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Should freelance writers share contact details?

By May 30, 2018 December 7th, 2020 12 Comments

One of the qualities that is crucial for freelancers to have is generosity. I really believe that the ‘soft’ attributes of openness, kindness and big-heartedness are just as important as technical skills for freelance writers. I’m part of writing groups and communities that are incredibly generous – especially with sharing contact details for editors. But recently I’ve started thinking about what happens when writers and journalists don’t source their own contacts.

Should freelance writers share contact details?

Sharing editors’ details

I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to sharing editors’ contact details. As you can see from my coaching testimonials, one of the things many of the writers I work with appreciate is that I’m fairly free and easy when it comes to passing on contact details of editors and PRs.

I know that there is a sense of competition within every industry, and I also know that within freelance writing some people guard their contacts list, but I’m not one of those people.

I tend to think that just because you have an editor’s email address doesn’t mean your pitches are going to be automatically accepted. You still have to come up with a cracking idea and send the pitch.

And what’s more, it’s not actually that hard to find editors’ contact details.

Like David Hochman says, “You can get the contact for any agent in the world, but will they sell your book for a million dollars? Not necessarily. You still have to have the work and talent and ideas behind it all.”

But I was speaking with a seasoned freelance writer the other day and she said to me, “There’s a feeling in this industry that you should never tell others who you are pitching to. You can tell them which publication you’re writing for, or pitching to, but don’t mention the editor’s name.”

I was dumbfounded by this attitude.

After doing a short course in feature writing, I joined online communities and groups where information about editors, rates and publications were freely shared.

As a fledgling freelance writer, these group led to me getting some of my first commissions.

And since I’ve joined online freelance writing communities, I’ve also freely shared information and opportunities because I really believe that being a freelancer is about giving as much as you get (if not more).

But when you get regular requests to share your contacts it can get frustrating. 

Ginger Gorman is a social justice freelance journalist and says she feels conflicted when reporters she doesn’t know contact her out of the blue and ask for her contacts. “Generally I’m not so worried about helping a fellow freelancer with contacts for a specific editor if they are trying to pitch a story,” she says. “However, if it’s an editor I’ve worked hard to build a relationship with, even that can feel uneasy.”

Like Ginger, I regularly receive these kinds of requests too. But for me, it’s mostly from writers I know or at least recognise their name.

But whenever I’ve thought about sharing contact details, I have always been thinking about it from the perspective of sharing editors’ or PR’s contact details.

But what about sharing contact details of your interviewees or case studies?

Sharing case study details – yay or nay?

Up until recently, I hadn’t fully considered what it’s like for someone Ginger, who spends weeks (if not months) carefully and sensitively establishing relationships with people for the stories she writes.

She regularly gets requests from other journalists to pass on the contact details of the people she has interviewed.

“With my social justice investigations, this is usually someone who has never spoken to the media before and has suffered some kind of trauma in their life,” she says. “It’s also probably an issue that hasn’t had much coverage until I reported on it. I find this pretty insulting and question the morals of this from the journalist’s perspective. They are basically asking to take my work! Also, I have very ethical reporting practices and I want to protect my interviewees from potential harm. This is a major priority and a key reason the public trusts my work.”

Ginger says she used to feel “guilty and obliged somehow” to help the journalist, but she has recently changed tack. “Lately I’ve been getting a couple of requests like this each week and I’ve just started saying “no” – especially if it’s a journalist who is on a full time wage in a big news organisation,” she says. “Do your own hard work and don’t sponge off freelancers!”

As a writer, I get that it can be hard to find case studies. For a couple of years I’ve had an idea for an article I really want to write. But each time I’ve tried to find case studies, I’ve fallen flat.

I believe the topic is really important, but it’s incredibly delicate and if I found willing case studies, I’d need to be careful about the legal ramifications about them talking to me. I’ve found one person so far who was prepared to talk with me, but one person does not an article make.

One journalist has written about the topic previously, but I must admit I have never thought about contacting her to ask for her case studies’ details. I’m not saying that to pat myself on the back, but just that I appreciate the backstory of the work it takes to develop real, authentic, trusting relationships with people.

When I was a social worker, I regularly saw the bond some of the people I worked with would form with workers and professionals in their lives. They almost always found it incredibly tough to switch to a new case worker if their old one was moving on.

When I listen to Ginger speak about the bond she has formed with the people she interviews, it’s a collaborative and trusting relationship. I can totally understand why she’s reluctant (and has started refusing) to pass on contact details with the interviewees’ permission or even offer to see if her interviewees are interested in being part of another article. Because if she did, she might give the impression that it’s a recommendation from her.

