Desperation (Mistake #101)

This may sound harsh but it needs to be covered.   

Nobody wants to hire desperate people.

You’re a writer. Writers write. Writers want to sell their work. Every editor knows that. It comes with the territory. Wanting to sell is the default setting. 

Being desperate to sell is not the default setting.   

If you’re desperate, and because experienced writers are not desperate, an editor will think you’re inexperienced. ALARM BELLS. 

If you’re desperate, an editor is going to worry you may be skint. If you’re skint, she may be worried you’ve not got enough work. If you’ve not got enough work, she’s going to wonder about all the reasons why that may be. “He’s not a very good writer” may top that list. ALARM BELLS. 

If you’re desperate, an editor may fear you have personality traits or qualities which are similarly off-centre or extreme. That you’re too highly strung and precious about your work, that you might be upset by requests for changes to any article you write, that you may flip your lid if payment is one day late. ALARM BELLS. 

Editors want an ALARM BELLS-free life. 

Signs of desperation?   

“Did you receive my email? I sent it half hour ago. Have you read it yet?” 

“If you don’t like my idea, I have lots of others. If you want me to write about something specific, I can! Give me a call any time! If I’m not in, please leave me a mess …” 

“Please buy my article. I’m desperate.”   

I exaggerate, and it’s normally subtler than all this. 

Signing off “Jo Bloggs – Freelance Writer – Available for Work!” (which I have seen) is desperate. It’s also tautological, since being available for writing work is virtually the definition of Freelance Writer. 

“Freelance writer” tells the editor you’re available for work.   

“Available for work” tells the editor you’re desperate for work.   

I nearly called this mistake Showing Desperation because I initially thought, well, it’s okay to be desperate, so long as you don’t let the editor see it or hear it. Setting aside how difficult it might be for some to ‘fake’ it, I reconsidered for this reason: desperation is a grim state to be in – so unfair on yourself, your loved ones and your health. 

Is it financial desperation? I’m no counsellor or careers advisor, but if so, get yourself sorted before considering freelance writing as a career. ‘Don’t give up the day job’ sounds cliched and dismissive, but … don’t give up the day job (yet). 

Is it to-get-into-print desperation? Try to let it go. It’s a nice fuzzy feeling, but it soon wears off. You’ll get there – with persistence and hard work. But you’ll get there when you’ve let go of desperation and returned level-minded. 

If you’re desperate, please step back.

You must do it right now. 

Found this Mistake useful? You might also like my new ebook 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make (Kindle edition), priced £1.99 / $2.99.

Comments 2

  • I can understand editors being reluctant to work with writers who seem desperate. Seeming not to care much is probably also bad.

  • I'm inclined to agree, but an experienced and quite well known journalist once advised me to 'pitch like you don't care' – and although I never really have ever gone as far as that, it did give me pause to think. That said, the journalist in question was already sought-after and experienced, so maybe different tactics apply depending on where you are in your career …

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