This year was crazy. I WROTE A DAMN BOOK. More on that soon. I also started looking at my career differently. I don’t have to take every single job that comes along, even though sometimes I feel like I do. You have to ask yourself why you are pitching or writing a story. Does it pay well? Are you passionate about the topic? Will the byline lend you credibility or add to your portfolio? Or will it lead to further work or recognition? It has to meet at least one of these criteria and ideally two. If the answer is no to all, then it’s not worth it. I lost an “anchor” client this year but almost immediately gained another one that’s an even better fit. I also worked on a project with a company that has been delayed in payment in the past, even though I knew better. All I can do is work harder at only taking work that fits my aforementioned criteria. I’ve also figured out the sweet spot that I need to earn every month to live comfortably. I also was recognized by Roads and Kingdoms as one of their favorite stories they’ve published, so I’m feeling pretty good!
Where My Work Went
Before I forget, these posts were inspired by those of Lola Akinmade, especially the pie charts. It’s safe to say that my work went all over the place this year. In the category of assigned work, I was published by Simply Buckhead, Her Packing List, Canadian Traveller, Afar, and 17 South. I continued work with companies like US Auto Sales, Owners, and Hotel Indigo through Skyword and Contently. My work with Explore Georgia only expanded and I worked on three visitors guides for CVBs around Georgia. I completed another issue of The Knot, but it was my last one with them. I successfully pitched a few outlets, including Southern Kitchen, Roads and Kingdoms, Ravishly, Flight Network, Fodor’s, and Marriott Traveler. I was published by Where, Georgia’s Great Places, 365 Atlanta Family, and Getaways for Grownups through relationships with editors. I worked on another project that involves Google. And, of course, I wrote a book that will be published in 2018. See almost all of my work on my Contently page.
Turning Pitches Into Stories
One problem that I faced this year was actually writing stories about each place I went. Some had more clear stories while others gave me trouble. I pitched a story to at least seven outlets for a press trip from last year before finally finding a home for it. I need to do more front-end pitching and research to make sure I can get something out of it. My number of assigned stories has gone up, which is great, and my “no response” category has remained steady. I received an equal amount of rejections as accepted pitches, which sounds about right as well. I pitched or wrote over 120 stories this year, so an average of 10 a month. I’d like to increase that to 15.
Side Hustles Always
I’ve decreased the amount of money I actually earn from my side hustles, but they provide a nice cushion for the down times in the year. I’m still working as an extra in TV and film sporadically and earn a bit of income through other means like blog partnerships and affiliate agreements. I also did some work for a PR firm this year, working on their story ideas to submit to journalists and writing some of their website content. Obviously the money I’ve made from this book and a few other big projects skewed my numbers this year.
Goals for the Next Year
- Pitch 15 stories per month. In the past, I’ve labored over a pitch for weeks or months before actually sending it. I’m not saying I want to impulsively pitch ideas that aren’t well thought-out, but the worst answer you can get is no.
- Go on my own creative retreats. It’s nice to get out of town and away from the distractions of home. Thankfully I don’t have to go far as it might be an Atlanta staycation or to a bordering state. Self care is very important for the self employed, so even a day at the spa helps.
- Write one long-form and research-heavy story. Because so much of my work has been listicle-heavy and short-form online, I’ve become intimidated by long stories and those with interviews. I’d like to kick that fear this year.
- Negotiate higher pay rates. I usually go with whatever the rate is when someone approaches me to write for them. There have been very few times that I’ve negotiated more, as I know that most of the time they’re sending you their best offer. But if a project requires more work, like sourcing photos, I should ask for more.
- Upgrade my gear. Every time I go on a trip with other bloggers and writers, I get gear envy. I finally upgraded my computer, but my camera is now going on eight years old. Any recommendations?
- Sell beyond my advance for my book. I got an advance for sales of my book but want to sell enough copies that I earn a percentage on the rest. There’s a general number I want to hit. So when it comes out, please buy a copy! Sign up here to be informed about when it comes out.
- Pitch with the confidence of a mediocre white dude. I’m talking Vice, Oxford American, Southern Living, and Bitter Southerner. Why shouldn’t I? That’s why “confidence” is my word of the year.
- Actively work on my memoir. I have about 20,000 words, but some of them are rather rough. I also have an idea for a novel I’d like to explore. But let me get through this one first.