    I just worry that I don’t have the ‘credentials’ needed to back my work. I don’t have any formal training or schooling, and so my LinkedIn and other profiles feel like they are lacking in “meat”.

    I’ve thought about doing the AWAI program to learn copywriting or travel writing. I just don’t know if it is worth the money. Do you have an opinion on it? Would it be worthwhile to take and list on a profile?

    I would appreciate any advice. I’m eager to get past writing about hemorrhoids, media cases, and ancestry and move onto projects that pay more than pennies!

    Thank you.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, call me biased…but I’d like to point your attention to Linda’s and my own 4-week J-School class — early registration ends tomorrow (Tuesday). We designed it specifically for people like you, who feel like they don’t have the chops to get the good assignments. We don’t have any formal training either — I’m a college dropout and Linda’s degree is in Slavic languages — and we’d like to save everyone else the dozen-or-so years we took learning it all the hard, slow way! And we make participants write a reported, 500-word story in the class, so it gives you a sample.

      I’ve seen the AWAI class — if you want to learn direct mail copywriting, you might do it, but it is expensive, and I know writers who took it where they said all they learned was that they didn’t want to write direct mail!

      In any case, these classes aren’t something you list in your profile — they’re just for your knowledge. Clients don’t care where you learned it — just that you can do it.

      Your clips are the credentials that matter. I once got a $50K a year staff writing job off the strength of my features written for a tiny alternative paper. The lack of a college degree became irrelevant when they read me. Think about how you can get the kind of clips that will get you gigs.

      • I would really like to do your course, but I just lost my main source of income and may have to take a part time brick and mortar job temporarily. I wouldn’t mind charging your course, and I know this is a stupid question to ask you…..but… Do you really think it will really help me find the better paying gigs? I just want to be sure it’s a good investment. Yes, it’s very difficult to trust online, because a lot of the time everyone just wants to make a buck and they don’t care how they get it. I’m not saying that you are one of them! I did appreciate Linda’s endorsement.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Hi Sunshine —

          Linda co-teaches 4-Week J-School with me, in case that wasn’t clear.

          I don’t know what type of freelance writing gigs you’re getting now, but we designed this class to give people writing for mills and taking other low-paid work the reporting chops to successfully pitch and write better-paying feature articles for magazines and companies.

          Since this is our first time teaching this particular class, it doesn’t have a track record at this time (one of the reasons the price is so low), but you can certainly check out the success stories from participants in our previous classes such as the Blast Off Class — http://www.makealivingwriting.com/freelance-writers-blast-off-group-coaching.

          As you know, the whole focus around here is on helping writers make more money. The courses I design have the same focus. Our aim is to strip the fluff out of 2-years of J-School and deliver just the nuts and bolts you need to confidently go after and get better assignments.

  5. I’m still wondering if I heard right, but I was told that my state requires filling out only three job applications a week to constitute the proof-of-search that qualifies one for unemployment benefits. (The best job-search coach I know recommends thirty direct person-to-person contacts a week–fifteen new and fifteen follow-up.) No wonder they say welfare makes recipients lazy!
    Katherine Swarts recently posted…Every Word CountsMy Profile

  6. Patti Hale says:

    When I was a sales manager training new salespeople I always told them to welcome the 9 out of ten rejections they received because it only meant they were closer to getting that one that said yes! The numbers in freelance writing are bigger than that but the same analogy works. Welcome each rejection since it will only bring you closer to the one that says yes 😉
    Patti Hale recently posted…How to Find Work from Home NewsletterMy Profile

  7. J. Delancy says:

    The secret to high LOI volume is templates. In fact the number of things that can be templated (is that a word?) without people noticing is surprising. For instance essays for scholarship applications (as done by Ramit Sethi), magazine covers (Men’s Health), and query letters.
    I also use a swipe file that is stored in Google docs, that way I can cut and paste some general information and lines that I know are likely to grab a client’s attention.

    Try it:)
    J. Delancy recently posted…Dear Citibank or Lessons in Customer ServiceMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Personally, I have never developed a query template — I think each pitch is different. I’ve had quite a few writers in the Den try that, and it never seems to result in a strong query in my view.

      But if you get results with it, I say go for it! Certainly we can all save time with some stock “about me” type language we can just paste in.

  8. Nicki says:

    LOI stands for letter of introduction:)

  9. Rob says:

    Just one question: What’s LOI stand for? I looked it up and got Level of Indemnity, Level of Importance and – Eureka! – Letter of Inquiry. This blog was spookily relevant to me today. I sent out one LOI and am holding my breath in anticipation of a positive response. I think I’d better “pump up the volume.” Thanks!
    Rob recently posted…The Truth about this Expat Writer’s LifeMy Profile

  10. John Soares says:

    I don’t need to market often, but when I do it, I do it in big chunks. I’ll create a well-crafted LOI (or use a previous one), and then I use that as the template for every e-mail I send to an editor, just changing the specific details as needed.
    John Soares recently posted…Are Freelance Writers Introverts?My Profile

  11. Yes, ditch the need for perfectionism…It kills. If one dallies because “it’s not good enough,” it will never be so. This whole post’s message reminds me of “One day at a time”…”One step at a time.” We better off not considering the mountain.

    Instead, deal with ‘it’ in bite-size pieces. Then it doesn’t terrify and paralyze…

    What haven’t I been doing (and now will because of this post)? Setting a block of time for business, as in crafting and sending out queries. Nope–I write–and end it there.

    I will begin to do the more market-savvy thing of reaching out to my intended market. For instance, I didn’t know one could query hospitals…don’t even know what markets might exist for my writing, This would be really important to know since I’d like to weigh in as patient/advocate, since I’ve had boatload of experience in this.

    Now, I need to get the word out…Thanks, again.
    Colleen Kelly Mellor recently posted…Call to Arms for “National Scrunchie Day”My Profile

    • PS…What’s LOI?
      Colleen Kelly Mellor recently posted…Call to Arms for “National Scrunchie Day”My Profile

    • Great advice, thanks!

      LOI stands for Letter of Introduction.

      You typically wouldn’t query a hospital with an article idea as you would a magazine — you would send an LOI to someone in marketing to see if they use writers and plug your credentials and the benefits of using you.
      Linda Formichelli recently posted…7 Butt-Saving Strategies for Getting Your Article Written on DeadlineMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      That perfectionism is one reason why cold calling works for some writers. If it takes you all day to polish one LOI, you may be better off just making a list of companies, calling their marketing department and asking if they use freelancers, as you can make many more contacts. And as Linda points out…it really is a numbers game.

    • Perfectionism kills in at least two other ways: it expends so much emotional energy that it slows your overall work pace through sheer fatigue; and that takes a major toll on you physically as well. (Though the statistics are entirely my own unresearched, unscientific deduction, I am seriously considering posting a sign on my mirror that says “Every minute of fretting takes two minutes off your life: the one you waste in the fretting and the one your body expends supporting you through the stress.”)
      Katherine Swarts recently posted…Every Word CountsMy Profile

  12. Emma says:

    Hmm .. i am a free lancer too .. i will try this too ..

    thanks for sharing …

  13. Tania Dakka says:

    Awesome post. We get so caught up in everything else that we neglect to focus where we need to to get new gigs. Now, I’ll make myself schedule blocks of time to send out queries. Thanks!

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