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. Nida Sea

    Yeah, waiting for a response is no fun. I’ve had instances where I’ll email a marketing manager and forget all about them, and then maybe months later I’ll hear back with an assignment. If I had just waited and not moved on, I would have had no money during those months.

    I read on a post, can’t remember which blog, to send out your queries and LOIs, and then forget about them and move on. That way when you do hear a response it’s like a surprise.

    • Goldie Ector

      It’s often a fantastic and timely surprise! Impatience is one of those beginners flaws that we hopefully grow out of eventually.

  2. Rohi

    Hi Goldie,
    I liked how you compared freelance writing to food in the microwave. You’re absolutely right – all good things take time.
    I sent a LOI today as part of Pitch Clinic and am waiting for a response–something to look forward to. 🙂
    Btw, I really like Carol’s quote about the waiting game: “Be a writer, not a waiter.”

    • Goldie Ector

      Hi Rohi,

      Everything’s a little easier to swallow when tied to food, right? Playing the waiting game just isn’t . . . productive. At least not as productive as set it and forget it. I love the quote! Good luck on your LOI.

  3. Larry

    I am guilty of checking that inbox way too often. It’s tough to pull away. But, you are right – it’s ultimately a time suck and not helpful.

      • Goldie Ector

        Luckily, a lot of tech now tells you if you have a new email so that you don’t have to manually check it. A glance down at the corner of my screen tells me if it’s junk or something important.

        The flip side of that comes if you’re easily distracted by flashing signs. Productivity kaboom.

        • Carol Tice

          I turn mine email OFF and don’t get notices. Too distracting!

  4. Timothy Gagnon: Freelance Writer

    I sent out a bunch of pitches this week and so far no-one replied, wrote one article for a new client, he didn’t reply also. I know the feeling all too well. I usually just forget about it and move forward.

    • Carol Tice

      That’s my approach — move on immediately. Be pleasantly surprised if you get a response.

      • Timothy Gagnon: Freelance Writer

        Update: I got a response, said he can’t use it, and didn’t seem to be open to a revision. So basically I wrote a 1,500 word article for nothing – what do you do with the articles a client does not want? I was thinking of putting on my website as a sample. Do you have another idea? or just forget about it?

        • kate

          You could put it on Constant Content or possibly Hub pages?

        • Carol Tice

          It’s been a long time since I wrote an article a client didn’t want, Timothy. Not sure I’m understanding the situation — did you have a contract for that piece? If so, what does it say about rewrites? Did you get an advance? For business clients, 50% up front is typical.

          I don’t know what the topic is, but if it’s resellable, maybe pitch it around elsewhere? The problem is self-created samples you post on your site, that didn’t please a client anywhere, aren’t very compelling for prospects. They want to see what you wrote that a client *liked* and bought.

          • Timothy Gagnon: Freelance Writer

            Hi Carol, thanks for responding. There was no contract or upfront fee. I’m not really sure why he didn’t like it also, he didn’t say, he just said it wasn’t what he needs, which is weird. I don’t think it’s particularly BAD… He said if he likes it, he’ll pay for it, if not, then he won’t, I probably should have asked for 50% upfront like you said, but I forgot. I asked if he wanted me to rewrite it and he said nope, so… I just decided to use it as as sample…. kind of strange…

          • Carol Tice

            Well, lots of strange things happen…when you don’t have a contract.

  5. Evan Jensen

    I know the pitch-and-wait routine all too well. But it’s not a productive way to grow your business. Really like your advice: “A writer who is not writing should be reading, marketing, dealing with life — anything other than watching your inbox.”

    • Goldie Ector

      It’s a trap a lot of us fall into without even thinking about it. Some of it might come out of fear of getting too much work suddenly and not being able to keep up. But we have to throw things out into the universe and deal with whatever comes back, if it does indeed come back.

    • Katherine Swarts

      The 21st-century version of sitting by the phone waiting for someone to call….

  6. Bobbie

    LOL….LOVE this one, thanks so much for reading my mind! 🙂

  7. kate

    Carol, can you explain what is the difference between a pitch, a query, and an LOI? And do you have any resources that can help writers perfect these?

    • Carol Tice

      I do, Kate — I teach a class called Pitch Clinic with Linda Formichelli — it’s just wrapping up right now, but you can see details here: http://usefulwritingcourses.com.

      But the quick version — a pitch could be either. A query is generally a story idea you flesh out and send to a magazine editor. LOIs go to trade and custom publishers, and businesses and may or may not have ideas in them — we go over all that in the class.

      I think I’ve probably got some help for you here, too: https://makealivingwriting.com/tag/query-letter

  8. kate

    Thanks, Carol. That post is useful.

    • Rachel Brophy

      Take Carol and Linda’s Pitch Clinic the next time they offer it if you are able. You will never wonder about the difference between LOIs and queries ever again!


      p.s. I just took it. Great class, but be prepared to work!

      • Carol Tice

        Glad Pitch Clinic was so useful for you, Rachel!

      • Carol Tice

        Glad Pitch Clinic was so useful for you, Rachel! And yes, we do make you actually write pitch letters…but the results from this last class were pretty impressive…lot of assignments!

  9. Michelle

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I struggle with impatience so bad. This is going right on the favorites bar.

  10. Rob S

    I jot down the date I sent a query. If a few weeks pass, I sometimes send a follow-up email if I think it will help. In any case, I don’t allow myself to feel like a loser if I don’t get a reply. My daughter worked at a big website and told me they were so inundated with pitches, they didn’t have time to respond to all of them. If the pitch wasn’t for something they could use now or in the near future, they ignored it. They had to or they would never have been able to do their job.

    • Carol Tice

      I think that’s the norm, now, at so many places — you only hear if they want it.

  11. 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.

  12. 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

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