Freelance Writing is Brutal



There are so many bloggers out there who make freelance writing seem easy, and bank huge amounts of money working from the comfort of their own home. I don’t think I want to freelance full time. I’ve been an eye doctor for a long time, and it’s a good living. However, if an opportunity presents itself, I’m not one to walk away. When Alexa listed a freelance job in her weekly roundup that was perfect for me, I jumped at the chance. It was a great experience, but writing for someone else is not for the thin skinned. Freelance writing is brutal!

How it Works

I’ve never done freelance writing before, but this is how the whole process worked for me. The listing asked for health writers. You had to have a degree in a health care field or have several years working in one. I filled out the application and was approved right away. I got a really nice email welcoming me and encouraging me to read the guidelines and jump right in.

Next you got to choose three assignments from a list of topics, and you had a week to complete them. There were tons of eye related ones, so I picked “Effects of Astigmatism on Vision” and “Retinal Signs of Hypertension.” While those topics might not get the average person’s blood circulating, they are like Pooh Bear finding honey to me.

There was a very strict format that had to be followed. You had to use at least three references. Things like Wikipedia didn’t count. Think more like Trans Atlantic Journal of Ophthalmology. I still felt pretty confident about my first submission. To be safe,  I was going to see how that one went before I sent the other one. The instructions said I should hear back in a day or two, but the days stretched into almost a week.

Editors are Harsh

Since I didn’t want my hypertension assignment to expire, I sent it. The very next day, I got both articles back for rewrites. One had very constructive criticism and said I was too technical with some of my wording. The other one sounded like the editor hated me. It said I needed to be more technical and that my writing was so simple it would confuse laypersons.

OK, that is a bit conflicting, but I tried to follow the advice from both editors and did the rewrites. The article that came back from the nicer one got approved for publication, but the one from the not so nice editor got rejected.

I went ahead and claimed a third title. This one was a higher paying article for a website that was a bit more stringent on what they accept for publication. Imagine my delight when my article about “Side Effects of Steroid Eye Drops” was accepted without needing any rewrites! I thought I really had the hang of it until I found a no reply email from the company in my inbox.

Expecting a big congratulations, I opened it up to find this.

We regret to inform you that your first three articles did not meet the minimum standard necessary to continue as an XYZ writer. You will be paid for any approved articles you completed.

That’s harsh! Wasn’t I showing improvement? I have to admit, it really stung for a while, then I reminded myself that it wasn’t an attack on me or my knowledge. I emailed the section editor, who so warmly welcomed me the week before, hoping for some idea of why they don’t want me to continue. I never got a reply.  I guess I just didn’t fit what they wanted, even though two of my articles are in the process of being published.

I will chalk this up as a learning experience, although I could have learned lots more if I knew what the issue was. It makes me assume I suck as a writer, but you are reading this, so at least someone loves me 🙂

Will I try my hand at freelance writing again? Sure, if the right opportunity came along. I don’t think I will ever be able to knock out 1000 words about something I know nothing about, but I wouldn’t hesitate to do the right article if the pay or exposure was worthwhile. I guess it’s a good thing I grew a thick skin a long time ago.

How have you handled rejection? Aren’t you insanely curious about hypertensive retinopathy now?

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