I have read it many times before, and it really is true: editors are incredibly busy. In the times when print budgets are shrinking and web publishing means editors are expected to produce more measurable content, production teams regularly consist of one writer/editor, one design person (a graphic designer who can move effortlessly between print and web), and a web designer/coder/IT helpdesk/analytics expert *cue laughs from the web industry*. Throw in a marketing manager who moves around the whole company, who is also expected to know their way around content, design, web design and SEO.
This kind of set up is very common, and for the companies that focus solely on online publishing, some of those roles are merged further.
Keeping that in mind, and also that these are MY personal preferences, I offer you:
Freelancer Tips for Working with Crazy Busy Editors who Wear Too Many Hats
- Email the editor. Don’t phone, I don’t have time for chit chat. Please send me an email and get straight to the point within the first paragraph. Include examples of your work, or a link to your website.
- Follow up. We receive dozens, hundreds even, of emails each day from news alert agencies, PR/media reps, freelancers and other writers, plus the usual office crap from colleagues and bosses. It is entirely possible we put your email in a folder to be actioned, but have forgotten about it. But if you don’t hear back from us after two follow-ups, drop it – we’re not interested. DO NOT CALL. Anecdote: I was once commissioned by an editor for a freelance pitch I sent two months after I sent it. The editor had forgotten to get back to me but luckily I hadn’t sent that particular article onto another publication yet (it was a case of perfect fit for that website).
- Make my job easy. File on time. Supply images if agreed. Don’t make me chase you. Your story will be cut and you’ll never be commissioned again. We may be forgetful, but we remember the people that piss us off.
- I LOVE on-spec articles. Better yet, send an on-spec article (that is obviously researched and relevant to my publication), along with five pitches for other articles. A one-sentence pitch is perfect. Note: On-spec writing is a contentious issue, but they are a good way to learn and bulk up your own writing portfolio. They are not a good way to spend your precious writing time if it is your sole income.
- How to pitch:
(a)As mentioned, email the pitch. Personally, I don’t get offended if you send it to the wrong person first and it gets forwarded to me however I know some of the old-school editors don’t like that so much. If in doubt, contacting reception or the editorial assistant is the way to go.
(b)Send more than one, but make them brief. Go with titles, one (short) sentence, or a combination title + super-short sentence.
(c)Mix up time-sensitive topics and ‘evergreen’ topics. If an editor already has Christmas features lined up, but is looking for wellness features you will be prepared. You might even snag the ever-present search for the ‘run of press’ or “the editor is running this story because she likes it” feature. However, if you only pitch along the one attack line, you will get turned away which will only be a blow to your confidence.
(d)Have another go. If you get turned down, pitch something else. Have a deeper look at the website/publication and return with a re-pitch or re-query the editor to see if you can work together to find a topic to develop. Editors have one mission: to find the best content. It is in their best interest to have someone on board who is willing to work for it, provided you are doing your best to write something that suits the publication (not just score a job).
- And to be SUPER nice, don’t hassle the editor about the invoicing. Ask them who handles the finances, and move your focus onto this person when it comes time to get paid.