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Freelancing? Here’s how to keep your income steady during the pandemic

May 7, 2020

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Following specific guidelines while pitching can help improve your odds in landing assignments as a freelancer. (Photo: Pixabay user free-photos)

Your freelance career was buzzing along and COVID-19 happened. Suddenly some work from regular clients dried up. Then you started hearing about  layoffs and furloughs at various  newsrooms across the country.

Having the right mindset is a huge part of freelancing, but it’s hard not to panic in the midst of massive change. Here’s what to do to feel steady in the storm.

Take Stock

First, open up your invoicing software (I use Wave, which is free) and make a list of the places you’ve pitched in the past year or two.

Next, find out which of the places you’ve written for have slashed their freelance budget, at least temporarily. You can contact other freelancers at those sites, if you have a relationship, or ping your assigning editor. But you can also cross-reference your list with media support network Study Hall’s list of publications that have cut freelance budgets during COVID-19.

After you’ve figured out where you can’t pitch, make a list of the places you can pitch—the ones you haven’t crossed out from your list. Scroll down on Study Hall’s list of places that are still commissioning to see if any of the sites you’ve wanted to write for are listed. (You can check sites like Who Pays Writers to make sure the pay is worth your while.)

Pitch Differently

Clearly, you’ll need to spend more time sending LOIs and pitches. But you’ll also want to reach for different types of projects. It might be hard to get a regular column when editors are less likely to commit to one, but three-part series could be within reach. Look for longer contracts, monthly retainers, or anything that seems ongoing and stead

Diversify Your Income Streams

Now may not be the best time to try to pick up a new skillset, but you can certainly tap into the one you already have. Try to add some new income streams doing work you’ve done in the past, whether that’s editing, managing social media accounts, design work or something else entirely.

Now is also a good time to re-market your info product, run the online course again, or even put out a new marketing push for that book you wrote and get royalties from.

Be Persistent

Think back to your first year of freelancing when you sent five pitches and five follow-up emails every single week. Use that same energy and focus. You may need to block out a chunk of time every week (or even every day) just for marketing and acquiring new work.

Seek—And Give—Support

Take advantage of any tips, tricks and insight in the webinars, newsletters or forums you have access to. Look to professional groups like SABEW or ASBPE, unions like IWW FJU and NWU, or groups like Study Hall and Freelance Success.

Being a part of a community of freelancers is incredibly helpful both to reach out to people when you are in need of help, and to support others needing assistance, too.


  • Yael Grauer

    Yael is an investigative tech reporter covering privacy and security, digital freedom, hacking, and mass surveillance. Yael currently works at Consumer Reports as a tech journalist and the content lead of CR Security Planner. She has freelanced for m...

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