Opportunities and Pitching — tips from The Freelancer’s Toolbox

The good news for freelancers is that there have never been more places to publish than there are right now.

The bad news, as we all know, is that very few places want to pay you for your work.

Food and travel writers Joanne Sasvari and Don Genova offered some advice on how to make your freelance career pay at The Freelancer’s Toolbox seminar held earlier this month in Vancouver.

Sasvari started out by stressing the importance of cultivating corporate clients. Having a mix of clients — from trade publications to corporate and media clients — is essential to a successful freelance career.  And the ultimate goal for any freelancer is to have to pitch as little as possible, she said.

How do you get to that point? For starters, Sasvari encouraged freelancers to join professional groups. Never underestimate the power of networking, she said, adding that she’s hardly had any work over the past few years that didn’t come from her professional connections.

Here’s a summary of some of their best advice:

On networking

• Be social and be social with purpose. Present yourself as a professional. Don’t pitch someone at a social event, but be a person that people like to get to know.

• Join professional associations.

• Get to know your editors and the publications you’re pitching to.


On pitching

• Read submission guidelines thoroughly.

• Develop a specialty.

• Have an idea what kind of writing style a publication is looking for (Do they want snappy and sassy? Serious and journalistic?).

• Check to see if the publication has an editorial calendar on their website. Look ahead to coming events and pitch ideas well in advance.

• If you don’t have a connection at a magazine, consider writing for their website. There are more opportunities on a website. Writing for web will likely mean less money but it’s an easier way in.

• Magazines only run a couple of long features but they have an endless need for shorter stories. The long pieces are few and far between, so look at the other opportunities in the magazine.

• If you have a blog, and have written something there that’s relevant to your pitch, include a link. Don’t send an attachment, said Sasvari. “No editor alive will ever open an attachment.”


On blogs

• Consider your blog a marketing tool. Rather than publish all the time and have it messy and incomplete, make it beautiful and perfect even if you’re posting less frequently.

• If you’ve got a professional-looking blog and online presence, all it takes is a couple of good posts and re-tweets. Then all of a sudden your name is out there and you’re considered an expert on your subject.

• Cross-post the work you’re doing out in the world. Adapt it for your blog.

• If you’re short of blog post ideas, sit down one day and come up with five topics. Shorter posts are better — one page on the screen is most people’s attention span these days.

• Look your post over carefully before you hit publish. If you want editors to look at your blog, you want your best work to be on there. No spelling mistakes!


On how to keep work coming

• Once you’ve scored an assignment, always follow instructions to the letter.

• Be the kind of writer that editors come back to all the time. “Be that writer that an editor finds very easy to work with,” said Sasvari. Don’t get into an argument with an editor without a very good reason.

• Keep everything you’ve written and look at how you might be able to adapt it into a new story with a new angle.

• Be light on your feet and flexible and come up with different directions ideas can go in. Take a basic idea and twist it into new angles, said Genova.


On not getting any response to your pitches

One of the main complaints from the audience — which was a good mixture of experienced writers, students, and young journalists — was how hard it is these days to get editors to even respond to pitches.

“We know they’re busy but we still think it’s a bit rude,” said Genova. “Follow up once and if you still don’t hear back, politely email one more time to let them know you’re withdrawing the pitch and sending it elsewhere.”

But be aware, if you’re not getting responses to any of your pitches, you’d be advised to make sure you’re targeting and framing your pitches properly.

“Often editors don’t respond if it’s just an entirely unsuitable pitch,” said Genova.


Have you had more trouble than usual getting responses from editors lately? How many times do you think a writer should follow up before they take a pitch elsewhere?


Posted on November 14, 2013 at 9:05 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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