You’ve successfully pitched the editor so the hardest part is over. Now, what can you do to maximize your chances of getting further work from the same outlet? Here are 10 things I’ve been doing for years with quite a bit of success. Maybe they’ll work for you. Remember, no advice, tip, or technique is 100% effective. Earning your income from writing is an exercise in patience, perseverance, and flexibility. However, these hints should give you a better than average chance of continuing commissions.
2) Stick rigorously to word count
Note that if you write the article in one word processor, and copy/paste it into another one, the word count will be different. So aim for the exact word count in the editor’s preferred word processor.
3)Pitch 2 or 3 articles at a time
If you pitch just one, the editor has to make a more difficult decision: Yes or no. By pitching three, you are, in effect, inviting them to choose rather than say “Yes” or “No.” Note: Don’t do this for the first pitch in case the editor thinks you can’t make your mind up, and never pitch more than three at a time.
4) Be mildly persistent
Sometimes, the editor will decline all your ideas. Occasionally, I’ll respond by saying something like “Thank you. Oh, by the way, I’ve been reading X. It has an interesting take on Y. Interested?” Occasionally, the editor will say “Definitely!” But, don’t be a pest.
5) Show that you’re on top of your subject and news
Time is often of the essence. On several occasions, I’ve successfully pitched a “tame” editor by offering a comment piece on breaking news in my niche. This shows that I know what’s going on in my field. That means that, when the editor needs an article in that area, I’m often a natural choice.
6) Be reliable
If you realize that you can’t make a deadline because of unforeseen circumstances, be honest and say so. Most people are understanding but they’ll be severely put out if you email him or her on the day it was due.
7) Do your work: Spellchecking etc
Errors will often slip through the net but the copy you send in should be as perfect as possible. Ideally, editors shouldn’t have to do anything to it – though they might well wish to change the odd thing here and there.
8) Use the magazine’s style guide
If there is no style guide, try to infer one. For example, a magazine for which I write book reviews always cites the book in a particular way: Author, Title, ISBN. So, that’s the way I cite the books. Otherwise, it just gives the editor unnecessary extra work to do.
9) Have a USP (unique selling point)
You’re in this to make money so treat yourself like a business. Apart from your field of expertise, what’s the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd? For example, a writer called Matthew Syed, author of “Bounce” and “Black Box Thinking” writes a sports column for the London Times. What differentiates his articles from other writers’ is that he nearly always cites research, in psychology especially, and applies the findings to sport. For myself, an editor once said to me he found it astonishing that I could turn an assignment around in just a few days. It has backfired a bit: Editors often ask me if I could write something urgently to fill a gap caused by someone letting them down, meaning that other plans have to put on hold But, it’s a nice problem to have!
10) Ask for an introduction
If the editor you’ve developed a great working relationship with is leaving, ask them for an introduction to her replacement. The new editor doesn’t know you so a recommendation (or implied recommendation) from a trusted colleague is invaluable.
Your job, apart from writing the articles, is reassuring the editor that you’re reliable, and a safe pair of hands who can not only deliver the goods, but minimize the amount of work and stress on their part.
Terry Freedman is a freelance writer and blogger for hire in the fields of education technology and writing. He blogs at www.ictineducation.org and www.writersknowhow.org, and tweets as @terryfreedman and @tfreedmanwriter.
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