Monday, October 26, 2015

On Becoming... A Freelance Writer For MTV by Jocelyn Rish

I recently started writing about YA books for the MTV News website, and Michelle kindly invited me to talk about the experience at IWSG, which is perfect because my insecurities almost kept me from getting the freelancing gig.

When I first saw the listing, it sounded so awesome, but that tiny voice in my head immediately convinced me to forget about it. It reminded me I had no experience as a freelancer. I didn’t know enough about YA books to put myself out there as an expert. They’d never hire me anyway so why bother.

And stupid me listened to that voice and decided not to apply.

But for the next two days, I couldn’t stop thinking about the job: ideas for my application, ideas for articles, picturing myself with a byline on the MTV website.

But as I’d get pumped up about it, that tiny, nasty voice would intrude again, and I’d let insecurity and doubt take over and shove the idea to the back of my mind.

But the itch for the job refused to completely go away.

So I finally said, “Screw you, tiny voice! I don’t have anything to lose by trying!”

If you’d like to read more about the application process and even see the gif-tastic application that landed me the job, click here.
I couldn’t believe it when I got the email telling me I was hired. I was so thrilled I even teared up a little.

But of course those excited feelings only lasted a little while before doubt crept back into my brain. Oh no, I had fooled them into hiring me. Now I was going to be a complete disaster and embarrass myself. And not just on a small scale, but on a HUGE platform with tons of people reading.

It didn’t help allay my fears that my editor didn’t like any of my first fourteen pitches.

The way it works is that I come up with ideas for articles and send my editor a potential title and a sentence or two describing what the article would be about. If he likes the pitch, he gives me a due date. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting anything approved and became convinced the whole thing was a mistake and that I should quit.

But I shared my fears with a group of awesome friends, and they helped calm me down. Together we went through past articles on the MTV website, and they helped me brainstorm new ideas. I picked four of them, fleshed them out, and sent them to my editor, and he approved three of them. Whoohoo - I finally had my first stories to write!

And once again, the elation only lasted a short time before the paralyzing fear of actually writing a story for MTV hit with a vengeance. But I was also determined to do a good job, so I ignored those fears and got to work.

My first story was about Nancy Drew, and even though I had read a ton of the books when I was young, I didn’t remember a lot about them. So I got to googling. I found out all kinds of stuff I never knew about Nancy and her legacy, which was a cool bonus.

Once I wrote the article, I started looking for gifs. I’d never done much with gifs before, but they are a big part of MTV articles, so I’ve been learning a lot on the fly. But the gif hunt (or making my own gifs) has turned out to be a lot of fun – pretty much my favorite part of putting these articles together.

I was so nervous when I emailed my first article to my editor - I even felt a tad nauseous as I pressed Send. But he loved it and said it was a lot of fun. Whew! And then once it was published on the site, it did well and got a lot of shares. Double whew!

With a successful article under my belt, I had a lot of confidence going into the next ones. That nagging, doubting voice still rears its head occasionally when pitches get rejected or the writing feels boring and flat, but I press forward anyway. That’s the key for me: I can’t stop the voice of insecurity, but I can try to prove it wrong. And because I eventually managed to dismiss what the voice had to say about applying for the job, I’m having a ton of fun writing these articles, and it’s a complete thrill seeing my name on the MTV website and knowing so many people are reading my words.

Here are two of my articles if you’re interested:
13 Reasons Nancy Drew Is A Kick-Ass 85-Year-Old Teen
The Brooding YA Bad Boy Of Your Dreams Finally Opens Up

I haven’t been doing this long enough to feel qualified to give advice, but I will say if you decide to freelance, make sure you’re organized. I have a spreadsheet where I track article deadlines, when I turn them in, whether I’ve included them in a timesheet, and when I get paid for them. Otherwise, I’d be a complete mess.

I had never considered freelancing before this opportunity came along, but I know there are a ton of resources out there for finding freelance jobs. So if you think you’d be interested in freelancing, GO FOR IT! Don’t let that tiny voice that likes to be so negative talk you out of it.

You have nothing to lose by trying, and you might end up with a very cool job!


Michelle Wallace said...

Thank you for telling us all about your MTV freelancing experience, Jocelyn!

Christine Rains said...

How awesome! Thanks so much for sharing with us your story.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That sounds like one of the most exciting freelance jobs ever. I would be nervous too. Perfect advice about pushing forward. I really enjoyed this.

Susan Says

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Freelancing for the MTV site - wow! What an accomplishment. You applied despite that voice and now you can rock their site.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You felt the fer and did it anyway. Congrats!

Robyn Campbell said...

I would love an opportunity like that. So happy for you, Jocelyn. I think we all have that nagging fear. The thing is to do exactly, what you did. Stare fear in the face and destroy it (until next time). ;-) Thanks so much for your post. And thanks to my buddy, Michelle for getting you over here.

Julie Flanders said...

What a wonderful story - so happy for you! It was so inspiring to read how you overcame your doubts and went for it. Congratulations!!

J.L. Campbell said...

Putting aside our doubts is a surefire way to keep moving forward. Congrats!

Jocelyn Rish said...

Thanks, everyone! The whole experience has been surreal, but I'm so glad I didn't let that voice win this time.

Lux G. said...

That is indeed a cool job to have! Look how far trying takes you. Congrats on this. What an inspiration for us freelancers.

Sherry Ellis said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I freelance, too. Organization is extremely important!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

You're an inspiration. I'm not sure I could do it. But you've given me lots to think about. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Good for you Jocelyn! That is so great that you WENT FOR IT! you just never know where life is going to lead you...

Glad to hear you are finally having fun with it. Nerves can often cripple our creativity. Keep enjoying your job and your readers will always have a real treat amuse them. All the best!

Debra Renée Byrd said...

That's so cool, and sounds like a dream job if any!

J Lenni Dorner said...

Nancy Drew is how old??? That's amazing!
Thanks for this great article.

Stephsco said...

Awesome! I also write YA. I'm going to find you on twitter and follow. Thanks for sharing the anxiety side of things. I wrote for a pop culture site a few years back--it was very small time, but I was still nervous. It gave me great experience for myself in writing for a larger audience beyond a blog and putting content together quickly.

Congrats on such a cool gig! And I'm glad Mtv is embracing YA books!

Anonymous said...

What a cool gig, and congrats for landing it , despite your fears.

Sandra Cox said...

Many, many congrats. That's wonderful!

Rachel Pattinson said...

What an amazing opportunity! Congratulations! I literally decided last week that I want to be a freelance writer - your article has encouraged me to keep going, no matter what that little voice in my head tries to tell me!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Michelle and Jocelyn - what an interesting blog post. Congratulations - and I'm so pleased you've grasped the opportunity for the MTV story telling.

Something so different to read .. and take notice of .. cheers HIlary

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks for sharing your story! I had no idea there was even a YA arm of the MTV site. That's awesome!

Jocelyn Rish said...

Thanks again, everyone! And I'm glad to hear so many people found my experience inspiring. It was a good lesson for me, too. :-)

Anonymous said...

This was a great post, both highly relatable and reassuring for me. I, too, passed up a 'real' job in the pursuit of my freelance writing dream. I've never looked back but I'm still early in my career too. My dream gig is to write for MTV one day, but in the meantime I'll live vicariously through you. ;)

Congrats and best of luck with everything! So glad that you kicked that little doubtful voice's butt.