CONTEST: Win a Free Year of the Freelance Writers Den!

Carol Tice

UPDATE: Congratulations to our essay contest winner, Lisa Hewitt! Enjoy your free year in the Den!

Congratulations also to our runner-ups:

  • 1st runner-up: Stacey Langheim
  • 2nd runner-up: Linda Caradine
  • 3rd runner-up: Dharmik Shah

Thanks to everyone for your great stories/entries!

Ten years ago—ten!—I got a crazy idea in my head: I was going to start an online writing community for freelancers. But what should I call it? Maybe the Freelance Writers Den.

The goal: Provide a place for writers to learn how to market their services and earn more.

When we opened the doors in 2011, I had no clue how needed this sort of all-you-can-eat learning platform was for freelance writers.

The Freelance Writers Den turned 10 this year and is over 1,500 members strong.

The Den is packed with 300+ hours of trainings members can access anytime, on everything from how to do lucrative types of writing like white papers, to how to find better-paying clients.

Curious about the Den? We’re opening the doors and welcoming new Denizens for a few days, starting on December 8.

To celebrate the holidays, we’re giving away a year-long membership to the Den! That’s a $400 value.

We’re holding an essay contest to award this juicy prize. Find out more below:

Essay contest rules

The essay question that can win you a year in the Den:

Tell us about your WORST experience pitching. 

Why this question? Because all of us have had an awkward or downright bad experience when making a pitch to a prospective client. Whether we flubbed the pitch or the client made things hell, we’ve all been there. Tell us all about it, and perhaps a bit of what you learned, in a 300-word essay.

Here are the details on where to post and how to win:

  • One entry per person. Multiple entries will disqualify you.
  • Limit 300 words.
  • You can post your essay in the comments below or on our Facebook page (look for the post with the graphic you see on this post).
  • Current Den members are eligible to participate.
  • Winner will be announced on our blog post of 12/7. We’ll also email the news to subscribers, and update this post and Facebook.

Is our online writing community for you?

Maybe you’re new here and not familiar with the Den. If so, recommend you visit the Den home page and watch the video that goes through all our member benefits.

We serve new, returning, and mid-career freelance writers around the world with focused bootcamps, 24/7 forums, monthly live events, podcasts, an exclusive job board, and training resources galore.

It’s been a thrill to serve so many writers, and to create a platform that makes freelance knowledge affordable for the hungry writers who need it. And it’s still early days! Great trainings are coming up in the New Year.

Good luck, everyone! And hope to see you in the Den.


Your Shortcut to Success.


  1. Tom Bentley

    Too late for the contest (and not about a pitch, but in regards crazed clients for your amusement):

    I wrote some property descriptions a ways back for a fellow running some specialty Airbnbs. All straightforward stuff, with friendly exchanges between all. I’d never had any contact with his wife, when I got a recent phone call from her, many months since I’d heard from him. She asked me to write a GoFundMe page for her, to pay for a big fence on their property so she wouldn’t have to see the neighbor’s dogs.

    They and other neighbors had had trouble for a year with these marauding dogs and the dogs’ owner, but the most recent incident had the neighbor bringing the dogs onto her property, and one attacked and killed her dog. Their property is rural, and large, so the fence would be substantial, and require a lot of money, thus the GoFundMe page.

    Gruesome, but I understood the assignment, and agreed to it. Then she began a long story of how she and my original client had split up, over many complications, the dog’s death being one. I won’t go into the details, but it was convoluted, with many specifics you shouldn’t be telling a stranger, one you were hiring for the first time.

    OK, a flag there, and not just red, but burning. But I’d said I’d write her page, so I was going to hold to that. But I was unsettled.

    Two days later, her husband, my original client, called me. He immediately went into a long, rambling disquisition on why his wife and he had broken up, including the fact that he’d signed over the rights to their property to her, under great duress, in a quitclaim written by weaselish lawyers, that she’d been having an affair with an older man (80!) and a bunch of other things I shouldn’t have been told. But he said I should go ahead and write the GoFundMe page, because it had been his dog too, and she should be shielded from seeing the neighbor’s murdering dog.

    Multiple flags burning now.

    But I did write the page for her. Several days later, she called and asked me to send her the original copy for the Airbnbs, saying her husband was blocking her from using them and she was going to repost. Gong! Finally, I woke up, and said I couldn’t do that, and that I couldn’t be in the middle of the dissolution of their marriage, and didn’t want anything to do with work that was part of that.

    Two days later (you guessed it), I got a call from him, saying he was going to have to involve some private investigators, perhaps even the FBI, because she was violated his trademarks (and was trying to steal them) for another company he owned, and she had hacked a website he owned. He wanted me to write a long statement that was a summary document for the lawyer he was going to engage on these issues.

    I had to tell him the same thing that I told her, which was that I couldn’t write anything that was kindling in the fire of their flaming marriage. After many apologies (and more meandering details), he hung up. I did—I’m stupid that way—write something for him on a different, innocent subject a while after, but it was a Voldemort: she cannot be named or involved while discussing any writing, now and to come.

    Perhaps not so much the client from hell, because they were mostly bedeviling each other. More like two clients from purgatory wanting me to join them. I’m not answering any Evites for their parties.

