Writing

How to Impress Editors and Other Tips on the Business of Writing

One writer shares his secret to success on Medium and beyond

Hefty, the Amazing Tech Story Pitching Dog. Source: Nick Wolny.

Nobody ever said making a living from writing was easy, but it doesn’t have to be rocket science either. I’m the lead editor of the Medium gadget blog Debugger where I regularly work with Partner Program writers to help them find a bigger audience and get paid for their writing. I first started working with Nick Wolny due in no small part to the adorable picture he sent me of his dog named Hefty.

It wasn’t just that Nick and I shared a love of dogs, although that helped. It was that at the very end of my Debugger launch post, I’d said that writers could send Medium drafts, pitches, and dog pics to debugger@medium.com. Sending the photo and referencing this quip in his first email to me meant that Nick had read to the very end of the post. It’s hard to explain how important this is to editors whose inboxes are often full of pitches that are sometimes wildly outside of the topics the publication covers. I don’t expect everyone to have read my Debugger launch post and have a cute dog pic at the ready, but you’d be surprised at how often I get pitches from people who I’m certain have never read one word of what we’ve published on Debugger.

Nick’s initial email led to a story about how to look great on Zoom, why you really need a password manager, how to use an old iPhone to set better work boundaries, and others. In addition to stories in Elemental, Mind Cafe, and Entrepreneur’s Handbook, Nick also writes a regular column for The Writing Cooperative. Here he tackles everything a freelance writer needs to know about the business of writing.

On defining your rates:

“A tried-and-true formula to identify your hourly freelance rate is to take your desired salary and divide it by 2,000 hours/year (This accounts for two weeks of paid time off). Be sure to budget for taxes and any expenses.”

On how to write while you still have a day job:

There’s nothing worse than moving mountains to free up two hours of your day to write, only to spend that time staring at a blank page and making no progress whatsoever. To prevent this as much as possible, have a repository of ideas ready to go. Then when you sit down to write, write about the next article in your queue — even if you don’t feel like it.

On Gmail shortcuts that can help you spend more time writing and less time wading through your email:

I take just one of five actions with every email I come across: reply or forward, file into a “do later” folder, file into a “read later” folder (for newsletters or articles), file into a client folder, or delete.

I’ve been writing online and off for fun and profit for over 20 years and I still regularly learn new things from Nick’s columns. So, follow Nick, read his work, and if you write about gadgets or consumer technology, send me your pitches (and dog pics) to debugger@medium.com.

Tech Journalist 👩🏽‍💻

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