When I went to write up this post, I opened my spreadsheet to check how many pitches I sent out for April and I was shocked.
I sent one pitch this month.
It’s been a funny old month. Three editors have replied to pitches/query letters that I sent between two and three months ago (yes, despite me following up with them).
Two asked me to write on spec (when you write the piece but without any guarantee that it will be published). I wrote on spec a few times when I was getting started, but am reluctant to do it these days. Although I was asked this recently by an editor I hadn’t worked with before and I said yes because I wanted to write for that particular publication.
Being asked to write on spec
One editor who replied to me works for an inflight magazine and they only accept articles written on spec. I wrote back and thanked the editor for considering my idea but let her know I wouldn’t take her up on her offer. It wasn’t a magazine that I desperately wanted to be published in, and I felt that it would be difficult to find another home for the piece if I wrote it and she didn’t end up wanting it.
I was really keen to write for the other publication that asked me to write on spec, but I am so slammed with work at the moment, I couldn’t face spending hours and hours interviewing case studies and writing a 1400 word feature only to have it rejected. Granted, my query to the editor was very brief (I really just introduced myself and asked if he was looking for contributors and if so, perhaps I could write an article about a particular topic I’ve been researching, so it was not the strongest pitch ever!)
When he asked me to write on spec, this is what I wrote back:
Many thanks for your reply – great to be in touch. Thanks also for the information on rate, word count and what you are looking for.
I don’t tend to write on spec (if I can help it!) – is there something particular that you weren’t sure about with my pitch? I’d be happy to do some initial work on the idea and let you know the exact angle, case studies and experts I’d plan to talk to if that would help securing a commission?
He wrote back saying:
Alright, I’ll take the plunge… Let’s call it a commission, based on the outline you’ve provided and the guidelines of our style I’ve described.
TIP: It’s always worth asking if editors would consider a commission rather than writing on spec. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!
Overall, this month has been mad in terms of how much work I’ve had.
Lots of it has been inbound, meaning I haven’t had to pitch or prospect for it.
In terms of feature articles, this month I:
Offers (This is where an editor has approached me to write an article): 5
Slowing down on my marketing efforts
It feels like my marketing efforts are paying off – I know I said I was going to send out 10 Letters of Introduction (LOIs) a week, but surprisingly, 90% of these letters have been getting replies, and while not every one is looking for a freelance writer, I’ve had one conversation with a great organisation about writing some deep content for them and am scheduling a conversation with another in the next couple of weeks. So I’m breaking my promise!
Freelancing wisdom says you are meant to keep prospecting for clients even when you’re busy, but I am at capacity, and am just going to ride the ‘feast’ wave for a little while before I start sending out more LOIs.
I know that the nature of freelancing means that work can dry up quickly, but at this stage it looks like I’ve got heaps to last me over the next few months.
I always believe you have to take a long view with freelancing – it does take time to build up relationships, but once you have them, I’ve found that editors are keen to use the same, reliable freelancers over and over. For example, I’m writing regularly for a food publication across three of its platforms (online, in the monthly magazine and also in their weekly newspaper supplement). I highly recommend using this as a strategy to ensure you are familiar with the publication’s brand and voice, but also in doubling-up (or tripling-up) your opportunities. It can be tough to break in, but once you do, it speaks volumes if you write for multiple editors within the same publication.
Other things I’ve been up to
I’ve fallen a couple of weeks behind on the SEO course I’m doing, but it’s been a fantastic investment so far. I’ve also bought an e-course through The International Freelancer, and while I’m only a little way through, I’ve been a bit disappointed that it is not “taught”, but more like reading an e-book with self-guided exercises.
I’m also writing a couple of guest posts for other writers and may be a co-presenter at an upcoming small business festival about being a freelance writer in a country town.
For May I’ve really decided to focus on pitching and writing stories that hark back to my social work roots – ones that have a strong sense of social justice. I wrote an article about ‘earning to give’ (where people deliberately choose careers that are a good personal fit but where they can earn a high income so they can donate more money to effective charities) and I am have just written a piece about post-traumatic growth. It feels really good to be writing these kinds of stories again.
How was your April? What are you planning for May?