Tired of wondering whether your editorial pitch was read by the editor, or whether anyone even bothered to read your attached clips? Wonder no more! I have two fantastic tools for you to use with your next queries to see just how well (or not) they go over with editors.
You all know that the best way to entice an editor is to write a great query - but waiting to hear back about your proposed piece is frustrating and unproductive.
Enter MailTrack and Goo.gl!
Let's start with the role of goo.gl in your query process, since we've talked about its advantages previously on The Freelancer Society blog. Goo.gl is a Google application that allows you to take a large web address and shrink it down into a more manageable size. This is perfect for Twitter and other mediums where you don't want to clutter a post with a long website address. But how else can it help you? So long as you have a Google account and are signed in when converting web addresses, goo.gl will keep track of how many times that shortened URL was clicked.
So? Near the end of your query you should be including a short About Me section, in which you link to published clips of your work. or a portfolio. Use your shortened URL as that link within the email, and you'll see whether the editor was interested enough to check out your work!
Now for MailTrack. It's a quick and free download that works with your email account to track whether your messages have been opened, how many times they have been read, and whether they are just sitting there in editor-inbox limbo. The program works by adding a tiny, invisible image into each outgoing message. When the image is displayed, MailTrack alerts you that your email has been opened! The image is too small for either you or your recipient to see, so as long as automatic image viewing is enabled, you'll know the fate of your query.
Try to incorporate these tools into your future queries, and see what you can learn!
We've covered blogging, querying magazines and newspapers, and joining freelance agencies. Now, it's time to talk about the online version of cold calling: unsolicited emailing.
Yes, You've Got to Talk to Humans - Virtually, Anyway
I don't know about you, but I cringe at the thought of trying to sell my services to people who haven't explicitly asked for them. The thing is, that's what all successful freelance writers have to do on a regular basis - me included. The trick is this: send out a polite, friendly query, link to relevant work that you are very proud of, and be confident about the process. If they aren't interested? No problem. At least you've asked, put your best foot forward, and given yourself the chance.
Here's Who you Should be Contacting
Unsolicited emailing isn't a random process, mind you. It's important to carefully select recipients so that your messages won't be misunderstood, shuffled from desk to desk, or thrown away outright.
The right person to contact is, generally speaking, a marketing manager. More specifically, you probably want to contact a digital marketing manager, depending on what sort of writing services you are offering. Go with the former if you are selling sales copy; the latter if you are selling blog content.
The Boilerplate Pitch
Dear Digital Marketing Manager,
I have noticed that your company's beautiful website does not currently feature a blog. A regular blog could help to bring in more customers via online search engines, as well as keep current clients interested in new products and special deals.
I have worked with many companies, both large and small, to create a weekly informative blog, and each has been a complete success. I'd love to help you do the same! Check out some of my work via this link.
We could feature articles such as "Healthiest Pet Foods on the Market," and "5 Toys that Fluffy will Love this Christmas," share them via your website and social media networks, and bring in many new customers.
If you'd like to talk about setting up some great blog content, please get in touch anytime!
That's all there is to it! Now get out there and find some new clients.
Whether you're pitching to the editor of the Wall Street Journal or Seventeen magazine, the hard fact is this: you're going to have to sit back and wait awhile. When editors aren't responding right away, it's genuinely because they are busy writing, proofreading, and harrassing the writers they've already hired to make changes. Meanwhile, their inboxes fill to the brim. And yes, your very own perfect pitch is somewhere in that mega-pile of queries. So? You're probably going to have to wait weeks, or even months - before you hear back. That's just how pitching editors for freelance writing work goes.
Here's What To Do in the Meantime
Keep pitching! Not to the same editors over and over, of course, but to new and different markets. Make it your goal to pitch at least one new publication every work day, and take your time with it! If you rush the process, you risk wasting your time. Submitting to a teen magazine? Make your pitch using the tone you'd use in the article! Ditto for tech magazines or financial newspaper departments.
Keep track of every query that you send, so that a month or so down the road you can politely remind the editor about it. A simple nudge is perfectly acceptable etiquette so long as you've waited a few weeks with editors you don't personally know.
Here's the Secret to Enticing Editors
Don't just send a letter "about" your proposed article - send a condensed, interesting version of the article you are trying to sell! Jump right in:
Make that first line enticing, and then go ahead and include your entire introductory paragraph from the article itself (even if it is just in the planning stages.) After the intro, include several paragraphs that each outline a specific point that you want to make in the article. Use references and vital information, just the way you would with the full article.
Here's what that might look like in terms of the first example:
What Vitamin C Does Inside Our Bodies:
Include a paragraph for every key point in the article. Once you've finished, include a short paragraph about yourself and your experience with the subject and writing. Include a link to your portfolio, and never include attachments unless specified by the submission guidelines. Close by thanking the editor for his or her time.
Keep trying! Once you've established a working relationship with an editor, pitching will become oh-so-much easier. Remember that professionals may send dozens of queries per week to find work, so if that's where you want to be, guess what? You've got to do it too.
