Chapter 5

Season's greetings + advice for the New Year

Dear writers,

Welcome to the last newsletter of the year!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas season.

I’ve been in Goa for a week and I feel like I am living in a bubble that keeps me clueless about what’s happening in the country. The protests here have been limited. Everyone seems to be in a festive mood. Anyway, if you are struggling to explain the NPR, CAA and NRC to others (like I am), here’s a cheat sheet. If you need to Whatsapp people, this Instagram page has the best good morning messages! If you can’t step out, Feminism in India wrote a wonderful piece on how you can contribute to the cause. I would recommend donating to independent media, and funds being collected for people injured/ those organising protests (check if they are legit first, please).

This edition doesn’t have an interview or call for pitches. Instead, in keeping with the idea that many of you may have New Year resolutions, it is packed with advice and useful resources.

Let’s begin.


I

Lauren Cocking is a freelance journalist in Mexico. She often talks about the freelance life – links to good stories, the difficulties in getting payments, and how to crack new markets. She recently did a thread on the publications that paid her the most this year. 

II

I have mentioned Zora Mag before. The Medium publication carries stories by and for women of colour and they span every subject. Senior editor, Morgan Jenkins, has put out a wish-list of pitches she would want to receive in 2020:

  • Ambitious, reported pieces that have to deal with climate change or any other sort of environmental crises.

  • Stories that delve deep into archives and involve sources to substantiate everything.

  • Anniversary stories that contextualize that moment, why it resonates today and what it means to you.

  • Literary interviews and profiles that answer the question: what is this person creating that's special and may reflect our current, cultural climate?

  • A great personal essay demands that lets you interrogate yourself and your place in the world.

The best part: they pay $1 a word! Email mjerkins@medium.com

III

Interested in research grants and funding? Here is how you can go about getting one:

  • Writer Julia Phillips has created a handy calendar mentioning deadlines, additional information and links.

  • Every summer, Clarion West holds an intensive six-week workshop in Seattle’s University District, geared to help you prepare for a professional career as a writer of speculative (short) fiction. Each workshop is limited to 18 students, and each week features a different instructor (usually a highly regarded author or editor). PS: if you cannot manage the entry fee, contact Shiv Ramdas on Twitter. 

IV

If you want a second pairs of eyes to look over your writing, here’s a good, FREE resource.

The Internet Writing Workshop is a set of mailing lists (groups) that communicate in English by email. They are a community where writers can submit and critique written works, a forum to discuss and get help on all aspects of writing, and a public service educational organization, staffed by volunteers and free of charge. The Workshop is open to all styles and genres of writing: literary fiction, genre fiction, poetry, children's writing, essays, newspaper articles, scripts.

V

Documentary photography who dabbles in online/ business /tech, Mikli Feria Jorge curated a PSA highlighting some key sentences to add or subtract from your vocabulary so you don't burn out in 2020! She rightly calls them her ‘friendly yet firm-about-my-boundaries’ replies (marked in bold). I have already started using some of these and I cannot stress how useful they have proved to be!  

  • If a request comes in at the close of the day: “I can get to that in the morning!” If a request comes in after you’ve clocked out for the day: (Nothing. Reply to it in the morning. Don’t even look at your phone.) Ditto for weekends – get to it on Monday.

  • You can also use an auto-responder: “Hi! Thanks for emailing. Just wanted to let you know I got it. Please give me 1-2 days on Mondays to Fridays to respond. Thanks!”

  • Instead of ‘Sure, no problem!’ when it is, indeed, a problem: “I can have this done in (time PLUS PADDING – if you submit early, great. But if life happens and you submit late, it's not late)’ OR “The earliest I can get this done is xxx. Does this work for you?”

  • For multiple requests, one on top of the other from the same person all due at the same time and you're drowning: “Okay, so right now I’m doing x, y, z, a, b, c. How would you like to prioritize?”

  • If a client says what you did isn’t what they asked for when it is, indeed, what they asked for: screenshot the original request or reply to it. “Hi! I’ve done x, y, z like we discussed earlier. Would you like me to edit it to (new request)? I can get that done by (time)!”

  • “What’s your rate?” “My rate is x.” (No explanations or any extra info needed here).

  • If your rate is out of their budget, and ONLY if you want to work with them: “No problem, we can work with (budget). For (budget), we can do x, y, and z (cut the deliverables), so that you can still (reach one of their goals) by (date)!”

VI

Finally, here is some advice from my 2.5 years as a freelancer. I’ve focussed on the payments aspect because this is a topic most freelancers seem hesitant to address. An important thing to remember is that this is your money and you deserve it.  

  • Forgive the repetition but, do not write for free. If you do not value your writing, why would anyone else? If you gain a reputation for writing for free, it will get difficult to find well-paying work.  

  • Always ask about payments in the beginning. Once a pitch is accepted, discuss payments. Agree on a clear rate before starting work on your story. Other details to clarify: will TDS be cut, when will the payment be done, do you have to email/ mail the invoice, etc.

  • Learn to be upfront about payments. It is always better to be transparent in your financial dealings.

  • Send your invoice immediately after sending in the story.

  • Record everything. Ensure that all money-related transactions are done over email. Even if you have to send a hard copy, mention it in an email.

  • Follow up: if they give a payment date and it’s passed, follow up. If they aren’t responding, ask for a response in 5/10 working days. Keep following up till you get a response/ payment. Some clients do need to be hounded.

  • If you’ve agreed on a fixed rate, and a client asks for more work, ask for more money. Negotiate that extra bit before agreeing to do anything extra.

  • Don’t be afraid to say no. If a rate doesn’t work for you or the client is known for late payments, ask yourself if the client is worth the trouble. If they are not, say a hard no.


If you haven’t as yet, I would suggest making some plans/ goals/ resolutions for your freelance life in 2020 – it will help streamline your work for the year. Top of the list should read: DO NOT WRITE FOR FREE, with a sub text saying, ‘exposure doesn’t pay bills’.

My resolutions for the year: crack into my top 3 international publications, write more stories about my home (Goa), conduct a freelancing workshop (if interested…say aye!), collaborate with more companies for content writing gigs, and branch out from just writing feature stories. I also intend to write more letters – it has nothing to do with freelancing but it improves my handwriting and teaches me to focus on just the writing.  

If you have made your own resolutions, do share them with me.

I wish you all a wonderful new year filled with everything that sparks joy.

Until next year,

Adiós!

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