For freelance writers like me, with a strong journalism background, one of the areas I’ve wanted to learn more about and give a good try is story pitching.
Instead of having an editor assign stories, the writer tries to convince an editor they should publish or post a story. As a reporter, I would often actually pitch story ideas to my editor. But one main difference was those stories often resulted from some event or news release I read that morning. And since stories, or content, is what newspapers, TV stations and any other news outlet need to survive, it wasn’t too hard to get my editor to say “go do it, Mike.” 👍
As a freelancer, I don’t have that relationship with an editor. I get asked by clients to do this story or that story, but only one asks me on a regular basis what story ideas I have. So doing more of the research and background information gathering and fact-checking, then sending a story pitch to an editor in some nearby or even far-flung city is where I want to focus more time.
One thing I’ve noticed since I started this freelance journey several years ago is there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of people online who say they can teach freelance secrets to others, with the expected hitch. You have to pay for them. I like to think I know what it takes to write a good story, how to gather information and interview sources. So there doesn’t seem to be a lot more I need to know. It shouldn’t be rocket science, right? 👩🚀
I have taken a free story-pitching mini-course from a freelance journalist in South Africa, Rebecca Weber, who presents her advice in a way that resonates and isn’t preachy or bragging. Her new podcasts (which seem to be all the rage online these days, no matter the subject, right?) are fun to listen to and I come away with some good advice and ideas. She’s also started interviewing other freelance journalists who talk about their process and success with story pitching, as well as the result: their story.
My clients have been kind of generous over the last several months and I am most grateful. So I’ve been pretty busy doing what freelance writers do: producing stories and content. I need to have time to refine my pitching process, find subjects I know I can write about with some knowledge, gather information on the publications and websites that will pay a decent amount for my story and, most importantly, develop a story idea what will be irresistible to an editor.
I’m learning and starting to think about how to make what I learn work for me. It’s just a question of doing the legwork and sending some pitches out there. From what I have heard, it may not be much different from applying for a job online. You try to sell yourself and your abilities to an employer by showing them how they will benefit. It’s about the same with story pitching. You try to convince an editor why they should let you write a story for their publication or website or whatever. In both cases, you usually don’t get a response. 😢
But if I want to make sure I really put all my effort into freelance writing, I need to do this. I’m slowly gaining more business, but I know I can do better. Story pitching seems to be a good way to hit all the bases and score, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphors. I’m getting ready to play ball!⚾