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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
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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