Five Tips to Help Freelance Writers Stress Story Value in Pitches

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Resumes and pitch letters have a lot in common. For freelance writers, a well-written pitch letter with a solid story idea yields a writing assignment. And a tight and terse resume that successfully sells a job candidate results in a job interview. The critical common ingredient in both successful pitch letters and resumes is value – the power-packed word that means importance, usefulness, relevance and significance.

Resumes and pitch letters that fail to communicate value within seconds are trashed.

Successful freelance writers who consistently score writing jobs have learned how to persuasively stress the value of the content they’re trying to sell in their pitch letters. Embellished with carefully chosen sentences, practically every phrase drives home the value of the story the writer proposes.

Here are five tips that can help you focus on and stress value in every pitch letter you write:

1. Understand market. Heading the list is knowledge of the market’s demographics.  Before you can think about writing a pitch letter, find  the answers to these questions: Who are the readers (age, sex,  education), and what kind of information do they want? Rather than skim a couple of articles,  read several so that you have a strong feeling for content.  Get a sense of the publication’s editorial mission and philosophy.   If it’s an online magazine or newsletter, the “About” page ought to explain it.  Many mission statements also provide information about  the publication’s readers.

2. Topic relevance. Will the subject immediately draw readers?  Once the market niche is understood,  search for stories that are specific – I stress specific — to this market.  If you find yourself justifying a story’s relevance, abort and find another story. There should be no doubt about a topic’s relevance.  Check to see if topic was covered before.  If it’s a popular topic, there’s a good chance that it was already written about.  But that doesn’t mean your story isn’t viable. The topic could have been covered two years ago; or it may be so broad or complex, there are several angles, all of which are important.  Along with making a strong case for your story, you’ll also score points with your editor. He or she will appreciate the fact that you did your homework.  And if the topic was covered, you’ve positioned the story so that it’s fresh and new.

3. Timeliness. The more timely and relevant the subject matter the better. What with readers’ bombarded with information from countless vehicles,  information must be fresh and offer new insights.   The timeliness of a story can’t be stressed enough, especially if there are several competing publications in the market.  The Internet explosion has created content wars, and virtually every editor is hungry for timely stories.  When I edited newspapers and online news sites, my best writers understood the impact of timely stories.  My freelancers knew that breaking news stories were the best and fastest ways to win immediate points.
4. Benefit. In some way, readers ought to benefit from the information the writer is imparting.  Regardless of the market, story pitches must spotlight the story’s importance for readers.  In how-to, DIY, and self-help publications, online or print, the benefit for readers is particularly important.

5. Advice. Great information is valuable by itself. But the topper is leaving readers with a takeaway – helpful, easy-to-implement advice or tips they can use or adapt.  The advice section, which usually falls at the end of a story, is vitally important because it not only summarizes and ties the story together, but it also tells readers  how to apply  the information and where to learn more.

BONUS: A powerful working head  

Finally, the selling topper – the icing on the proverbial cake – is a strong, provocative head that immediately piques an editor’s interest. More likely than not, the editor will change it (Most editors, including myself, are obsessive about coming up with power-packed heads that instantly snare readers).  Most importantly,  the working head must capture the story’s essence. Coming up with great heads isn’t easy. But they’re worth the effort, because it tells editors that you’ve worked hard to deliver a strong, substantial, and well-conceived story pitch.

Grants and Jobs of the Day: Dow Jones, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Tribeca Film Festival

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Looking for some new opportunities? We’ve been scouring the internet today to provide you with new journalism opportunities and grants to make your projects into a reality. Today we have some jobs and grants that are sure to pique your interest. From Ohio to Oregon to New York City, here are today’s job and grants list:

Jobs

Announcer – Oregon Public Broadcasting

OPB seeks an Announcer to serve as OPB Radio’s primary weeknight announcer. This non-exempt regular status position is part-time and includes a salary and benefits.

