I thought it was time to get a bit real today about my workflow. First, let me say that I don’t have COVID-19 and neither does anyone that I know personally. I am thankful that I have my health and that my family is safe.
But that doesn’t mean that things are easy for anyone in the world right now. Those who aren’t essential workers are stuck at home. We are seeing small businesses suffer, hearing about deaths, and watching our world change by the minute.
I wanted to take some time to let you know how coronavirus has impacted me from a day-to-day writing perspective. So, here goes…
How Coronavirus Has Changed My Workflow
The Good, The Bad, and the Downright Ugly
I’m used to being at home.
In a way, I feel it’s a positive thing that my day to day workflow hasn’t changed that much. I normally work from home while going about my day getting a few household chores done. Because I’m used to it, I don’t feel isolated or like I’m missing out on being at my normal workplace.
The bad part about that – and I feel selfish saying this – is that I am a bit bitter about the fact that people are experiencing such a novelty about working from home and others are complaining. It’s fine and normal for me!
I’m more active.
Admittedly, I’m horrible about organizing my days. I tend to wake up and work and work and – work. Now that my daughter (high school junior) and son (college freshman) are home, I am trying to be more conscious about the time I spend on the computer, which isn’t always time writing (cue Netflix and social media).
I’ve been taking intentional breaks to walk, listen to encouraging podcasts, and be more proactive about being active. These breaks throughout the day have made my work time more productive, and it’s definitely a practice I hope to keep long after coronavirus has ended.
I’m still writing about travel.
Times are tough right now. No joke. I’m a travel writer. The travel industry has taken a huge hit, and many of the outlets I love writing for have decided to cut off their freelance work at the moment. This is either due to budget cuts or to keep their salaried in-house workflow steady, but either way, I get it!
I am extremely thankful to have published an article on Lonely Planet and to write for TripSavvy for the first time. I have a few other articles in the queue, so I am grateful to have work at this time, but it hasn’t been without cost, which I’ll get to in the “bad” section.
I’m freelancing about other topics.
Thankfully, I have maintained a semi-active Upwork profile, so while my workflow has been in flux, I have supplemented by finding clients through Upwork. I’ve been able to write about a few interesting topics, such as flowers, education, and intermittent fasting. These aren’t my normal areas of expertise, but I’ve enjoyed further building my portfolio.
Travel gigs are scarce.
Truth be told, it’s just flat out hard at the moment. As I eluded to above, the work is downright scarce. That being said – and this is both good and bad – I have had to get REALLY creative about what I am pitching and where I am pitching it.
Again, to explain if you aren’t a writer, freelancing involves coming up with story ideas and contacting a particular editor about that idea. That editor ultimately chooses to either commission the article or not based on timing, what content is already on their site, and if they feel as though it’s a good fit for their site.
I am spending so much of my workflow time pitching. I’ve also had a few good ideas come to me in the middle of the night, and I grab my phone and type in a quick note. Finding new, relevant ideas is constantly on my mind, which is exhausting.
Again, the good part of that is that it’s forced me to stretch a bit more and pitch new outlets. I feel like it’s altered the way I think about pitching, and that is light within the darkness.
Upwork is frustrating.
Yep. There I said it! I am 100% so grateful for the clients I have worked with on that platform, and I have found some amazing ones.
For those who aren’t familiar, Upwork is a type of marketplace where freelancers can find work. A company will post a job and various freelancers can respond to be considered.
You have the opportunity to make a profile, filter what kinds of jobs you would like (mine is filtered only for writing), and receive feedback from your clients. It works well in many cases.
But I also find Upwork completely frustrating. Here’s why.
- Some people offer ridiculously low wages, and it’s insulting. Some jobs pay $3 for 1000 words. Crazy! That’s not even minimum wage, and I wish that there was some way to filter out low paying jobs. I don’t even want to see those!
- Some companies are misleading in their postings. Folks will put that they have a $1500 budget only to find out that if you read the job description, they are paying $1 for 100 words. I wish users would just be honest and not try to entice freelancers with a seemingly high rate.
- There is high competition for jobs. This is true, especially when people are looking for additional revenue streams at the moment. It’s hard to make your profile stand out when there are so many people applying for posted jobs.
- Bait and switch happens. I have had companies publish a rate and then reduce it by half once they tried to hire me. Ug!
& The Downright Ugly
I will never again write something on spec.
I’m a positive person, but during this time period, I did learn a lesson. Not all writers would agree with me on this point, and that is ok. Here are my thoughts.
Accepted pitches are based on mutual trust and respect.
When an editor accepts a pitch, there is an element of respect – which says that they can see that I am a published writer. There is also a trust factor. They have faith in me that I will write a quality article tailored to their site and specifications. Some editors will ask for revisions, and, of course, they have the option to refuse the piece if it’s rubbish (thankfully that hasn’t happened!).
Spec pieces stem from distrust.
When a publication asks for a piece on spec, the writer writes a complete article so the editor can determine if they want to use the article. It’s unpaid until they accept it, so a freelancer takes the risk of writing a piece that will never see the light of day.
In my opinion, I feel that this shows that a publisher doesn’t put their trust in a writer. Or maybe they want to keep their options open. They don’t want to take the risk. I don’t know how else to put it.
It leaves both writer and outlet in this odd middle place filled with “ifs,” and the freelancer is the one who assumes all of the risk.
Here’s the ugly part.
I wrote a piece on spec for a publication. It’s timely and has a coronavirus spin. I sent it in. They said they had another writer writing the same topic, and they chose the other writer’s article. So, they had two writers producing the same article on spec, which leaves me a bit jaded as to the whole spec process. It also disrupted my workflow.
It left me feeling used. And devalued.
Ultimately, it was unprofessional.
So, that leaves me frantically trying to pitch an already finished piece, which will hopefully get placed. It’s not in the travel realm – like I said I’ve been getting creative about topics. I feel as though I could’ve used my time better by doing things I was certain about.
I’m sure that not all outlets that accept pieces on spec conduct themselves in that manner, but I won’t try it again. It’s somewhat of a buyer beware for freelancers.
So, there it is. The positives and negatives of these times as a travel freelancer. What about you? Have you had any changes to your workflow? I’d love to hear!