Thinking about going freelance? Hear from Abby Lee Hood who got Teen Vogue, MTV and Vice to publish them!
Abby Lee Hood, is quite simply smashing the freelance game. Debut founds out how they did it..
Abby Lee Hood, 27, knows all about the rollercoaster of self-employment. As well as landing bylines at some pretty major publications, the Nashville-based journalist is also on a mission to empower newbie freelancers: writing a monthly ‘Bitchin’ Pitchin’ Writers’ Newsletter, delivering Freelance Writing courses, and has written an e-book, ‘The Bitchin’ Pitchin’ Method’, an invaluable guide to snapping up those commissions.
We were lucky enough to sit down (via Zoom, naturally) with Abby and hear some of their cracking advice first-hand. Here’s how it went…
So Abby, how did you start your freelance journey? Freelancing (initially) wasn’t an option for me as I always needed to work to gain the extra income. I got my first writing job when I was in high school: writing and editing people’s essays for cash.
Amazing. Once a hustler, always a hustler, hey?
Exactly. This was also at a time when you could still find jobs on Craigs List, and I got myself a little blog-writing job too. I started to pitch and write for local publications and then I went onto pitching nationally.
I quit my job around the same time the pandemic hit. I struggled but managed to re-figure things out. I had a couple of copywriting clients, I had been placing bylines in national publications: Teen Vogue, MTV, Huffington Post, The Insider, Vice and a few others. In fact, yesterday I signed my contributor agreement for The New York Times!
When you went freelance full time, what were you most afraid of? Money. I grew up on a farm. I’m talking, like, a trailer in my grandmother’s front yard. Wealth was something we never had. We were a happy family, and as a kid I didn’t realise how bad it was. I just knew that I came from a very, very working-class family. I’m proud of that and I wouldn’t change that for anything. But the truth is, for a lot of folk in the US, if they come from a family that has money, they have already ‘made it.’ For me, if something went wrong, I would be evicted – there was no mom and dad covering my rent for a month to make it go away.
Are there any tools you’d recommend for new freelancers?
One of the first tools that really helped me was a pitch tracker. If you’re not tracking your work, you won’t be a good freelancer because there’s so much to organise. You have to be aggressive with your follow ups and your schedule. Jennifer Goforth Gregory’s The Freelance Content Marketing Writer was invaluable to me. My parents didn’t have ‘business connections’. I always thought “well, I don’t need anybody, I’ve always done it by myself, and I don’t need you”. Once I got into freelance writing, I soon figured that it’s not the case. I’ve been treating Twitter (where all of the writers and editors hang out) like LinkedIn recently and network with them like they’re my colleagues.
Making your own “brand” is something that is prevalent right now, a lot of people are talking about it. Do you feel like you’ve done that? How do you pitch your work, without compromising your brand, staying true to yourself?
I realised that people were going to perceive me as this rednecky, working class person and would probably never see much as much else. I wanted to be a writer for other writers. I told myself that I was never going to talk about my work through a lens that isn’t coming from a place of poverty or from a place of having to work all the time. I am very proud of who I am and what I have accomplished – I wouldn’t change it for the world. But my experience has definitely shaped me as a person. So my ‘brand’ is an exaggerated version of myself: an advocate for working class people.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start out as a freelancer?
Prepare! If you’re in a full or part time job, try to save up three or six months’ worth of living before you quit. I know that might sound unattainable but it’s not if you hustle. The thing about hustling is that it will come and go in phases. I had a year of hustling and I was absolutely exhausted, and now I have the opportunity to give myself a break.
What is your favourite thing about freelancing, and what has it made you realise about yourself?
When it comes to meeting people, I am a terrible introvert. I like to stay at home… I could go weeks without talking to anyone and I would be fine. But I have realised that seeing people on camera, talking to people, meeting new people is really great. I try to network with as many writers as possible because freelancing can be lonely. You could, if you wanted to, have a great writing career and never leave your home. I will forever be grateful that this is my job. Writing is my way of processing things, so when I get mad about income equality, racism, homophobia, those are things that I get to write stories about. I get to research and write about these topics in a way that I feel I’m contributing something positive to society. Every story that I write, there’s a part of me in it. There is a part of my advocacy in that.
Follow Abby on Twitter at @AbbyLeeHood
Bex Thackery View All
From years of experience to build up her career in fashion product managing, for all-time favourite brand Dr. Martens, Bex had what she would like to call “a quarter life epiphany” and switched gears to set sail onto the long road ahead of editorial writing.
Having written for a variety of magazines such as Eden Zine designed for young entrepreneurs where she explored the digital disguise of social media, to returning several times to resident at The Bower Monologues, a publication created and written by women through the female psyche, where she explored a personal viewpoint on escaping rituals, Bex now finds herself at the home of Debut.
Being a feminist, creative, lifelong tomboy, and fashion lover, Bex is inspired to write about, interview and explore the wonders of like-minded people and their creations. Whilst obsessed with fashion, she’s not afraid to fiction: Bex’s blog is a trip into the eye of the beholder. Exploring love, relationships, fashion and weekly anecdotes, her personally-branded “personal exposé” is just the start of a lifetime of stories. Bex is an old, hopeless romantic without the fear to dive head into water of the intriguing unknown.
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