Primary Duties/Responsibilities: This position announces program continuity and monitors OPB radio broadcasts during shift, responding to any concerns or problems associated with broadcast audio/content. They respond to emergency and technical situations. The position requires preparation and on-air delivery of newsbreaks and weather and may include preparation and delivery of hourly newscasts and traffic. They serve as a part of OPB’s on-air fundraising team and may fill-in for absent announcing staff, when necessary.

Director of Communications and Content – Ohio Newspaper Association

“The Ohio Newspaper Association, the trade association for more than 300 Ohio newspapers and affiliated websites, seeks someone to direct member communications, manage multiple websites and lead its social media initiatives. It’s a great position for someone who wants to make a difference for Ohio and gets excited about the future of media.

The ideal candidate will combine strong technical skills with a background in journalism, marketing or public relations. The position involves writing, editing, Web development, use of databases, social media tools and design of marketing materials. Content is deployed across multiple platforms for the association as well as the Ohio Newspapers Foundation, the Ohio Coalition for Open Government and our for‐profit affiliate, AdOhio. The communications director also is directly involved in development of member programs and training seminars.”

Financial Services Editor – Dow Jones

Dow Jones Newswires is seeking an experienced editor to manage a dedicated group of U.S. reporters and investigative technical writers covering the financial services industry . Candidates should have proven experience in real-time financial journalism, strong writing skills and a keen eye for finding news in the investment banks, commercial banks, insurance, hedge funds and consumer finance industries. Experience managing a dynamic group of journalists is desirable as is the ability to balance breaking news stories with big-picture thematic pieces. The team writes for Dow Jones Newswires as well as the online and print editions of The Wall Street Journal.   Applicants should attach a resume, cover letter and three to five clips to the application. The position is based in New York City. (Via Gorkana)

Reporter – Dow Jones

The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires are looking for a reporter based in its NYC office to cover emerging markets with an emphasis on foreign exchange. Duties involve close coverage of developing country sovereign and corporate debt, equities and currencies, as well as economic issues, both at the country and regional levels. Coverage often focuses on the BRIC – Brazil, Russia, India and China – grouping.

Experience covering emerging markets and/or foreign exchange markets is desirable. Language skills – Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, or Russian – are desirable, though not required. The reporter needs to be a quick, clean writer with strong analytical skills, able to cover fast-moving markets and events with market-moving speakers, and capable of producing insightful, informative features. (via Gorkana)

GRANTS:

Tribeca Film Institute & Heineken Voces Grant:

  • Supports Latin American artists living in the U.S. and working on feature-length narrative and documentary projects that offer new perspectives on their cultural experiences.
  • Project Status – For narratives: films at any stage of production from treatment to rough cut. For documentaries: films in the advanced stages of development, production and/or post-production.
  • Region: For Latino filmmakers based in the United States
  • Funding: Two $10,000 grants being awarded (for one feature narrative and one feature documentary)

Interested in applying for the Heineken Voces grant? Check out apply.tribecafilminstitute.org — deadline’s October 10th.

Why You Need a Writing Mentor and Where to Find One

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No matter where you are in your freelancing career, everyone needs a little help sometime. Finding a mentor can be a good way to break you out of your regular working routine and electrify your mind with new ideas and inspiration. Laura Spencer recently wrote a great post for Freelance Folder, which addresses the best ways to find a writing mentor, and why mentors matter in the first place.

 

 

Check out a handful of her mentoring tips:

Get industry-specific tips. If your mentor works in the same freelancing profession as you do, they may be able to help you identify specific tools and techniques that work well in your field and steer you away from those that are bad ideas.

Learn from secondhand experience. It’s great to learn from your mistakes, but it’s even better to avoid making the mistakes in the first place. In a nutshell, this is often what having a mentor can do for you. Your mentor can tip you off to methods and processes that really don’t work well.

Benefit from expanded network connections. Your mentor likely has a broader base of connections since they have been in business longer. For that reason, your mentor can introduce you to or point you towards individuals and fellow article writers who can really help you grow your business.