It’s a murky area. I know some writers think that sharing case study contacts would mean a particular story can reach a broader audience, so they believe we should all share.

From my own experiences and from what I’ve heard, these kinds of requests are common – both asking for editors’ contact details and requests for case study connections.

In the end I think it comes down to how much you want to write a particular story. Are you prepared to try and source the editor’s details yourself before you ask a colleague? Are you willing to find your own case studies? And how willing are you to share your own contacts that you have worked hard to develop?

I’ve never been cagey about sharing contact details, and I can’t imagine that I will suddenly start guarding my contacts list.

But I do hope that people like Ginger start getting fewer requests to share interviewees’ contact details, because that seems like a lazy way to do things, and let’s face it, if you want to make it as a freelance writer that’s not a quality you want to have.

What do you think about sharing contact details? Have you asked and would you share?


  • Michaela Fox says:

    I’m strongly of the "collaboration over competition" attitude. I am happy to share editors’ contact details and help fellow creatives out. I think a little heart goes a long way – in any industry, and in all facets of life.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Agreed! I think it’s different though when people are requesting interviewees’ contact details. One of the things I love about freelancing is that (almost) every freelance writer I’ve met has been so generous with their time and information.

  • Claire says:

    You’re right, there’s a world of difference between helping someone out by sharing something that’s fairly freely available such as an editor’s contact details and dealing with a request for access to an individual. Like you, I’d be happy to give a fellow freelancer the right person to contact and I don’t think it would make any difference to whether something I’d proposed was commissioned or not. The other freelancer still has to come up with a good idea and write it well. A while back I applied to do a project along with a huge number of others. It involved quite a lot of research and writing. Come the end of the day, I was one of I think only two who actually did the work – it just didn’t matter in the end that everyone else had the same opportunity. It’s always satisfying to help someone out I think, but not being helpful would make me feel uncomfortable.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      It is really satisfying to help others isn’t it? And you’re right Claire, just because you have the opportunity doesn’t mean everyone will be able to make the most of it. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments Claire – thank you.

  • Interesting post! I would gladly share editors’ contact info — but I only say "use my name" with the editor if I know the writer and like their work. As for interview contacts? Heck no! I’m being paid for the story and that includes the research, the interviews, and the fact-checking. By giving that to another writer, I am upping THEIR fee to my detriment because they are getting paid for the story but not spending as much time on the research, thanks to me.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      That’s a good point Helen about saying "use my name". In the past, I’ve emailed editors and introduced a writer who I know has wanted to break into that publication. But like you say, it’s seen as a recommendation, so I only do it when I know their work.
      And yes, that’s absolutely true when you say you are upping the other journos fee because they’re taking a short cut to finding case studies. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Jacky says:

    I haven’t asked other freelancers for editors contact info, but some have voluntarily shared their contacts which has been really kind of them. I was just thinking while reading this, that if I’d exhausted all options, I’d reach out to another freelancer with an ask and offer to pass along contact info of an editor/publication they’d like to break into to. Even if they don’t take me up on the offer, I think they’d appreciate it.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      I love that Jacky – I think that’s such a lovely (and fair) idea to pass on a contact detail in exchange for you receiving one. I’ve had a few writers do that unprompted when I’ve given them contacts and it’s always been such a generous gesture.

  • susan says:

    I work hard to establish a relationship of trust and empathy with my contacts and to turn over to a staff reporter who has taken over the story that has grown as a result of my work is not something I’m comfortable doing. I have access to individuals in the community where I live and work, something that is valuable and important to preserve.

    • lindyalexander says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective Susan. Trust and empathy are so important (and take time to build) so I can really appreciate why you’re not comfortable sharing those contacts.

  • Mia Evans says:

    I find it interesting when you said that it is an unspoken rule to never tell the editor’s name of the publication company you are writing for has a freelancer in the industry. It seems like even freelance medical research writers should know that in order to provide the best services to their clients and to protect themselves at the same time. I can imagine how they are different things you have to know when it comes to pursuing the career that you want in order to achieve greater heights or succeed as much as possible.

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi there, I’m not sure where I said it was an unspoken rule to never mention the editor’s name? I quoted an experienced freelance writer who said, “There’s a feeling in this industry that you should never tell others who you are pitching to. You can tell them which publication you’re writing for, or pitching to, but don’t mention the editor’s name.” But as I mentioned in the next sentence, I was dumbfounded by this attitude. That was one particular writer’s perspective that she wouldn’t want to share her editor’s contact details or name with another writer. Hope that clears it up!

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