You Got a Freelance Writing Assignment! Now What?

Carol Tice

A writer got an assignment!By Amanda Page

You’ve spent hours crafting the perfect article pitch letter — and it landed you a freelance writing assignment! Congratulations.

Now you’ve got to deliver the goods. What do you do next?

Here are five basic steps to take your assignment through to successful completion:

Get specifics

You received a “yes” from the editor. That means they like what you’ve done so far, and they want more.

Don’t be afraid to ask for specifics. How many words does the editor want? What angle does the editor want you to take? Was there something specific in your pitch they want you to focus on? Anything in the pitch they want to know more about?

You’re a writer, not a mind reader. Your editor would rather answer questions before you get started then request a ton of rewrites after you turn your article in.

Be sure to verify the deadline, too. You’ll want to turn your work in on time.

Sign a contract

As soon as you see the “yes,” get a contract — that’s the surefire way to make sure you’ll get paid.

Ask about the terms, negotiate if you need to, and get it in writing.

Find out whether you’ll be paid on acceptance or on publication and if you need to submit an invoice.

Don’t forget to ask about the “kill fee.” That’s the amount you’d get paid if you do all the work, turn in the assignment, and they decide not to use it.

Remember, editors expect professional writers to ask about contract terms. You’re a pro. Ask.

Get to work

Once you know what the editor wants, you can get started. Find your sources. Complete the interviews. Do any additional research you might need, such as finding a recent study or statistic.

Then, write the piece.

Give yourself time to write it, review it, and rewrite it. Check your spelling and grammar. Send it in. Include your invoice so your editor can get the payment process started.

Rewrite as requested

If the editor asks for rewrites, be sure to clarify what they want. Once you know how to proceed, write your revisions and turn them in.

Keep marketing

While you wait to see your byline in print, you can send more pitch letters to new editors. You can also ask the editor you just wrote for whether or not she has any other stories you could write for her publication. Or just send her a new story idea.

It’s a good idea to always be marketing yourself and your writing. Congratulations, again – and good work!

What is the first thing you do when you get an assignment? Tell us in the comments below.

Amanda Page is a freelance writer and instructor in Columbus, Ohio. Learn more about her work at amanda-page.com.

20 Comments

  1. Rebecca Klempner

    I agree with the article and the other writers in the comments about the need for specifics. However, the first thing I do after that is mark my online calendar for the due date, then set a target date for the first draft and program a reminder sent to me when I need to write the first draft. (Usually, that’s a week or two before the final is due to the editor.)

    If I’m really motivated, I might prewrite in my notebook at that point, too, sometimes with a list and sometimes with a cluster or other graphic organizer. If I prepare right up front with the calendaring and the prewrite, I’m more likely to make my deadline without a panic and with plenty of time to proofread and so on.

  2. Shauna L Bowling

    Amanda, I also ask for specifics first – word count, target audience, keyword density (if applicable) and payment process. Does the client pay by check, Paypal (are they a verified PayPal customer?) and how often (this pertains to online writing gigs)? You can never ask too many questions but can certainly waste a lot of time – and perhaps mar your reputation – if you don’t ask.

    • Amanda Page

      Shauna,

      Great point about reputation. Professionals ask questions. And it does save so much time.

  3. Rich Wheeler

    Thanks for getting me started thinking about this. I’m getting starting — well, I want to get started, anyway — but I keep getting overwhelmed and discouraged. Emotionally, I have a need to know all the pieces of the process before I do something. At some point, I need to let go and transition to learning from my mistakes.

    • Amanda Page

      Hey, Rich.

      I think overwhelm gets to all of us at some point. The best advice I’ve received is “Feel the fear and move forward anyway.” The transition to “doing” wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I hope 2014 sees you moving forward and making the leap!

    • Karen J

      I’m right there with ya, Rich!
      I really like your phrase “let go and transition to learning from my mistakes” – a different way to look at the next step, here. 🙂

      And thank you, Amanda, for another reassurance that the water’s really not so cold!

      Happy New Year, everybody ~ let’s Rock it!

  4. Vandana Singhal

    Hi Amanda,

    Thanks for sharing useful information. The first thing when I get an assignment is to ask for specifics. Since different editors have different requirements, it is the most important aspect. Once I prepare a copy, I ask for their feedback and make revisions as required.

    • Amanda Page

      Thanks, Vandana. Specifics are so important! It was definitely a lesson I was grateful to learn.

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