A Big Writing Gig: What To Do When You Lose It

What To Do When You Lose a Big Writing Gig - Main

This episode is all about losing that big writing gig.

A few weeks ago, my editor from Forbes rang me.

“Bryan,” he said. “We reviewed your contract and, well, we’re ending your column at the end of the month.”

Now, I’ve spent the past two years writing for Forbes about topics like careers, leadership, creativity, and more.

Some would say losing a big writing gig like Forbes is a disaster.

But, I say otherwise.


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Bryan: A few weeks ago, an editor for Forbes sent me an email and said, "Bryan, can we arrange a call for this afternoon about your column?" Now, I don't normally hear from editors from Forbes, which is a publication that I've written for over two years, unless perhaps there's a typo in my article or some other factual issue that I need to fix. So that afternoon, the editor rang me and he said, "Bryan, look, we've reviewed your contract. And well, there's no easy way to say this, but we're going to end your column at the end of this month." This month at the time being April. Now, I've spent the past two years covering topics for Forbes like careers, leadership, creativity, and so on. And some of these articles did quite well. In fact, one article I wrote about how to use Trello to manage your day, got over a quarter of a million views, which can seem like quite a lot. And some other articles I wrote before Christmas got over 10,000 views per article.

So I asked the editor to explain why my column was coming to an end. And he said that Forbes regularly reviews its contributor program and they call people from the bottom 5% or 10% of the contributor program who just aren't getting the paid views that Forbes wants. When I went and looked at my stats after the phone call I saw that my articles for January, February, and March hadn't really gotten comparable page views to last year or the year before. In fact, some of the articles had only gotten a couple of hundred page views, perhaps because the headline wasn't engaging enough or perhaps because the content of the article wasn't good enough. So I saw that writing these articles probably wasn't a good use of time for me, for the interviewee, if I interviewed someone, or for Forbes itself. I completely understood where my editor was coming from.

But of course, it's one thing to know why you're being let go, but it's quite another thing to accept it. And it took me a day or two to process this and I did what I always do when something bad happens. I went for a long run and I journaled a little bit about it. And after a day or two, and after speaking to a coach that I'm working with, I realized that this was probably a blessing in disguise. You see, when I think of the Forbes articles I discovered they had a hidden cost. Forbes doesn't drive a lot of revenue for Become a Writer Today. And to write a Forbes article, I have to normally pay to get it transcribed if I'm interviewing somebody because time is usually an issue. So when I factor in the time it takes to write the article, the cost of transcription, and also the fee that I would pay an editor to make sure the article was just right before publishing on Forbes. I wouldn't really have much of an income left after that.

In fact, some months I was running at a loss. So I wasn't really writing for Forbes for the money. But then again, this was something I always knew. So I asked myself what was the other reason I was writing for Forbes? And that's because it's a big name publication and it's great for credibility. And it certainly is. I've got to speak to a lot of interesting people, some of whom I interviewed for this show, thanks to Forbes, such as Daniel Pink, and New York Times bestselling author, James Clear, and I got to speak to them because I was also able to turn our interviews into articles for Forbes. But here's the thing, many authors will write for a publication for a year or two before moving on to something else. And that's why you'll see something in their bio like, "His work has appeared on Forbes."

So perhaps I'd gotten as much credibility as I was going to get out of writing for a publication like this in the first place. So if Forbes wasn't driving a huge amount of revenue for Become a Writer Today and if I'd gotten my credibility I was going to get, then that left me with the issue of time and how I was using my creative time. And that's a thing that I've talked about on this show quite a bit. You see, it would take me at least 15 hours to write seven articles for Forbes a month. Why would it take 15 hours? Well, firstly, you have to come up with the ideas for all the articles. Secondly, I have to actually write them. A lot of the time I interview people, so it would take half an hour or maybe even an hour to interview that person.

And it would also take time to liaise with their PR team if they were working for a company. And then also to let them know when the article is live. And then also to attend to any post-publication updates to the article. So when I factored all of this in, it would quickly add up to 10 or 15 hours a month. That's quite a lot of writing time. When I totaled up the time, I realized why my new articles hadn't done that well. You see, I'd lost my passion and interest for writing business articles. And I wasn't spending as much time on the headlines and as much time on the introduction to capture the attention of readers. In fact, I wanted to explore different types of writing, but up until my editor had rang me, I hadn't been able to do it. I wanted to explore more creative writing, more expressive writing, perhaps writing more colorful and humorous pieces that probably wouldn't belong on my column of our productivity and careers on Forbes.

