ournalist Natasha Tynes has been pitching stories for so long she could do it in her sleep, she says. The first step is to realize that selling a story requires research, planning and practice to be successful, just like many other aspects of journalism.
“The more you market yourself, the more confident and proficient you become,” said the author of the e-book, The Art of Pitching for Writers, which guides users through the pitching process, offers a template to work from, and highlights real-life examples. It is especially useful for those transitioning to the freelance world.
“I always tell journalists, don’t wait for editors to come knocking on your door. That’s not going to happen. You have to showcase your work and reach out for opportunities all the time,” said Tynes, whose journalism career began in her native Amman, Jordan, before she moved to the U.S.
She predicts 2023 will be a “great time” for the freelance market, due to a proliferation of online businesses in need of writers and new revenue streams in the corporate world. Recent news reports support that notion.
A Forbes magazine article described the freelance market as growing quickly with the possibility of a “freelance revolution” soon upon us. In a global survey, 90% of corporate leaders said they utilize freelancers and plan to hire more, according to the Forbes article. Bloomberg reported that freelancing in the U.S. is at an all-time high.
For some, tapping into the freelance market may require a new mindset. “You must think beyond newspaper and magazines. If you are stuck in that mentality, your sources of income and opportunities will be limited. If you want to make a decent living, you must expand your horizons,” said Tynes.
Tynes’ portfolio ranges from reporting, consulting, and writing newsletters, to hosting a podcast, “Read and Write with Natasha,” and creating her own media agency. She makes a living marketing services and producing products like the e-book. She courts a global audience, with stories appearing in The Washington Post, Esquire Middle East, Elle Magazine, Al Jazeera and Nature, among others.
Persistence and the “golden pitch”
Often, persistence is Tynes’ key to locking up new clients. She pitched editors at The National, an English-language daily in the United Arab Emirates, for years before she finally got a major story published in 2022. Tynes now has a relationship with that publication for future assignments.
The “golden pitch,” as she describes it, consists of a basic formula: brief greeting, introduction, story idea description, proof of credibility, a brief explanation of why the story should be published now, and the “ask:” Are you interested in commissioning the story and when would you like me to file?
“A pitch must be timely, have a unique angle, be doable and relevant to the publication’s audience. Uniqueness sets ideas apart and helps them sell,” reads an excerpt from her book.
Pitching a generic story about the war in Ukraine probably isn’t likely to get a yes from editors, for instance. But an exclusive idea, like say, the rise of the use of the Telegram messaging app among Ukrainians in the diaspora to follow the war’s developments might grab an editor’s attention.
Dealing with rejection
For freelancers, dealing with rejection is a challenge. The five words no one wants to hear: “Thanks, but we will pass.”
How does Tynes handle being turned down? “At times, I have to put my ego aside, but it is hard. Your ego can get in the way,” she said. “Feeling sorry for yourself is not going to help. You have to develop a thick skin, lick your wounds and keep pitching.”
Tynes turns to her “perk-me-up-toolbox” to help deal with rejection of an article or a negative comment from a reader. She might take time to exercise, read a book, watch a YouTube video or an old sitcom.
“The main thing is not to surround yourself with negativity. It will take you down. It’s important to have outlets,” she said. For her, playing violin for the National Institute of Health community orchestra provides a breather.
Other resources that can help
- Solutions Journalism Network provides a pitch checklist on what editors look for, including how email pitches should begin, and what they should and should not include. Among the tips: Editors want a clear idea of how the story begins and what follows, as well as a brief note on how you’ll report the story and why you’re qualified.
- Society of Professional Journalists’ resource on what to include in your personal website to market yourself. Tips address how to introduce yourself, demonstrate your best work, and provide easy references for potential clients.
- Poynter Institute for Media Studies provides links to articles on freelancing, including “30+ Resources for Freelancers” and a database of successful pitches. This website is worth exploring to learn more about how to move into the freelance world.
- Source: https://ijnet.org/en/story/pitching-best-practices-freelancers