So you have some great ideas for freelance magazine or newspaper articles? Great! Time to pitch them to an editor. Here's how it's done:
Step One: Target the Right Publication
Having a great story idea is the most important part of pitching, but no matter how good your pitch is, it will fail if sent to the wrong audience. Have a wicked story about local politicians gone bad? Don't pitch it to Vogue. Want to write about the poor treatment of food industry workers? Chatelaine probably isn't interested. If you want to impress the editor and get your foot in the door, you need to do some reconnaissance. Get a feel for different magazines, newspapers and other publications by browsing their content - this will ultimately help you choose the best options for your own stories.
Step Two: Target the Right Editor
Small publications may work under the supervision of one acting Editor, but most popular magazines and newspapers actually employ several editors to work on various subjects. It's very important that you target the right person when submitting a pitch! Emailing the wrong person will get your carefully-crafted message deleted, overlooked, or archived and then simply forgotten. Find the name and contact details for the editor responsible for the section of the paper you want to write for, and make him or her your primary point of contact.
Step Three: Send a Pre-Pitch to Test the Waters
Editors are busy people. They're in charge of finding story leads, recruiting writers, overseeing the editing process, and making sure everything fits into the alloted publication space exactly on time. If you want to hold the attention of a prospective editor, keep your first email short and succinct. As a general rule, you don't want to waste space introducing yourself or giving a list of references and recently published material. Get right to the point. "Hello Mr. Randall! I am a freelance writer based in Marlborough, Wiltshire, and I have some interesting story ideas for your publication." Title and describe your story ideas briefly, and thank Mr. Randall (or whomever) for his time.
Step Four: Be Patient
Seriously. Experts suggest waiting 1-2 weeks before checking in with whomever you've contacted from any publication, because - again - they are busy over there. If you haven't heard back in a week or so, go ahead and send another message. Don't reiterate your entire pre-pitch, just send a quick email to ask whether or not the editor is interested in running your story. This process can go back and forth for weeks before you get an answer. Stay calm!
Step Five: Offer the Full Pitch
When an editor comes back to you and wants to know more about your story, it's time to expand your original pre-pitch. This time, be more detailed about your main character and the elements that will keep readers interested. Include 2 or 3 sentences at the beginning of your letter to explain why you are qualified to write this story, and link to your website or online portfolio. Then, in 4 or 5 paragraphs, outline the article. Soon, you'll find out whether or not this publication is going to run your story!
Never waste space in a pre-pitch or a full pitch! Proofread, address the correct editor or manager, and intrigue him. And if it doesn't work out? Pitch to someone else :) If your ideas and writing skills are strong, you'll get through eventually.
Today I'd like to show you some of the ins and outs of putting together a writer's resume. "You're going to show us how to write a resume?!" I hear you scoff. YES. You may know how to put together that tired old chronological resume and pick up an office job, but a real writer's resume is a whole other kettle of fish.
There are two basic ways you can deal with a writing resume, depending on how much experience you have. The first is on a piece by piece basis; the second is on a publisher by publisher basis. Let me give you the basics.
Writing a Resume for an Inexperienced Writer
The inexperienced writer is much like the inexperienced high school graduate looking for a job. There's really nothing to put on a resume, but you still need to have one. What to do? The solution is to use individual pieces of writing to fill up all that blank space.
Don't get confused - this is NOT a portfolio, and in no circumstances should you include excerpts or quotations from your own work on this page. Instead, you should title and describe the piece, and explain where it was published or who it was written for. At the beginning of your writing career, it's perfectly normal to use material from a personal blog or even a research paper or thesis from a university program.
Zombie Internet-Addicts and Computer Vision Syndrome - 07/28/2014
A light-hearted treatise on the balance between regular computer work and eye strain. This piece has been published on my website, The Freelancer Society.
Dietary Comparisons between Paleolithic and Neolithic Societies - 01/05/2008
A thoroughly-researched piece on the diet and nutrition of several human societies both before and after the advent of farming and ranching. This 50-page thesis was my final assignment for my Bachelor of Arts degree.
You see? So maybe you haven't had anything published in the New York Times, and eBay hasn't hired you to write 200+ buying guides, but this resume still has some kick to it. At the very least, it will get you hired by one of the more decent content farms or better yet, a ghostwriting agency. This is your first step towards finding paid freelance writing jobs.
Resumes for More Experienced Writers
This brings me to the second method for putting together a writer's resume. This style is best for writers whose work has seen the light of day. For this type of resume, the information is grouped by contracts or publishers.
Blog Writer for The Freelancer Society - 2013 to present
I produce regular blog posts for TFS on the topics of freelance writing and running a freelance business. These articles are written to current SEO specifications as outlined by Google.
News Writer for Athabasca University Student Union VOICE – 2005 to 2008
I was the local and international news reporter for the AUSU VOICE, a weekly online newspaper for the students of Athabasca University. I was also in charge of the music review column, MUSIC TO EAT LUNCH TO. This was a paid position.
Get it? Good!