Independent Writers
of Chicago

Log in

Fearless Freelance Pitch Clinic: Don't Miss These Tips! – by Alicia Dale

19 Jun 2018 2:25 PM | Anonymous

Presented by the Association for Women Journalists, the “Fearless Freelance Pitch Clinic” featured a stellar panel sharing candid tips and tricks to get your ramp up your Freelance Career.

Photo (L to R Marissa Conrad, @Marissa_Conrad (New York Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Washingtonian Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler) Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, @AdrienneWrites ‏ (Forbes, Vice, Marie Claire, Chicago, Good, Northwestern, Ebony) Britt Julious @britticisms (New York Times, Women's Health, SPIN, Chicago Tribune) moderated by Kimberly Bellware @bellwak ‏ (Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Vice, BuzzFeed, ChicagoMagazine)

Last week, as an Event of Interest, IWOC e-blasted its members an invite to “The Fearless Freelance Pitch Clinic,” hosted by the Association for Women Journalists. I couldn’t resist. I had to go. If you couldn't make this two hour session, you missed out . . . the session was overflowing with valuable tips and tricks for anyone interested in embarking on a Freelance Career in Journalism – although several of the tips can apply to freelancers in general. Here's a summary of some Don'ts and Do's shared by the Panel:

DON'T . . .
  • Misspell your editor's name. Seems simple, but doing so likely sends your pitch right to "trash", no matter how great it is. How can you attest you have attention to detail when. . . well you get it.
  • Spray and pray when pitching ideas. Have focus and developed stories.
  • Overlook less sexy publications. While it's great to have a byline in a readily recognizable publication, trade publications and industry journals often pay more. Not to be overlooked!
  • Abuse Social Media by hounding your contacts, or even worse, asking their friends to intervene. “Could you tell so-and-so to call me?” . . . don't!
  • Let being turned down keep you down. Any pitch can be flipped. Remain confident, know what you are good at. It's your greatest asset after all. While a gentle reminder on Don'ts doesn't hurt, we can all slip when we get lazy, a little fearful or over-confident. It's much more fun (and profitable) to focus on all the things you can DO to launch your Freelance Career. So bookmark this page and take a gander:
DO . . .
  • Know your story and the publication you're pitching. Have your sources ready or at least accessible and identified so that you can pitch your source. Have a longer list of sources than needed available so you can ensure a quick turnaround time.
  • Seek inspiration on publications to pitch by going to your local library or a Barnes and Noble. Remember your stories can be repurposed with a different angle. Be careful not to pitch the same thing over and over. Instead pitch a story with a unique insight on the same topic, freshening it up for readers and for your source(s). Also remember anything you publish can be repuprosed into a longer story, a podcast or a video. Remember to get rights to any new projects in your agreement.
  • Manage relationships, handle rejection gratefully - they took your call after all. Journalism is a small world. Everyone talks in this business! Nudge and follow up appropriately. Know the difference between aggressive and overly aggressive. You kind of have to feel it. Well-thought out follow ups are so appreciated!
  • Use "Hello" or "Good Morning" if you don't know the editor or how to spell their name. It’s perfectly acceptable.
  • Take work when you're starting out, regardless of what it pays. You'll gain experience . . . and ultimately have good stories to tell.
  • Let your pitch sell you and the story. Don't have a big portfolio to share? The quality of your pitch will tell your story.
  • Learn as much as you can about your publication. Check out the online media kit. Follow the editors on Twitter. Twitter is being used to save time, seek stories and promote opportunities. It's easy!
  • Bring the editor something new if you're trying to break in, especially publications with paywalls.
  • Format Properly Use ALL CAPS in the subject line (note it's a PITCH and if it's TIME SENSITIVE). Add your work in a PDF attachment. Formatting can get funky in email.
  • Ask editors why they rejected your story. They may tell you exactly what you need to do to get the deal next time.

The Big Question - What to Charge??

As your portfolio grows, have an idea of what you will charge and what you will accept. Check the anonymous and crowd-sourced Who Pays Writers for rates.

Why did I start with Don'ts and end with Do's? It's an old training trick. Your audience will remember the last thing you said "don't think of a Pink Elephant." See???

Instead of that silly image, I'll leave you with the closing comments of the impressive panel. They offered to be accessible to "pay it forward." After you follow this outline and are rocking it, remember as you are reaching the next rung on the ladder to pay it forward too . . . and pull the next struggling Freelancer up behind you.

- Alicia Dale

(Members can comment by clicking on the vertical dots next to the headline.)


  • 20 Jun 2018 1:05 PM | Laura Stigler (Administrator)
    Lots of common sense that ain't so common! Thank you, Alicia for the full and engaging report. Sounded like a really worthwhile workshop from which more than journalists can benefit!
    Link  •  Reply

Copyright 2011–2022, Independent Writers of Chicago
332 S. Michigan Avenue, #121–W686
Chicago, IL 60604-4434

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software