4 Writer Survival Tips for Freelancers Caught in the Waiting Game


4 Writer Survival Tips for Freelancers Caught in the Waiting GameYou know that amazing feeling when you write a terrific pitch to a potential editor or freelance writing client and then click send?

But then…you don’t get a response immediately.

One time, I actually said to myself, I sent them an email an hour ago, and they haven’t responded yet. Did they die? (They didn’t.)

The stress of waiting for a response can drive even the sanest freelance writer crazy.

But you don’t have to let it. Here are a few writer survival tips I use to stay sane while I’m waiting to hear back:


Try niceness

We tend to be our own harshest critics, but that’s not really useful.

Try using a nicer inner voice when you talk to yourself. Understand where you’ve come from, how far you’ve come, and where you’re going. Give yourself a chance.

And remember, you’re not a failure because someone didn’t answer your email.

Tip: Ask yourself: would you speak to a child with the same tone as your inner critic? I hope not. Nurture your growth the same you would any child’s.

Move forward

Sometimes waiting is hard because you don’t have anything else to do. But you do have something to do. A writer who is not writing should be reading, marketing, dealing with life — anything other than watching your inbox.

Take your mind off that query-in-limbo by getting busy. Work on more queries or letters of introductions. Find more editors and clients to send pitches to.

Tip: Make a “to do” list. Even if that list says “make a list,” the need to fill the page will make you find things to do.

Track progress

Have you set tangible goals? How much are you doing to work toward them? Did you send more emails today than yesterday? Did you finally get that snail mail to the post office? Yes? Good for you!

Your activity has just as much value as your clients getting back to you. Don’t pooh-pooh your grunt work.

Tip: Keep a journal. Record your highs, lows, and everything in between. That way you can look back at the actual record rather than relying on your memory to see how much you’re really doing.

Make a change

If after taking a measurement of your progress, you see that things aren’t moving along, then it is time to make a change.

Waiting is part of the job, but it’s not the entire job. Eventually, you should see results for your efforts. If one marketing tactic isn’t working, try another for a little while.

Tip: Writers don’t become awesome on their own. Have someone look over your emails, website, and marketing packages to make sure they’re the best they can be.

Freelance writing is not a microwave. You don’t put a single-serve query in the outbox and get a hot, delicious paycheck after four minutes. Like all good things, it takes time.

Goldie Ector is a Denver-based freelance writer and university financial aid counselor. 


  1. Kevin Hightower

    I really identified with the part about being nicer to yourself. There’s a web genius named Ze Frank some of you may be familiar with who by accident created something by accident that went viral in the days of dial-up internet. Go to Youtube and search “an invocation for beginnings.” I’ll leave you with a quote from the video that I think about every day.

    “Let me think about the people that I care about the most. And how when they fail or disappoint me I still love them, I still give them chances, and I still see the best in them – let me extend that generosity to myself.” – Ze Frank

  2. Mitch

    Why not send the Editors a small preview paragraph instead of the whole piece, and you can send the same preview to many Editors at once, that way, you can sell your terrific article to whoever answers you back first.

    I use a Google chrome plugin called “Mailtrack” it’s free and Awesome, it notifies you when the recipient has read your mail, so you would know which Editor received and read your email.

    I usually send out a follow-up email after exactly one week, so writing down dates makes it feel like a to-do schedule, having a daily schedule with many emails to follow up with, kinda takes your mind of the waiting game.

    • Carol Tice

      Mitch – that *is* what we do, send a query. Sending in whole articles is usually ineffective, and can often pay less if it manages to get accepted. Editors want input in what they’re publishing, and want to tweak your idea and then assign it.

Related Posts

You CAN Write a Query Letter That Gets a “Yes”: 5 Resources

Freelance writer getting a gig after learning to write a query letter.

Love them or hate them, queries are one of the most important marketing tools for any freelancer who wants to write for magazines. And the skills you learn from writing a good query letter also help business writers and copywriters pitch their potential clients.

If you’ve been sending queries off into space and never getting a reply, you may think it’s impossible to break into new magazines. But it’s not true! Editors are always looking for new talent.

To help you learn to write a query letter that will get you the gig, we’ve pulled together a collection of five of our best posts on pitching:

Can’t Write? Try These 9 Ideas for Writing Motivation

It’s the bane of every freelance writer’s life: You know you need to sit yourself down and get some writing done, but nothing happens. The writing motivation just isn’t there. Sometimes, you can't even make yourself sit down with the computer -- even if you...