And Laura offered a few tips on how to find a mentor too:

Past employer/colleague. For those freelancers who have held a traditional job before becoming a freelancer, their past workplace may be the ideal place to find someone experienced in their field.

Professional association. You can also find experienced freelancers (and potential mentors) in professional associations and business networking groups.

Paid coach. Many experienced freelancers offer paid coaching or mentoring services. If you want to find a mentor who works in your specific niche, this may be the best way to do it.

For the rest of Laura’s great tips, check out her Freelance Folder post Finding a Mentor–A Freelancer’s Simple Success Secret.

Where did you find your mentor? How has your mentor helped you in your own freelancing career? Let us know in the Comments

How Freelance Journalists Can Use Facebook’s New ‘Subscribe’ Button

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When it comes to breaking news, Facebook has got nothin’ on Twitter. Twitter’s rapid fire interface, and news ticker feel makes it the perfect place to get up to the second updates on what’s happening in your world and beyond. But today, Facebook has launched their new “Subscribe” feature, which seems to merge the content control of Google+ with the fast pace updates of Twitter. The gauntlet has been thrown down. But will Facebook be a more effective tool for journalists?

From the Facebook overlords:

Facebook users can now visit another user’s profile and subscribe to receive the person’s public updates in their news feed, without being “friends.” The feature lets Facebook users broadcast public messages to subscribers, like Twitter does, while also keeping their private network of friends separate.

With the Subscribe button, we’re making it easier to do both. In the next few days, you’ll start seeing this button on friends’ and others’ profiles. You can use it to:

  1. Choose what you see from people in News Feed
  2. Hear from people, even if you’re not friends
  3. Let people hear from you, even if you’re not friends

Still wondering how this would work for journalists? Jeff Sonderman at the Poynter Institute provided 5 things journalists need to know about new Facebook subscription feature.
Here are a few highlights of Sonderman’s piece:

1. First, you have to opt-in. You must visit this Facebook page to enable subscriptions to your account. Only then can other Facebook users visit your profile and subscribe.

2. Many journalists may find they no longer need a separate Facebook Page. Pages had two primary advantages over profiles: People could subscribe to page updates (by liking them) without being your Facebook friend, and there was no limit to the number of fans you could have.

…There are two possible reasons you might want to keep your Facebook Page: You already have such a strong following there you don’t want to disrupt it, or you need to use the apps and extra tabs that Pages allow you to add.

3. Facebook continues to encourage publicness. By creating a distinct audience for public updates, Facebook is motivating users to share more things publicly.

People who have a lot of subscribers may feel pressure to share most things publicly, and just keep a few personal updates private for friends and family. If that happens, Facebook Search will become a more useful tool for journalists and others who want to search public posts like they do on Twitter.

4. Each subscriber controls how much they see from you. This could be a good thing or a bad thing for journalists and web content writers. But each person can choose to see all of your updates, most of your updates or only the “most important” as determined by Facebook.

5. Facebook is positioning itself as the social network for everything and everyone, by incorporating the most distinctive features of Twitter and Google+.

Now Facebook takes on Twitter with the new Subscribe button (there’s also a feature to send all your public Facebook posts to Twitter). And earlier this week Facebook announced new ways to build and share with lists of friends, similar to how Google+ circles work.

 

 

What do you think? Will you be using Facebook’s new subscribe button? Do you think it will help journalists? Let us know in the comments!

Ebyline’s Database of Journalist Associations and Freelance Writer Resources

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All freelance journalists need a little help sometimes. Maybe you’re searching for that right source, or perhaps you’re looking for some professional development? As a benefit to freelance journalists and copywriting services, Ebyline has compiled a database of journalist associations; resources and tools; centers, think-tanks and institutes; and government agencies. We hope you can find resources for professional development and organizations that can help you take your career to the next level.

We will be updating the list constantly so make sure to keep checking back as our database grows.

Check out Ebyline’s Journalist Resource Database and don’t forget to bookmark it!

 

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