“Or are you always pitching stories?!”
This was the last line of an email that just hit my inbox. I had reached out to a running industry contact to clarify a number that will go in an article I’m writing for a men’s magazine. This was how he signed off his reply.
My answer: Yes. Always.
When I started freelancing, 95% of my work came from stories I pitched. Now, nearly 10 years later, I’d say I pitch about 30% of the stories I write. The reasons for that may be obvious: I’ve made a lot of contacts, and I have a reputation (a mostly good one, I hope!), so editors reach out to me with ideas. I started writing for this men’s magazine because an editor I’d worked with before was doing some work there, and knew I could turn in clean copy on time. I also have a lot of repeat clients who will send me ideas that they think are in my wheelhouse.
That doesn’t mean I can stop pitching. This new assignment for the men’s magazine was my idea. I write for running magazines regularly, and one reason that happens is because I send them ideas in addition to those they send me.
Sometimes I join in a query challenge run by my freelance writer group, where we earn points based on the numbers of we pitch and how many editors we contact, etc. I try to do that twice a year, and it always results in work. Most of the time, though, I use any downtime I have – like a gap between interviews, or a slow afternoon – to come up with a few ideas, and then send them off into the great unknown (or slightly known when I’m pitching editors who know me). Another tip: If I come up with an idea when I’m not at my computer, I type a note into my phone, and then follow up when I have some time.
I do this even when I’m busy. Sometimes editors won’t give me a yes for months, even a year, after the initial pitch, so pitching is setting up future work, no matter when that future may be. It’s one of the ways to somewhat smooth out the peaks and valleys of work.