When I left my full-time media job in November and went freelance, I was excited about the possibilities of writing what I wanted, when I wanted, for who I wanted. After all, I watched so many people go through media layoffs only to secure dream gigs and book proposals shortly after. And while it could seem risky to leave a comfortable staff position, many of the writers I knew who did it ended up getting more ambitious projects and higher salaries in the long run.
At the same time, I was worried about the usual hurdles: Would I make enough money, and could I pay rent if I didn’t? What if no one took my pitches and I couldn't figure out why? Would I be able to keep track of all my ideas, deadlines, and invoices—or would I eventually fall apart just trying to stay afloat?
I only thought of these questions (and felt well-prepped for self-employment) because of the advice of other writers. Without even realizing it, I had internalized Tweets of freelancing tips for a long time, so much so that when I reached out to my first few editors, I didn’t waste hours crafting the perfect message or worry if I was bothering them. I just shot out a few quick emails, because by then, I learned it's ok to ask for help, just like it's ok to follow-up or advocate for a higher rate, mostly because of the huge push for transparency I’ve seen from writers and editors for years.
If you’ve ever looked at a publication’s Google Doc style guide and seen 90+ people simultaneously viewing it, you’ll know that freelance writing is competitive. Yet, what’s remarkable—and, I suspect, keeps many people still doing it—is the solidarity in the community. I pay $4 a month for Study Hall, and not only do I get weekly updates on where to pitch or which places are freezing freelance stories—I also have a community I can go to if I have any questions or tips to give. Better yet: The money goes right back into writing, as Study Hall pays for features and essays, too.
On a larger scale, it’s become a normal part of the community to consistently offer help, whether you’re an editor who can accept pitches, a writer who can raise other people up, or a fellow freelancer starting a newsletter. As unfortunately volatile as this industry has been, it seems to have taught us all one thing: No one is exempt from being laid off, no matter how talented or hard-working they are. There are thousands of equally-strong writers as you out there, and your best idea of all time may have already been pitched by someone else two hours ago. What matters most isn’t rapidly rising to the top or having the hottest takes—it’s using your platform to help your peers, knowing that one day, you too could use the boost.