So now that my contract was at an end, I was free to do it. And in fact, after the contract came to an end, I decided to work with a creativity coach who's going to help me with this type of writing. So what initially could have been seen as a piece of bad news on a random Thursday actually turned into a piece of good news. So if you have a writing gig and it's just came to an end right now, perhaps due to unforeseen circumstances, or perhaps because the client doesn't have a budget anymore, rather than feeling despondent and feeling like this is a major setback, I'll ask you to reframe it. Ask yourself what does this make possible? If your writing gig has come to an end, perhaps you could work in that book that you've been putting off for a few years.

If your writing gig has come to an end, do you have a email list of students and readers? Because maybe they're ready to buy a course from you or take you up on your coaching, which could pay even more than your writing gig. And of course there are plenty of other gigs and opportunities online. In fact, I've researched a number of freelance writing services for Become a Writer Today. I've looked at services like FlexJobs, which is full of profitable freelance writing gigs for top-tier publications. And I've also looked into different types of writing which can pay far more than freelancing. One particular type of writing which is really in demand online is copywriting. So perhaps if your freelance writing gig has come to an end, is there a way that you can level up your skills? Could you take a copywriting course?

One of the best copywriting courses I've taken is by the American Writers and Artists Institute, AWAI. They have a masters in copywriting which costs approximately $500. And top tier copywriters can earn six and seven figures per year without having to work every hour that's sent to them. You can also take more creative classes using a service like MasterClass. And when I had a bit of free time after the Forbes articles came to an end, rather than jumping into something new, I ended up working through a MasterClass by David Sedaris which I found really helpful and gave me some insights into how I can use introspective writing and journaling in my creative projects. You could also contact your existing clients and ask them are there any additional services that you could provide? Perhaps the social media copy that they want written alongside their blog posts. Or perhaps they need a little bit of help with optimizing their articles for search.

These are all add-onch that you can provide. At the end of the day my takeaway from being let go from Forbes is that this was a good thing and it was actually something I was prepared for. You see, years ago when I was a freelance writer, I was dependent on one publication in Ireland for all of my income. And when they let me go back in 2008 or 2009, it was a disaster because I had to go and seek unemployment benefits. And it took me months to get up off my face. Whereas this time Forbes just forms one part of my business and it's one that I can easily replace.

So if you're overly dependent on one client or on one source of income, I'd encourage you to diversify. If, for example, you're writing a lot of articles in a publication like Medium, which many writers I'm working with at the moment do, perhaps you could build up an email list in case Medium changed their algorithm, much like happened with Facebook many years ago. Or perhaps if you're relying a lot on book sales, is there a way that you can get some of those readers to visit your site and purchase some of your courses? Because diversification is a way of protecting yourself when something pops up that you hadn't expected. Rather than putting all of your creative eggs in one basket, put them in many different baskets.

So when one of them cracks or drops onto the ground, you're free to pick up another one and go with it. At the end of the day, writing for Forbes was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot about how big publications like Forbes work. And I also got to connect with interesting people. However, writing for big publication also meant that I was probably only as good as my last few months worth of articles in terms of what got page views and what got traffic. And that's fair enough. But I would rather spend time getting page views and traffic for a property I own, like Become a Writer Today, rather than someone else's property. And that's probably why I set up my site in the first place. So if your big writing gig has come to an end, then just reframe it. Ask yourself what does this make possible?

And then get to it. And if you need help with any of that, I've included some resources in the lesson notes for this podcast episode. You can use these resources to find another freelance writing gig, if that's your thing, or simply to skill up and level up so that you have something that you can offer your clients. Finally, if you found a short episode helpful, please let me know by emailing Bryan, B-R-Y-A-N, @becomeawritertoday.com. And it would also be fantastic if you could leave a review on the iTunes store because reviews will help the show get more listeners and getting more listeners is a great way of getting this message out into the world. So if you're listening on your phone right now, if you could click the button in the show notes and go onto iTunes and leave a short review or even tap that star button, because it really will help. And even if you're not using the iTunes podcast app, if you could leave a review in whatever app it is that you're listening on. Now, it's onwards onto the next thing.

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A Big Writing Gig: What To Do When You Lose It
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