Episode 15: Recharging & Reinventing your Freelance Business from AHP (Part I)


Recorded live at the AHP Equine Media Conference June 2017 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Session blurb: Experienced freelancers and The Freelance Remuda podcast co-hosts Abigail Boatwright and Kate Bradley Byars will discuss ways to revitalize your freelance writing or photography business. This includes identifying your strengths and how to capitalize on them, ways to improve your content offerings, and how to set yourself up for success through establishing your brand and workflow. 

The episode starts with Kate & Abigail introducing themselves with some background on their work experiences.

A:  Why are we doing this?

While some of you are just starting out or changing jobs, or maybe even thinking about getting into freelance, others of you are veterans in the field. In January, we launched the Freelance Remuda podcast. We started because Abigail and I found ourselves having a lot of conversations about how to excel as freelancers. We wanted to help other freelancers, and also encourage relationships between those freelancers and content buyers (clients, editors, companies). We talk about challenges as freelancers, and interview editors about what they look for in freelancers. We also talk to other equine media professionals that have advice and tips.

K: Our goal is to elevate our freelance community, and give you both encouragement and tools to do your job better and enhance your own career paths. And this session is springboarded by the FR podcast. Gathering here is a prime example of how we can all work together toward the same goal – a high quality product for content buyers that will also be beneficial to our careers. How can we do that? By focusing on three major points, we hope to give you the tools to recharge your freelance batteries and reinvent how you think about working relationships.

The discussion focuses on three main topics: building on strengths/finding your niche, goal setting & building professional relationships. Using those topics, Kate & Abigail outline how to recharge and reinvent your freelance business.

Discussion on finding a niche/build on strengths:

Kate – “I believe that my personal riding experiences and professional work experience allow me to competently write about most all Western style riding articles. However, feedback from content buyers has shown my strength lies in a training article, where I enjoy writing a profile. I pitch training articles because magazines are always looking for that educational content. When I write training articles, I typically learn something, and try to also ensure the reader has the same sense of accomplishment.”

How did I build on this strength? Suggesting training articles for magazines, working with sources I felt were professional and accomplished. That has allowed me to build a working relationship with at least two publications that rarely do not accept a training article pitch.

Abigail – training and health pieces. When I was on staff, I never volunteered to write health pieces because they were hard and they had a lot of research. Right after I became a freelancer, I went to the AAEP conference for story ideas. I came home with a bunch and wrote 8 health pieces. Now, I really love writing health pieces because my sources are usually veterinarians that are really knowledgeable. And it’s a challenge to disseminate the info in an understandable way.

So what are your strengths?

1. What do you already have a deep passion for? How do you back up that passion with knowledge?

2. Talk to your content buyers. What do they like that you produce? Examples. What you think is your strength may not be what the editors really like.

3. What are you interested in? What do you want to learn more about? Having an interest in a topic comes through in your writing. Follow those passions, even if its something that has been covered a lot—how can you find a different angle? Would a different magazine be interested?

4. READ THE MAGAZINE before you pitch!

5. Focus your efforts on building relationships with the publications that best suit you instead of scatter-shot style pitching to all magazines. 

Set Goals > Open discussion on goal setting and development

Goals are good. But sometimes, we get so dang busy that we forget to look past the next deadline, the next few months.

Think for a minute, what inspires you? What goal do you want to reach? What can you do to achieve it? Tell us.

Abigail: Two years ago, I wanted to do a story with Lyle Lovett’s horse, Smart N Shiney, aka Mr Gorgeous. I pursued the story and the end result was award-worthy content. And, I got to meet the most beautiful horse! What are your goals? Do you have a specific magazine you want to add your byline to? A certain source you really want to work with.

Examples of questions that can kick start goal planning:

1.     Expand your clients by a certain number of publications?

2.     What about photography? Do you want to have a cover or learn a new technique?

3.     Do you want to use your professional skills to branch out into a new freelance niche like a vlog, podcast or eBook?  

4.     How can you achieve these goals?

5.     What is the timeline?

Big goals, like starting a podcast or expanding your business may require long term planning but you will have baby steps to achieve. Other goals, like adding a new client, could be done in 30 to 60 days.

Break bigger goals down to smaller steps. Identify the goal, then identify at least three means to achieve it, and make small stair step goals to hit on the way to your ultimate reward. Find a friend to help keep you accountable.

Invest in yourself to offer the best possible content, including photography. Invest in your skills through continuing education or mentorship. 

- CHALKBOARD METHOD (Being Boss) Set goals - including desired income or number of assignments. Make space on a calendar or whiteboard where you can track the goals. Re-evaluate monthly/quarterly/annually.

Audience question: What do you do when you're all filled up and somebody comes to you with an assignment? 

Abigail Sometimes, I say no. Sometimes I tell the editor the next opening I have available for an assignment. It's better for the magazine, and it's better for me, if I cap the assignments I take on. Each publication deserves to have my best, and if I have too much work, I'm not putting out my best, and it doesn't help anyone.

Audience follow up: Do you find that they come back to you, or do they write you off because you said no?

Abigail: That is the fear. One magazine, yes, because they needed me to do a certain kind of story and I could no longer do it. But most of the time, they do come back. I don't let the ball drop. As soon as I have a space and an idea, I will go back to them and pitch it. Keep the conversation going. Don't write them off either. If they say no, they say no, but I felt it was better to protect the amount of work I have to do for everyone involved.

Kate: If you get a query that is last minute and you can't handle it, you can tell them you're booked till a certain date, and let the editor know you're available for more work after that date. That gets the magazine side thinking a little bit further out. I've come back with work because I didn't just say no, I followed up with when I was available.

Abigail: Another thing you can do in that situation is refer them to a trusted freelancer. It doesn't do any good to try to write all the stories and take all the photos. There is plenty of work for all.

Build professional relationships

You are all here, building relationships. But you don’t have to put forth a lot of money to make connections. Use a Facebook group, reach out in different ways.

Kate: Let others know what you’re up to professionally, like I did with Ireland. I know we all hold our ideas and assignments close to the vest. But sharing your projects with a work buddy or other editor can help you gain assignments. For example, I knew Abigail was available to photograph a story I was writing and suggested her to shoot. I was recently contacted to pick up an assignment in Ireland because that editor had heard through the grapevine I was there. Don’t be afraid to reach out or share what you’re up to if it will help you gain projects.

Abigail: We are colleagues, not competitors. If you feel envious of someone else's accomplishment, use that feeling to spark progress in your own goals. It serves us well to foster relationships.

Kate: Don't burn bridges. You never know who will be your boss next week.

Abigail: Diversify! Think about how you can pitch content to magazines outside the horse industry!

Expand your footprint with social media marketing and network building

Let’s talk about this. Who has a Facebook page? Twitter? Instagram? Who abhors social media? OK, now who has no idea if you actually have a return on the time investment?

Abigail: How do you brand yourself? Does your logo and your posts convey your brand?

Be sure to tune in to our minisode next week, featuring the Q&A from the AHP session!



Abigail Boatwright