Time was, you wrote an article or a short story, you sent out hard copies to every possible publication with even an inkling of interest in the topic (and probably several with none whatsoever), and you waited patiently for the rejection letters to flow into your mailbox. Ah, the good ol days of freelance writing.
With the digital revolution, freelancers got a little help. Publications both online and off still accepted submissions (although the traditional rejection letters became rejection emails, saving hundreds of dollars on stamps), but writers now had a means to bypass the industry altogether and use online magazine publishing software to get their work out to the public at large. The only major stumbling block left was marketing.
But what to our wondering eyes should appear but social media, with its instant access to an ever widening circle of acquaintances and associates. It seemed as though the life of the freelancer was complete, and never again would they have to rely on the big bad media publishers to send their work out into the world at large.
And then, in what is best described as the “American Idol” phenomenon, suddenly everybody thought they could do it.
Writers who had been slogging through the business for years suddenly found the means to publish online magazines filled to the brim with their very own work, but so did every gomer with a keyboard. The result was not a competitive market, but a saturated one, crammed wall to wall with writers who were convinced that, since they COULD use online magazine publishing software to create their own magazine, they SHOULD. So freelancers who thought they would have a clear path to success with online self publishing were still struggling, only instead of struggling for a seat at an exclusive table, they were struggling to have their voices heard over the din of the frantic masses, isolated songbird calling out amidst a beach packed with seagulls.
The answer for our intrepid freelancers? Either plunge back into the major publishing house fray and keep trying to break through, or grab an even tighter hold of the reins and become a publishing house themselves. The successful modern freelancer is a writer, a publisher, a marketer, a researcher, an accountant, a graphic designer, and an editor. More work? Absolutely. Better pay? Not at first, no. But with great freedom comes great responsibility, greater creative control, and exactly zero rejection letters.