Everything Freelance Writers Need To Know About Pitching


Want to get some tips on how to pitch? We’ve compiled some of our classic (or are they vintage?) tips about pitching and crafting queries that are sure to grab an editors’ attention. Pitches are the most important part of being a freelance writer, so we want you to develop the skills to become a pitch ninja.

Here are a few tips:

How To Make Your Pitches Perfect

Figure out who the editor of the publication is, and make sure you contact the correct editor. Your letter should not start with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Editor.” Direct the letter to a specific person and use his or her name. When the first words of a query were “Dear Mr. Editor,” I was not only annoyed, but I was definitely not going to be accepting that pitch.

Even if you are pitching the same idea to several outlets, you need to make your pitch letters specific to the publication. As an editor, I received pitch letters that had the names of other publications instead of mine. Of course, I stopped reading those letters at that point. Tell the editor why this story is a fit for this specific publication.

5 Questions Every Query Should Answer

What’s your angle?
It’s not enough to say that you’d like to cover house foreclosures in your area. Will you cover how this impacts other homes in the neighborhood? Will you talk to recently foreclosed families to see what happens after they leave their home? Will you visit local animal shelters to see if they’ve had an influx of pets from foreclosed homes? All of these ideas offer a potential angle, and it’s often smart to focus on one angle instead of tackling a big, broad topic with lots of little threads that can’t be fully developed in a single article.

Building Confidence for the Big Pitch

Do your homework.
The more you know your target publication, the better equipped you’ll be to craft a winning pitch. For online publications, this is pretty easy. You can score magazine subscriptions by cashing in airline miles through MagsforMiles.com or buy subscriptions through sites like Magazines.com. Alternatively, check for back issues at your local library. These should give you a sense of what the publication covers and the writing style it uses, which can help strengthen your pitch and give the confidence of knowing “this magazine last covered X in 2008” or “they typically use anecdotal leads, so I’m going to start my pitch in a similar fashion.”

How to Pitch Podcasts, Slideshows and Multimedia Packages

One way to generate more income as a freelancer is to pitch a package to potential clients. Instead of only pitching an article, throw in a podcast, slideshow, and/or video. But don’t give it away, and charge more if it is edited.

If you’re writing a feature story on an event but you also have great photography skills, ask if you can take photos. But go one step further: propose putting together a slide show. If you also have the equipment and can shoot video, recommend that too. Keep the video clips short though — it’s a good rule to keep videos around two minutes. If you’re covering a local government meeting, tell your client you’ll record the audio of the entire meeting, and they can publish it as a public service on their website. Even better, if you have a laptop and a quality video camera, ask the client if you can “livestream” the meeting so their websites readers can watch it live from their website.

How Freelance Journalists Can Find Sources Through Better Online Searches


Nowadays, many journalists and investigative content writers do their research online instead of combing through the stacks at a library. However, the volume of online information makes it tricky to find what you need and filter out resources of questionable credibility. Here is our first Ebyline freelancer education video to highlight  some strategies to help you improve search results and streamline your research.

What are your tips for using online searches effectively? Let us know in the comments!

5 Tips for Freelance Writers to Break into New Markets and Connect with Editors


Successful freelance writers share common work habits. Two of the most important are: They’re always busy. They’re obsessively searching for new markets.

Juggling these two activities is not easy, especially when the writer is immersed in difficult assignments or facing tight deadlines. Relying on one market, no matter how lucrative and steady, is ultimately dangerous. To cite the old cliché, nothing lasts forever. This is a fact of life experienced freelance writers learn early in the game. Writing outlets dry up for a variety of reasons. The company goes out of business or is merged or acquired. A new editor takes the helm and almost always brings in his own stable of writers he’s been working with for years.

