Don’t Let the Odds Hold You Back from Success

by Jodee Redmond

I read recently in my online travels that if you send a query to a print magazine that you have a 1 in 800 chance of getting your article published. On the surface, that would seem rather discouraging, wouldn’t it?

Faced with those kinds of odds, it would be quite easy to give up and forget all about this silly idea of making a living as a freelancer (or even earning anything at all). You may have heard about employers posting ads looking for writers and getting hundreds of responses, and that can be true.

When faced with the competition out there, you have a couple of choices:

  • You can give up and wonder what might have been.
  • You can keep trying.

I vote for the second one. Yes, magazine editors get queries every day and they don’t choose to move forward with most of the stuff that comes across their desks. If you have been in Chapters lately, did you stop to take a look at the number and variety of magazines they have sitting in their racks? All of those magazines have material in them written by someone.

If you have tried going after the print market and it hasn’t worked out so far, then maybe that particular niche isn’t the right one for you. Find another one. There are many markets and types of writing out there, and just because you haven’t found the right one (yet) doesn’t mean that you won’t.

Perhaps instead of writing for someone else, you should be working toward developing your own information products and selling them. Maybe content writing isn’t your thing and your abilities are more geared toward copy writing or technical writing.

Instead of trying to figure out what’s available in the market, have you ever sat down and tried to picture what your ideal writing assignment would be? Is it fiction or non-fiction? Articles or e-books? Is it a blog? Do you like writing biographies? Does it have to do with promoting a product or service? Do you find that figuring out the process for doing a particular task is where it’s at for you? (And when you do this exercise, don’t edit your response in any way. This is about your dream job, not what you think you can do right now.)

Once you have a picture of what your ideal is, you can start to make a plan to get there. You may need to take a course or start to approach other kinds of potential clients than you have been working with. In the meantime, you may need to take on work that is not exactly your dream job, but that’s OK.

Look at yourself first and figure out what turns you on. Then zero in that type of work. Once you start doing that, your writing will reflect your passion. You will become a better writer, which will make it easier for you to get hired.

Those 1 in 800 odds I shared with you at the beginning of this post? Even though the odds may appear slim, someone is getting hired by the magazines. Why shouldn’t it be you? If you never send out queries, apply for jobs, or talk to potential clients, you have zero chance of being hired. I’d take 1 in 800 over zero chance any day.

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  1. says


    What a great post–and so true. Following your passion is a key component to success in this (or any) field. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s absolutely true.

  2. says

    I love this post! It’s so easy to get discouraged when receiving tons of rejections. But I try to look at rejections as one more step towards an acceptance. I especially love it when editors/whomever takes the time to comment on something specific.

  3. says

    Yup, it’s worth remembering that probably some large percentage of those 799 rejections are people who didn’t read the submissions guidelines, didn’t research to see what the magazine is looking for, who figure it’s easier to send stuff out scattershot to everyplace instead of carefully targeting queries. You see exactly the same thing in job applications as well. So if you’re doing it right, don’t take the 1 in 800 too seriously.

  4. Jodee says

    @ jsfarmer: I agreed with you completely. Those odds need to be told!
    @ Wombat: A lot of people don’t do their homework first and then wonder why it doesn’t work out the way they planned.

  5. says

    Great article, Jodee. I’m not a print writer, but I can attest to the competition factor for online writing jobs. The competition is so fierce that I know most job posters never even get through all the replies. That’s why I tend to spend my time pitching new clients rather than responding to ads. When you’re the only one pitching, your odds are much better. 😉 Obviously, this approach wouldn’t work for a print magazine writer, but for someone who writes web content or blogs, it’s an option I’ve found to be a much better use of my time than surfing job boards and responding to ads. I do respond to ads once in a while if I see something I think I’d be a perfect fit for, but that’s not where the bulk of my work comes from. For anyone feeling discouraged and wanting to give up, I highly recommend trying to pitch a few clients and see how that goes before throwing in the towel entirely.

  6. Jodee says

    @ Amy: Thank you! It’s all in how you look at the odds: if someone used the 1-in-800 shot to sell you a lottery ticket worth $10 million, you might be tempted to buy one, since those odds are a lot better than the 1 in a gazillion shot at winning a big lottery. But people buy tickets anyway because *someone* is going to win. And it’s a lot harder to win without a ticket. 😉

  7. says

    Hi Jodee

    Thank you so much. How did you know I was at the end of my tether and had decided it was either that I wasn’t good enough, or that it was a secret club I wasn;t allowed to join.

    Just the 743 more pitches to go then…

  8. Jodee says

    Hi Sam,

    Because I know all, LOL! Not exactly. The truth is that I almost didn’t write this post but I was inspired to by something I had read over the weekend that talked in part about not holding back so much in your writing. I am so pleased to hear that it spoke to you and that you were encouraged to keep trying. You have just made my day. 😀


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