How I Got a Great Freelance Gig After a Royal Screw Up

Carol Tice

Frog princeWith a deep breath, I pressed “send” on an email containing months of research and my first article for a trade magazine.

It was done!

But my excitement was short-lived when my editor replied. I’d called her the wrong name. I screwed up before she even looked at my story.

I panicked. Would she blacklist me? Would she even read my pitch now? Did I just cut myself out of a potentially great freelance writing gig?

Turns out, it all worked out okay. One year later, I’m her editorial assistant.

How did I get myself out of this jam and land a great freelance gig? I focused on three E’s.



I immediately replied to the editor with an apology. Thankfully, my gaffe would be forgotten, because my story on virtual assistants was the best I’d written in a while.

She gave me another assignment! In return, every email was professional, my stories were done well and on time. Naturally, I always double-checked to make sure I called her by her correct name. At one point, she said I was a great writer. (I saved that email.)

For Your Checklist
Step one in maintaining a great writer-editor relationship: create high-quality work in a timely fashion. Use the best sources you can find, adjust to the publication’s writing style and complete edits immediately.

Always over-deliver.


I noticed a few things about my editor. She sometimes takes a while to respond. I’d have to send multiple copies of an invoice.

Turns out, she was overwhelmed with work. She revealed her job encompassed far more than editing the magazine. I became a welcome ear.

For Your Checklist
It’s easier to be annoyed with your editor than empathize with her. But try it, even if it’s tough.

If an editor apologizes for a late email, tell her you understand — everyone’s juggling work. Get to know her as a person and not a faceless entity behind an email address.


She was opening up to me, and I was grateful. One day, I emailed her jokingly that I wanted to move to where the magazine was published so I could work for her full time.

Apparently this gave her an idea. In a later email, she asked about helping more with the magazine. I’d get assigned features and assist with other sections.

A few phone calls later, it was done. I was an editorial assistant. The best part? She was so grateful for the help and included me in planning for 2015. My editor valued my input.

I made my excitement known and continue to do so. Generally, I don’t use emoticons and exclamation points in professional email correspondence. I broke that rule when I got this opportunity. I’m always grateful to do the work, even when it’s difficult.

For Your Checklist
Being enthusiastic implies, “I love my work, and I want more.”

Yep. Excitement equals assignments.

Your editors may not react the same way mine did, but trust me, these three E’s will take you a long way in your writing career.

Have you ever screwed up with an editor? Tell us about it in the comments.

Williesha Morris has a strong passion for writing and administrative assistance. You can read the successful query that landed her the trade-magazine assignment mentioned above by subscribing to her blog.



  1. Carnival of Creativity 1/11/15 - […] Tice presents How I Got a Great Freelance Gig After a Royal Screw Up posted at Make a Living…
  2. 12 (More) Blogging Lessons After Year Two (Part 2!) - My Freelance Life - […] only for that one month. The closest I got to beating my one-day visitor rate was, you guessed 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...