  2. Christina

    The worst experience I have ever had with pitching was with a magazine. I am still learning how the process of pitching works, and how one should craft a pitch. In this case, I felt I had created the prefect pitch.
    I took my time crafting the pitch, and despite the anxiety I was trying to overcome, I told myself this will change my life. Even if I get nothing back, I have at least taken the first step towards my dream.
    In the pitch I stuck to the facts. Here is my idea, and why you should pick me to write a column for your magazine.
    My fingers were ready to press send, but my brain was holding firm at no.
    After reading the email pitch several times, running it through Grammarly three times I felt confident this pitch was ready to send.
    A couple days later, I received an email while I was at work from the editor of this magazine. I wanted to look at it, I wanted to jump up and down. Butterflies were swarming in my stomach, and I felt as though I was going to throw up.
    Like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” I pictured the editor was flabbergasted by my talent.
    After three hours I finally made it home, with a pounding heart I opened the email.
    It read, “Thank you, but we require writers to understand basic grammar.”
    I looked over my pitch again, this is impossible I double, tripled checked. But there it was, the word that no program or eyes caught, “their”. I meant “there”. I was humiliated and felt I had let myself down. After all these years of dreaming about writing, I shot myself in the foot.

  3. Abubakar Abdul

    Back in high school, I knew I was pretty good at writing essays and short publications. But whatever I wrote back then was subject to the school’s interest and curriculum. After high school, I wanted to communicate my ideas and opinions more effectively and also to a much broader audience. I wanted to educate and provide quality written content for readers in my writing style.
    Writing was something never really valued in my country. The pay was relatively low and it was considered in most parts of the country as an insignificant skill. I wanted to write for international clients but I needed experience. I wrote for some local magazines and blogs, which at the time paid about 2-4 dollars for a 1500 word blog post. The most popular blogs and magazines paid about 5-7 dollars for the same post length. That’s just how low the pay is for a freelance writer here. Nevertheless, I wrote because I was keen on improving myself as a writer and freelancer.
    When my writing skills were sufficiently refined, I sought out for higher-paying clients. I thought that I’ve finally reached that point when everything was to fall in its place. That I’ve met all the prerequisites. But to my dismay, the one factor that would separate me from my goal was something I never anticipated nor considered. It was the country I lived in. Most internationally recognized blogs would only accept writers from developed countries like the US, Singapore, or the UK. Not once did I ever feel so restricted.
    This is not the end though. There are other blogs that accept writers from anywhere in the world. I always pray to meet good clients that pay well.
    Keep pitching! Keep writing!

  4. Barb Ostapina

    Beware Big Fish: How Not to Pitch a Prospect

    If only I knew then what I know now.

    My freelance writing business was new. I was working mostly with small, local companies – doing nothing to sustain my lifestyle for more than a month at a time.

    And along came what looked like a pretty big fish… a young, aggressive, growing technology startup with the city of Chicago in its jaws. It flopped right into my boat.

    The president saw my profile on LinkedIn and called me. He wanted to rework his company’s website and liked my style. He asked if I could suggest anything.

    But it was I who got hooked. I saw dollar signs and promptly dropped my wits in the lake.

    Why yes, I could… let’s meet for lunch… my treat, of course. Not just any lunch. For the likes of me at the time, an expensive lunch. That’s what salespeople I knew then did – bought prospects lunch.

    Did I know anything about working with bigger clients? Creative briefs? Vetting a prospect? Requiring a deposit before starting the work?

    Apparently not.

    I paid for that lunch, spent hours afterward drafting a site redesign, and proudly sent it to the prospect. And then I waited for the business to flow my way.

    It never did. Instead, as Herman Melville said in Moby Dick, “[T]hen all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.” And my boat ran aground. I never got so much as a ship-to-shore radio call.

    But the site now looks a lot like my design.

    What I learned from that experience is that good business exchanges are partnerships. What I have to offer has value. I will never again give away my caviar before getting paid to make it.

  5. Jett Farrell-Vega

    My worst experience pitching came at the conclusion of a long process trying to sell my first fantasy novella.

    I’d experienced rejection before–I finished my first novel when I was sixteen, and agents I contacted at that time were gentle in their rejections. Walking through the murky waters of querying as an adult proved much harder.

    I carefully crafted and sent my first query only to be rejected. I repeated the process and was rejected again… and again. Each time, I had to navigate a fresh onslaught of unpredictable emotions—something particularly hard when a major magazine not only rejected my story but did so with veiled insults.

    I’d whittled down my list to one last publication—one last hope. I submitted and waited.

    I was working on a commercial crew in Colorado, and the gig quickly proved a lightning rod for Murphy’s Law. As I laid down exhausted that night in the crew house, I received the email I’d been waiting for. I prayed and opened it.

    The final rejection.

    It broke me. I don’t cry, but I wept in silence, not wanting colleagues to hear as I mourned the death of my beloved story. I slogged ahead the next day, masking my pain with a cheerful face as I grieved.

    It took me months to recover—that rejection hurt like nothing I’d experienced.

    I recognize now that though the moment had felt like a permanent failure, it wasn’t the end. Markets shift and turn, and a dead story can resurrect with reworking. Most important, I realized I am not made of glass, and I kept writing. While I am still refining my fiction, I am now a published travel writer in a niche that I love.

    Rejection hurts, but it’s not the end—don’t give up.


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