I’ve put up my second bid at freelancer.com. It would be nice to get the work but there are over 30 people bidding. I continue to think sites like freelancer are the future. With query letters to hardcopy magazines you have to sell an idea and you have to sell yourself. With online jobs the idea and the work already exists. You ‘just’ have to sell yourself. And, as I have mentioned in previous posts, there is a timeline with online work. You know when the bidding period ends. And you should know when the work is awarded, even if you don’t get the job. With magazines you have no idea, for the vast majority of publications, when or if an employer will ever get back to you. Drawbacks? The message boards say employers may, for whatever reason, not award the work to anyone. So there may not be finality. But these freelance sites introduce a world of work beyond the query letter. I’ll put in more bids and share what I find.
My recent article on the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento, California is now on-line. Photographs by Steve Marschke, Editor of the News-Ledger. Click here to go there.
Blog extra! I wrote the following shortly after my drive on the CHP skid pad:
I was doing everything you’re not supposed to do on a wet road. On purpose. In a police car.
What’s the best way to teach high-speed emergency maneuvers? Start a person out on a low speed track. A flooded one. Using a car with bald tires. Oh, and you’re supposed to dive into each turn as fast as you can. Sound crazy? Hardly. This approach lets a potential officer know how their cars will act with violent movement at speed. But for now, we are going slow. Sort of.
The CHP Academy let me pilot one of their cars around their skid pad, a course of ‘S’ curves, one after another, in a complete loop. After each loop you try to go faster, for each turn you try for more control. All the while the instructor is telling you to “Gun it!” as you slam into each curve. But I had some instruction first.
I was introduced to Officer Julie Saravia, one of CHP’s most expert driving instructors. She walked me over to our black and white steed, a long-retired machine that was now helping cadets learn the wiles of mad motoring. Throwing it into first, to keep the speed down to a somewhat controllable level, Julie headed us out on to the track. A hundred or more sprinklers sprayed water around the entire circuit, even though it had just rained. (Can’t have enough water when you are trying to get sideways.)
As each turn approached, Julie accelerated, then broke hard, letting the back come around in a slide. Taking pressure off the wheel, ever so precisely, she straightened out the car and pointed it into the next turn. Accelerate, brake, let off, repeat. It reminded me of the fun I used to have in a pickup on gravel roads. After two laps she finished, parking the car in front of the CHP Academy Commander and my editor. I looked at them, thought of this chance, and in a quiet voice, trying to hide my excitement, I said, “I’ll take it around.”
I was surprisingly relaxed. Although I didn’t want to take up the time of the Commander or my editor, I was here. If I wanted to write a longer story for a national magazine it was incumbent on me to take this opportunity. Motoring into the first turn, the instructor yelled “Gun it”, precisely at the time most sane people would be braking. I did as I was told, then slammed on the brakes to keep from going over the course outline. Predictably, the car wheeled around in very quick fashion, to which I responded by letting off on the wheel.
I managed the first two or three turns, somewhat, but on the fourth I spun the car completely around, almost in a 360 degree turn. Facing the wrong way, Julie encouragingly said, “You can go back that way.” Good. Let’s go that way. More blasting into turns, more outrageous spinning. Returning to the start, Julie pronounced me a natural. She said that with four or five more laps I would have it down. Perhaps. She said that most cadets were, by comparison, pretty tense and high strung. My editor pointed out that they would be tested. Good point. For them, it’s their careers. For me, it’s a story. But a fun one.
I bid on a writing assignment at freelancer.com and I got it. When the full details of the job were revealed, however, it was clear that I didn’t have the expertise to complete the work. By mutual agreement the employer and myself are going separate ways. There are details left with freelancer.com itself, our deal needs to be untangled, but all communications with my potential employer were cordial and professional.
Freelancer’s job descriptions tend to be too brief to accurately bid; I may put more time at elance.com, which seems more detailed and more American-centric. I may also look at guru.com, another source of freelance work. Each site requires building a profile page, which is tiresome, but each site presents another door, another path to possible assignments. Limiting myself to print magazines and newspapers is just that, limiting. I need to continue to explore the world of on-line work.
Note: Freelancer.com charges an arrangement fee regardless if you complete a job or cancel it. Don’t accept work if you’re not sure you can finish it. Get as many details on the job as you can. Don’t bid if you don’t know!
My article for Sierra Heritage has just been published. It is in the April, 2014 edition which will be on newsstands soon. Click here to visit the Sierra Heritage Magazine website. They’ve been publishing for 33 years, with some of the finest writing and photography in the West.
My article is about the beginnings of Highway 50, with an emphasis on the portion that crosses the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I will post a link to the article if and when it goes on-line. This article was enjoyable to write. Besides writing the text, I secured Permission to Use Forms and copyright releases for several of the photographs. And I took five of the photographs myself. There’s just one thing. My friend David Willmott took the picture of Horsetail Falls on page 48. As it sometimes happens, in the rush to put an entire magazine together, he was not credited for the image. Aside from that, the issue is quite fine; an entire edition devoted to Sierra Nevada history. Look for it at a newsstand near you!
My story on the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento has just been published by the West Sacramento News-Ledger. Photos were taken by the Editor, Steve Marschke. I enjoyed this assignment. Besides receiving a comprehensive tour, I was allowed to pilot a CHP vehicle around a flooded skid pad, which helps recruits practice their wet weather driving techniques. I will post the full text and photos once the article goes on-line, probably in a week or so.
Is a query letter a day possible? And, if so, at what cost?
I sent off a query letter yesterday that I wasn’t happy with. It needed more work, specifically, I should have interviewed an authority on the subject I was writing about. So why did I send it? I felt, given my high rejection rate lately, that spending a few more hours on the letter wouldn’t give me any more advantage than sending it off unpolished. No query letter is perfect, I reasoned, any more than any article is perfect. And I wanted to keep my recent streak of a query letter a day going. But is this the right approach?
One query a letter a day, five days a week, seems an ideal goal. Meeting that goal, however, is nearly impossible unless I send off queries that are not quite right, not researched or phrased as well as they could be. Quantity or quality? I wrestle with the old adage. It goes, “Quality is very fine indeed. But quantity has a quality all its own.”
I have an article coming out in the April/May issue of Sierra Heritage. I can’t say what it is just yet, but I can say it will be about history. And thanks to the editorial staff, it promises to be beautifully laid out. This was an enjoyable assignment. Not only did it include writing, but it required research and securing images and copyright releases. More when it comes out in hardcopy and then goes on line!