This is reason enough to be constantly working at breaking into new markets. Forging new relationships with editors can be frustrating, especially in the beginning. It requires strategy, time, discipline and persistence. Here are five tips that can help you do it:

1. Identify passions, hobbies and interests
Most people have untapped talents and subjects they’re intensely interested in. Freelance writers have hobbies that could be turned into viable markets. Many DIY writers were hobbyists first. They discovered they could earn substantial money writing about the crafts they’ve mastered – teaching others who are good with their hands and mechanically inclined how to save thousands of dollars by doing household repairs themselves. It’s a lot easier and fun pursuing markets where there is already a strong affinity and a body of knowledge. And they’re already familiar with many of the writing outlets.

2. Network, network, network
One of the best ways to uncover new markets is by tapping your freelancing network. Plug into writer-association events (American Association of Journalists and Authors, Editorial Freelancers Association, National Writers Union), check out freelance writers’ blogs and Web sites, and attend media events.

3. Identify three to five markets you’d like to write for
Familiarize yourself with each one’s editorial approach and philosophy: demographics, stories, writing style, focus, audience and writers and editors (don’t be surprised if you find one or two freelancers you know or have met). Then prioritize the new markets, identifying ones you want to pitch first.

4. Build one market at a time
Avoid a shotgun approach. Conquering a new market is a time- and energy- consuming effort. Pay special attention in developing terse, selling-pitch letters. The pitch letter is a sample of your writing, so each one must be extraordinary. Remember: You’re the new guy on the block, and you are competing with an established stable of writers for the editor’s attention. Your queries are likely to find themselves on the bottom of the query heap. Be prepared to make discrete follow-up calls eight to 10 days after e-mailing a query. But don’t be a pest. E-mail first. If you don’t get a response in 24 hours, follow up with a phone call. Diplomatic persistence is the best approach.

5. Never get too comfortable
Even though you have two or three reliable markets that provide a steady flow of work, never stop beating the bushes for new ones. That not only helps you build a secure market base, but also keeps you sharp and provides constant challenge, change, and last but not least – excitement.

How the Economic Downturn Will Affect the News Business


Financial meltdown! It’s the headline blaring across newspapers, blogs, and media outlets around the world. The economic turmoil has many people–from business execs to everyday citizens– shaking in their proverbial boots. But how will the frenzied market affect the news business and the people who work in it? Author and news analyst Ken Doctor has provided his thoughts on how the financial crisis will affect the media world. In “The Newsonomics of the Next Recession” for Nieman Labs he writes: “The next recession, though, we thought might come in 2014 or later — after the news industry had somehow gotten its digital transition act together and found some stable going-forward business model. Now, it appears that hope may have been an illusion. Newspaper turnaround artists plan, and the gods of finance laugh.”

For journalists and freelance writers keep up with the evolution of the news game, we have a few predictions and thoughts by Doctor on what he thinks will happen to “newspaper revenues, budgets and the companies themselves.”

The digital transition is still in its early stages. There’s a lot of transformation underway at newspaper companies. They’re moving away from just selling space to becoming regional digital agencies selling numerous products, to modeling digital subscriptions, to finding mobile revenue streams and more. Today’s conventional wisdom: It’s going to be a digital news world sooner rather than later, and we’ve got to move our businesses there fast as we can, holding on to as much print revenue as possible we transition. Problem: We’re still at the beginning of the transition. No major publisher is driving more than 20 percent of total revenue from digital. In fact, publishers are playing a straddle game — just as the earth underneath is cracking, a dangerous position.

Consolidation of newspaper properties may gain steamMedia concentration is a logical consequence of economic stress. Those screws just got tighter, and we’re going to see added pressures to consolidate, driven behind the scenes by private equity owners. (Those owners, of course, had hoped to force the digital transition — Exhibit A: Journal Register — and then sell the properties before the next recession.) If revenue growth is going to be harder to find, then the only alternative path to finding any black ink is to cut costs, and roll-up is one big way forward. Of course, we can expect still more operational cutting, including newsroom staff, as all companies once again deal with the specter of ongoing unprofitability. They know their value proposition — offering less deep and broad content is not what you want to do when you’re selling readers on a brand’s all-access reach — is already sorely tested by offering less at higher prices.

