In February this year, the New York Times published an interesting article on US President Trump’s coverage in the media, and the results, while not entirely surprising do explain why concerned freelancers are emailing me to say that no one is buying any stories that aren’t Trump related.
I thought this might be a slight exaggeration at first—there’s always someone buying something, right?—but while that may be true, news coverage of Trump is pretty off-the-charts. According to the New York Times piece: “Coverage of Mr. Trump may eclipse that of any single human being ever. The reasons have as much to do with him as the way social media amplifies every big story until it swallows the world.”
It’s not just that Trump’s coverage beats anyone else’s, the article explains. It’s that he’s beating pretty much everyone else put together. From the article: “Mr. Senatori recently added up the coverage value of 1,000 of the world’s best known figures, excluding Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump.” This list includes Hillary Clinton, Kim Kardashian, and Vladimir Putin. The coverage Trump got in January, the article explains, was more than the next 1,000 famous people put together. And he was set to beat that record in February.
As I explained to one of my students this morning, if you’re not hearing back on your non-Trump pitches or if you’re finding that budget cuts from your regular clients are affecting your income, it may have absolutely nothing to do with you.
Regardless, you’re a freelancer and you need to earn an income to keep the rent/mortgage paid. So what do you do and how do you sustain an income if the only thing that’s selling is Trump?
Here are some ideas.
1. Sell Trump
Look, if the only thing that’s selling at the moment is Trump and you have some opinions on what’s going on in the world, the good news is that there are a lot of people willing to listen on a large number of topics. Yes, we want to be careful to not add to the problem of banging on about the same old things and adding fuel to the unchecked, unbalanced news fire, but if you can responsibly share your opinions about the issues that Trump’s bringing into the news, then you may finally have a platform for the topics that you actually want to talk about.
This community of international freelancers is the only one of its kind on the Internet, in that we care deeply about social justice. We want sky-high incomes as we go about the daily task of changing the world and we don’t apologize for it. For years, my students have been asking me how to get stories about the environment, refugees, immigration, and women’s rights to a wider audience. Here’s your chance.
The wider audience is listening. Some of it may have direct relevance to Trump’s policies, some of it may not. But understand that there is an appetite for these stories now (finally!) and that this can be viewed as an opportunity.
2. Pitch International Publications
Believe it or not, there are still countries in the world that aren’t completely focused on Trump and US policies, no matter how much of an impact they may have worldwide. Trump is headline news, for sure, but he’s not dominating the media in countries outside of the US. I’ve been advising geographical diversification for years now, exactly for situations like this, but if your pitching efforts to non-US publications have been lackluster, now is the time to brush up on those skills.
Look to publications in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UAE, and possibly Europe.
3. Treat This as You Would a Recession
Two years ago, I started advising freelancers to start preparing for an economic downturn and to start diversifying and building clients in industries and countries that weren’t going to be affected by one country’s political and economic climate.
I laid out the following ways to start making sure that shockwaves in one area of your freelancing career didn’t take the whole thing down in one go:
- Create your own streams of income
- Write for markets that are recession-independent
- Write for businesses that flourish when the economy is bad
- Work on building relationships
- Make marketing a part of your every day (Let me show you how.)
- Get rid of clients who don’t pay on time
- Continue adding to your skills
- Under promise, over deliver
- Go international
Read the whole thing here: http://www.theinternationalfreelancer.com/recession-proof/
In the article I wrote, “You don’t build a recession-proof career in the midst of a recession. You build it when things are going smoothly and there’s money in the market. In other words, NOW.”
I hope you listened to that advice and took action to secure your freelancing income for an event just like this, but in case you didn’t (or if you’ve just found me—hi!), these are the things you should be doing right now.
You may not be in survival mode right now but with Brexit and Trump’s Russia connections dominating the headlines in weeks (and months?) to come, you could be in for a wild ride. Start preparing now.
4. Time Your Pitches
Speaking of Brexit, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is triggering article 50 this week, which will start the formal process of the UK leaving the European Union. I’m not usually a fan of timing your pitches, as you may have heard me say. Whenever you’re ready to send is when you send being my usual policy. But these are unusual times and no editor in the UK, possibly the EU, and potentially, a large part of the world is going to be interested in hearing about much more than what’s happening on that front.
Any resources that editors, especially UK editors have, at this moment, are going to be used very strategically towards the best possible coverage for this unprecedented event.
So unless you have a story that either eclipses that or ties into that, hold off on pitching UK editors on stories that are better placed in a slow news cycle.
5. Write Personal Essays and Op-Eds
There is demand for personal essays, has been for a while. What has changed in the last few weeks and months is that a lot of these personal essays that are now being published are in relation to news events. What may have just been a fluff piece about Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale being launched as a Hulu series, is now a topic of conversation about feminist dystopian fiction and how these female authors have often been far more astute about what our future holds. Is The Handmaid’s Tale reflective of the reality facing the US? A book published in 1985 is suddenly relevant again.
Have essays about abortion, immigration, or the rise of nationalism in your country? Editors are buying.
6. Give Content Marketing a Bigger Push
What editors will or will not buy is highly dependent on what is going on in the world, and while that is definitely true to a certain extent with business as well, your content marketing clients are likely to still need just as much content as they did previously. Business will go on and is going on. While my journalism students are reporting lost incomes, my content marketing students are still continuing to pick up work and stay steady.
If you haven’t yet explored this market, or need a further push, check out this 10-part blog series I did on content marketing and how to get started with it.
7. If you Can, Ride it Out
Like me, the Trump election and the obsession with the man himself may have been particularly bad timing for you. I spent the last year working (with no pay) on my novel, expecting that it would even out this year when I launched myself fully back into freelancing.
I am fortunate enough to have built a business, so instead of sending out dozens of pitches a day, I’m using my time to grow that and work on personal projects like books that I’ve left unwritten and unfinished. I’m also working on my second novel, as well as taking (and teaching) classes, and just using this time to experiment with a whole load of different things.
I have been preparing for downturns for years and many of you know that my income completely vanished in 2013 after I let the ball drop in my business. So I have, unlike many other freelancers I know, made sure to follow the advice I’m giving in this post and that has made all the difference to my financial health and my ability to now continue without worrying about my career. You may not be there right now, but you can get there over time if you follow the advice I’ve laid out here.
If you can, however, afford to take the time to focus on learning new skills, finishing book projects, and building name recognition and clips in areas that you’re passionate about, now is a good time to start thinking about doing that.
The good news—and yes, I have some—is that this level of attention to the current US President is not eventually sustainable. If you can remember that one, there is an opportunity in this, and that two, it will eventually come to pass, you can not only survive but thrive in this current media environment.
P.S. Interested in learning how to find new markets, how to pitch yourself effectively, and how to create a marketing routine that brings in new clients consistently? Check out my new course Higher-Paying Freelance Clients. In it, I lay out 64 individual strategies that you can use to start marketing yourself and finding work immediately. I will show them to you in quick 10-minute videos and you’ll also have access to actual samples of queries, letters, emails, tweets, etc. that have landed me and others high-paying work. There is currently a $70 discount if you buy before 12pm BST tomorrow (March 28, 2017).
Sign up here: http://writing-courses.teachable.com/p/clients