Successful freelancing is part networking, part drive and part boundless effort — especially when it comes to pitching (or querying) for new assignments. Even when business is booming and assignments are coming to you, you need to keep pitching (or, at a minimum, generating and writing down ideas for pitches). It’s essential to making sure business lulls (and they will happen) are mere blips for your freelancing career.
When I primarily wrote reported pieces as a freelancer, I was constantly pitching editors at SheKnows, allParenting, BlogHer and other websites to ensure that I was always working. To do so, I had to keep my finger on the pulse of what people were talking about, thinking about and concerned about.
In recent years, my work has changed. I do more essays, less reported features. Freelancing isn’t the whole of my career anymore (I am an editor at a news organization and teach at two universities). But this basic tenement of freelancing hasn’t changed.
If you want to be a successful freelance writer, you should always be pitching. Sound hard? It can be, but with the right tools, preparation and attention you can do it.
The biggest obstacle is finding the writing ideas. In this career, having stale ideas is an awful, horrible feeling. Worse, it will likely mean that you lose out on assignments. But with the right preparation, you can fortify your inner idea machine with fresh, new topics that will sell.
Want to keep your pitch list full of writing ideas? These are some of the places that I turn to for inspiration when I am pitching my clients.
- Sign up for newsletters – Government organizations have newsletters. So do environmental groups, health organizations and so much more. Sign up for ones that tackle topics you are interested in. Then, set aside time to read them with a notebook close at hand. Whenever you stumble on writing ideas, jot it down.
- Pay attention to emails – It’s no secret that writers and bloggers often get way too much email from brands, PR people and the ilk. But sometimes those emails can deliver topic gems.
- PR Newswire – I feel so old school suggesting PR Newswire since it’s been around for so long — but I still use it and find valuable content ideas in the press releases. Sign up as a journalist for free access to the database of press releases and then set up filters for the topics you are most interested in.
- Read, read, read – Have you ever read an article and wished it talked more about a facet of its topic? That’s an idea! Have you ever seen a recipe and thought “that would be even better if …” that’s an idea! Write these little thoughts down as they come — they are valuable ideas that you can develop and use in the future. But don’t limit yourself — read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs and websites with abandon.
- Get out and do things – It’s so easy to get into a rut when you keep the same routine week after week. Breaking out of that routine — to do anything different — can get the creative juices flowing again. For me, hiking, heading to new places and taking long walks on the beach (when the weather allows) makes a huge difference.
Whether you keep your idea list in an app, a Word Doc, a Google Doc, a notebook or in the notes of your iPhone, it’s really just important to have that list and regularly add to it — then use it to write up and send out queries. You can do it.