Dear Freelance Dude,
I’ve seen a number of folks comment on how luck played a role in their obtaining a paying gig as a games journalist. Do you see luck as a big factor that plays into a person’s success in this field, or are there other variables that have greater importance?
I’ll admit, there are times when getting a lucky break can make a huge impact on your world when you’re attempting to break into freelancing and working your way up the ranks of the game journo world. But other things can trump luck – like raw willpower. I’m a firm believer in making your own luck. If you hone your chops and are persistent enough to follow through and stay in the game even when things seem miserable, you will eventually succeed. Building on each success, however minor, is how you go from dabbling in freelancing on the side to making it a full-time career.
So what are some other factors that play into getting paying writing gigs? Making connections is a big one. Some of the best gig leads and opportunities you may ever stumble upon in this industry tend to come “through the grapevine” rather than being broadcast to the masses. While getting on editors’ radars is important, take the time to network with other freelancers in the industry, PR folks, and even game developers. Your professional comrades may eventually be in a position to pass on some hot info, help you out, or open up doors for you down the road.
Getting your name out there is tough. It takes a lot of time and energy early on. But having people associate it with quality work is the real goal. You may be able to score gigs based-on who you know, but it’s the quality of your writing and your ability to meet editors’ needs without issue that will help you keep those gigs. Always be willing to continue honing your craft and improve your writing. Consistently turn in tightly-written copy that’s both entertaining and informative, and you’ll find it much easier to earn editorial recommendations or sniff out new gigs. Though we’re a busy lot, editors and writers read other people’s published work in this industry. You never know who’s reading your articles once they’re out into the wild, so keep your pens and your wits sharp.
Still, connections and good writing aren’t worth squat if you don’t have the fortitude to stomach the inevitable stretches where everything (temporarily) goes to hell. If you’re just getting started out, building enough momentum to lift off can be agonizing. You’ll likely face lots of rejection up-front, and it may seem like things will never pan out. That’s part of the process. If you don’t have the patience or strength to muscle through the rough patches, you won’t succeed. Simple as that. The same goes for later on in your career.
You may have lots of great gigs under your belt keeping some good money coming in. Then one day you wake up to one of those dreaded e-mails: the freelance budget for your most lucrative, high-profile gig has been gutted, a bunch of your key editorial contacts have been laid off, and you’re effectively punted to the curb minus a big chunk of your steady monthly income. It happens. Don’t get too comfortable with any gig, and be prepared to keep rolling even when the bridge looks like it’s going to collapse under you.
Luck is fleeting. It’s great when it’s on your side, but you can’t rely on it. Instead, lean more heavily on your ability to write, network, and stick with it through the rough times, and you’ll get where you want to go in the freelance world. Just be patient.
The Freelance Dude
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Thank you so much for answering my question and for imparting these encouraging words. It means a lot that you’re so willing to offer these pieces of advice to us less-experienced folk. I will definitely refer back to this anytime I’m down and not feeling confident. Thanks again!