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Manners Matter for Freelance Writers
by Amy Derby

As the editor of a website for freelance writers, I am constantly astounded by the amount of rudeness I encounter in submissions and queries by freelance writers. As a freelance writer myself, I would never approach an editor with any less courtesy than I would a potential employer I was meeting with in person for an interview.

Maybe it is because freelance writers so often get burned by rejection and problem clients that many take the attitude that they are doing editors a favor by submitting their queries. However, as an editor, I am not impressed by bad manners, and I can only assume that most other editors probably feel the same way. If you want to land a gig as a freelance writer, manners matter. Here are some tips:

Don’t Make Demands

As a freelance writer, your query to an editor is your foot in the door. By making demands, you are putting your foot in your mouth. If you want to get on an editor’s bad side, making demands is one of the fastest ways to do it.

A few days ago I received a query from a freelance writer I’d never previously worked with whose introduction began like this: “If you don’t like my article, please just tell me and don’t keep me waiting for weeks and weeks when I could be getting paid for the article somewhere else.” Even if this was someone who had submitted before and I hadn’t gotten back to soon enough for their liking, I would have been shocked to read this. However, having never received anything from this person before, I had to laugh. I immediately replied with a quick note declining the submission. I didn’t even bother reading the article. The attitude exuded in the first line of the freelance writer’s email was enough for me to base my decision on.

I’ve received many other queries that included phrases such as, “If you decide to publish my article, I will require payment within 24 hours by Paypal,” and, “I only write for people who pay on time. Please tell me in advance how long it takes you to issue a payment.” While I have always paid writers in a more than efficient manner, I would not consider accepting submissions from freelance writers with manners such as these.

Don’t Take Your Bad Mood Out on an Editor

Although it may seem like common sense that taking a bad mood out on other people won’t reap rewards, especially when it comes to your financial livelihood, I can’t tell you how many email queries I receive from freelance writers that clearly reflect that they’re having a bad day (or a bad week, or a bad life).

I recently replied to a woman who queried on a topic that I currently had another writer working on. My reply said, “While your article idea sounds great, I currently have another writer working on a similar article. I prefer not to accept two very similar articles on the same topic at the same time. However, feel free to write with other ideas you may have.” I quickly received a response from the freelance writer that said, “I am an experience freelance writer. If you want my services, let me know. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be listed in Writers Markets.” While I would have previously considered this writer’s other queries or submissions, her rude and inappropriate response immediately burned her name into my memory’s file under the “don’t want to work with you” category.

Don’t Flood an Editor With Follow-Up Emails

The best piece of advice anyone ever gave me as a new freelance writer was to read the writer’s guidelines for a publication before submitting. Most writer’s guidelines tell freelance writers what the editor’s time frame is in responding to writers about submissions. Some publications respond within a week, while others take six months to respond. If you don’t want to wait six months to hear back, then don’t submit to that publication. It’s very simple. If the six months (or whatever amount of time is stated in the writer’s guidelines) goes by, and you haven’t heard back, one polite follow-up email should be sufficient. If you still don’t hear back, my advice is to give up. If the guidelines say the editors will get back to you within a month only if they are interested in your article, and a month goes by without hearing back, I’d say you can safely assume that the publication isn’t interested. If you still feel the need to follow up, keep it to one email. Sending an email once each week requesting the status of your submission will not make you popular. Sending scathing emails demanding to know what’s taking so long, insulting an editor, and/or suggesting the publication hire more people so as to better respond to queries only makes you look bad.

If you freelance write as a hobby, perhaps you can afford to be rude, because rejection won’t make or break your pocket book. If you make your living as a freelance writer, choose your words wisely. Your manners matter as much as your writing ability.

© Copyright 2007, Amy Derby

Amy Derby is a freelance writer and the owner/editor of write-from-home.com, a free resource geared toward helping new freelance writers learn to make money writing from home.

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