4. Refine your process
Some of the obstacles to ROI are self-imposed, especially for new freelancers. The longer you do this, the more assignments you can handle and the quicker you complete them. Thanks to repetition and necessity, the work becomes less precious.
“In broadcast journalism, they talk about ‘getting clear’ – no hems or haws, no false starts,” D’Agnese says. Newcomers practice to the point “where they can deliver a sentence without stumbling over what they were writing…I think with writing your ROI goes up when you do as little rewriting as possible.” Writers must dismiss the concept of perfection and “focus on the fewest number of passes that I can do to deliver really good work. You try to get to the point where you can write clearly that very first time.” D’Agnese has learned to write as soon as possible after getting an assignment. It’s easier to edit when something is down. Plus, you usually know enough to at least get started; that means less work is required to finish the article.
D’Agnese remembers hearing years ago about a young reporter at the Washington Post who filed great stories with the fewest number of interviews required. It took time for D’Agnese to realize David Remnick’s shrewdness. “Every hour I spend on the phone is not a good return on investment at all,” he says. “Think first, then make those calls very carefully and think about, ‘Am I getting the best possible person that I need to make this article sing?’ Over time, you kind of drill down to that.”