Catherine L. Tully
Doing the Freelance Dance
... Profile of a Freelance Writer
See our complete schedule for this series
I began freelance writing in 2002, not knowing that I would eventually do it
full time. I wrote an article about the thing that
I know best--dance. When I heard nothing back, I gave up on the idea for a
while to concentrate on my teaching career.
A year later, the editor from the magazine contacted me, asking to use my
piece. I was totally caught off-guard, and with that little bit of
encouragement I was on my way. Feeling confident, I wrote an article about
something else I had experience with--setting up a fishtank. I flipped
through Writer's Market and picked a place to send it--Boys' Life. Six weeks
later, an acceptance came, along with a contract for hundreds of dollars.
I had a lot to learn about freelance writing. I foolishly thought that it
would be easy for me to continue to write articles and get paid the good
money I had just made. What is worse is that my next article sold for a
similar fee. Then came the dry spell.
Months went by. I sent out piece after piece and got rejections galore, with
a $25 dollar check here and there which kept me in the game. Just
when I would want to give up, I would hit a small victory.
It is funny, really. My dad was self-employed. My grandfather was
self-employed. My husband is self-employed. I guess it all just seemed
normal. I had watched each of them struggle to build their businesses. I
had seen the highs and the lows, so I just kept plugging away, ever
certain that I would one day be able to look back on all of the work I had
done and feel satisfied that it was worth it.
Gradually it did happen. I took the old advice to "write what you know"
and went to it. I wrote dance articles. I wrote them for actors and
singers as well as dancers. I branched out further, to include gymnasts and
teachers. After about a year of doing this topic almost exclusively, I
branched out a little and tested the waters. I began to write about business
and fitness as well. The gradual approach worked nicely, and I started to
It took me a while to understand the freelance writing world--there is much
to know. No book can prepare you for the things you will see and
experience once you decide to work at this career full time. The
pressure can be brutal.
The things that make it worthwhile for me (besides the money!) are the
flexibility and casual lifestyle you can lead as a writer. I can get up and
work in my robe. I can take the day off if I want to. The strange part?
I usually don't--but knowing that I can makes all the difference in the
world to me.
This career is an individual one, so the only advice I can offer is
this: believe that you can do it, be willing to work hard and don't let
rejections slow your progress. Those are the three things that I have based
my career on--and here I am--a professional freelance writer.
About the Author: Catherine L. Tully has had her work accepted by
Boys' Life, Dance Teacher, American Fitness, IDEA Health and Fitness Source,
Classical Singer, www.actingbiz.com, www.indie-music.com, Dance Spirit,
Homeschooling-Horizons and many others. She is currently a Regional Editor
for Green Teacher Magazine.
Catherine also writes a weekly "health
headlines" column for a corporate wellness company that has had clients
including The MacArthur Foundation and Ernst & Young. She also serves as the
Outside Europe Representative for the National Dance Teachers Association in
the UK. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine L. Tully.
This article may not be reproduced in any manner whatsoever, in any form,
for any reason, without the express, written consent of the author.
Violators will be prosecuted.