Investment in digital-only news production will be tested. It’s not just newspaper publishers; anyone seeing new opportunity in new content production has got to be worried. Unless your name is Bloomberg, another recession sends a big chill down your spine. Let’s take Tim Armstrong’s various pushes, for example. AOL, its investor confidence re-shaken this week, is going to have a harder time staying the course with Patch — at best a longer-term investment. Instead, look for more aggregation models to emerge (like AOL’s new tablet “Editions”). Aggregating other people’s stuff is a whole lot cheaper than originating content, and everyone’s going to be busy re-applying that lesson of Web 101.

For more, read his piece at Neiman Lab.

How To Shut Down Your Laptop and Land New Freelance Assignments


I’m often asked by beginning writers which job boards are the best for finding work. I tell all of them the same thing: Skip the job boards. Go on the offensive. Pitch your way into the publications you’ve been eyeing.

After all, it’s what I’ve been doing for years. I regularly hole up in my condo, flipping through back issues of magazines, brainstorming story ideas, agonizing over query letters, and tracking my efforts with spreadsheets. And — slowly but surely — I’ve continued to break into new and bigger publications.

But here’s the thing. It’s not where I get the bulk of my work.

No. The bulk of my work comes to me. How? Every day, new and amazing opportunities pop up because of the people I’ve worked with in the past, or met either in person or online.

How can you build similar, mutually beneficial relationships? You’re not gonna like this, but it requires stepping away from your computer.

1. Stay connected with former colleagues, editors, clients, sources, etc. Meet up now and then for coffee or happy hour. Swing by their office for a chat, or schedule a Skype call. One of these days, they may see a call for writers that makes them think of you, or hear from a colleague who’s looking for someone with your level of expertise. One of my biggest clients today is someone I once-upon-a-time interviewed for a magazine story. How cool is that!? So before seeking out new connections, put in the effort required to maintain the relationships you already have.

2. Attend networking events, media parties, happy hours, etc. As someone within the publishing industry, I’ve always been a fan of mediabistro’s events, and also attend launch parties within my writing niche as they pop up. But you don’t have to go industry-specific. Groups such as NetParty and Networking for Professionals regularly throw more general business networking events, in locations throughout the country. And learning more about other industries might do more than build your network — it could also help you generate fresh story ideas.

3. Become involved with a professional organization. Those like the ASJA and the EFA hold regular events and conferences for their members. Offer help in planning these events and you may improve your chances of meeting even more of your fellow members.

4. Attend industry conferences. And go prepared to do more than just socialize. Conferences can be a great environment for exploring new ideas within an industry, and panels, workshops, and exhibits are de rigueur.

5. Attend (or perhaps even organize) a meetup, tweetup, or other small gathering. Sites such as Meetup, GoogleGroups, and Yahoo Groups allow users to create interest-based groups from scratch. But do a search first to see if a group specific to your interests already exists. In addition to making valuable contacts at these get-togethers, you can also trade battle stories, seek out advice, and get opinions on any new ideas you’ve had percolating.

6. Take a class. Not only will you have the opportunity to learn some valuable tricks of the trade, but you’ll get the chance to workshop your active projects and network with both your professor and your fellow students. Check out the continuing education opportunities at the schools near you.

7. Start a writing group. There are a number of valid reasons for forming a writing group. Aside from the sense of community, you’ll have fresh, objective eyes on your writing, someone you’re accountable to, someone to bounce ideas off of, and a group of people who love you so much, they’re willing to share contacts and opportunities with you.

8. Try coworking. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, coworking can do more than just improve your levels of productivity. It can also provide you with some much-needed human contact, an expanded professional network, and opportunities for collaboration.

This list can go on. But basically, anytime you’re among new people, you have the opportunity to build fantastic connections and develop new ideas. So volunteer. Attend lit events. Try a new exercise class. Tag along to a party with one of your friends.

Remain open to possibility.