Monday, July 30, 2007

A Numbers Game

Numbers aren't my forte. Oh, I did okay in math in high school because the math program was strong and as a competitive person, I wanted to do as well or better than my classmates. But I've always been a word person. Numbers now give me a headache. I can't even do simple math without messing it up.

So becoming a freelance writer is the logical step for a non-numbers person. Oh how wrong that is. I fuss with numbers more than I have since my last math class in college. Why? Because, it turns out, writing is a numbers game.

To get noticed, to get assignments, you have to send a lot of queries and letters. Once upon a time I wrote an article on the Rule of 13 (published in Writing for Dollars -- I should search for it, as it was sage advice). The idea is for every 13 pieces of work you have in circulation, you should get at least one assignment. Thirteen isn't some magic number. It means that you have a healthy amount of bait out there and eventually luck will fall in your favor and the fishies, er editors, will take a nibble or a big bite. Why 13? Because 13 is better than 5 or 10 but not intimidating like 20 or 25. Thirteen means you are really putting your work out there.

Since I've been doing the query challenge with my writers' organization, I've been sending lots of letters. This past week alone I sent 55. From that I've gotten about 10 responses, all positive nibbles but no assignments yet. One is very likely. Yes, the numbers I produce are high, but to get the type of work I want, I have to make sure my output is great.

Another numbers thing I have to do is be my own bookkeeper. That's tough. I can't balance a checkbook (no, I don't need anyone telling me how easy it is to balance a checkbook because it is not). Thank goodness for Excel spreadsheets. Otherwise, I'd be screwed. But I've learned to look at my business professionally, with a ton of information recorded so I can keep track of where the work is coming from, as well as my income and outgoing. It's tough, but I learned at tax time exactly how important it is to keep the numbers straight.

The biggest number thing? Hours in a day. There just aren't enough.


Swishy said...

I remember indignantly telling my math teachers that I was NEVER going to use math in my job ... HA. So wrong.

Patti said...

i love numbers and at any given opportunity will crunch them...and i hated math in school. will wonders ever cease?!

Marijke Durning said...

balance a checkbook? Hah, it's all in my head. I have a general idea of how much money I should have in the bank. It works for the most part. :-)
Interestingly, my accountant husband does the same.