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Sending out the perfect pitch for a story feels good, doesn’t it?
You’ve come up with a creative idea. You’ve condensed that idea into clear, concise, and captivating language. You’ve tweaked the idea to match the publication, found the editor’s name, added a quippy line of familiarity with their section, and stuck a bow on it in the form of links to your work that you’re sure will impress them.
(You did all of that, right? Good.)
But then… nothing. Your perfect pitch is out there. Just chilling in someone’s inbox, probably rubbing elbows with a couple of lowly Groupons.
One week goes by…
Have they read it? They haven’t read it. My subject line was no good.
It was awful. They hated it.
Two and a half weeks…
Maybe they liked it and then forget to respond?? Nah. They hated it.
Two weeks and five days…
I am a failure and I will never write again.
Editors will never respond to your pitches on your time. They’re going to take weeks and months to get back to you. Often times, they won’t get back to you at all.
But there is absolutely no use in obsessing over this while you wait. (She says as she refreshes Gmail for the fifth time in the last six minutes.)
And you really can’t fault them for the radio silence. Editors deal with an insane amount of emails and unless you’ve already built a reputation with them, reading yours is not a priority.
The waiting and the worrying are mostly unavoidable. The maddening reality of the matter is that most of your pitches, in the beginning, will not receive a response.
Which is why we should instead fill our time with more productive things than waiting and worrying, like crafting our NEXT perfect pitch. (It wasn’t perfect by the way, as you probably realized about an hour after sending it off — but that’s OK.)
So pitch that publication, step away from the inbox, and forget about it. Then, get some more stuff done. Like, the following…
1. Organize Your Pitches
Organization is not my strong point. If you’re a writer, I’m willing to guess it’s not your’s either. But keeping track of which pitches you sent to whom when is really helpful in properly following up and making the most of all that hard word.
2. Update Your Contacts
Sure, you could search through Gmail every time you need to find that editor to pitch them a new idea. Or, you could create a document where you store all of your editorial contacts, organized by publication.
Adding some notes on your correspondence with different editors is also super helpful. It’ll give you a better idea of what to expect in the future, and maybe you’ll torture yourself a little less when you know that they required three reminders over three months to finally get back to you last time.
3. Track Your Money
Bleh. Another Google Doc. I know. And I can’t say I do this regularly, myself. But I should. If you record how much money you’re making off your freelancing, you’ll have a better sense of how much more gigs you need to accomplish to make this lifestyle work.
Simply recording each article you publish or project you complete next to the amount you made will help you see the bigger financial picture attached to a career in freelance writing.
Tracking this is also great motivation to move on from that last pitch and start working on something new. You’re going to realize that time is money.
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4. Brainstorm new angles for the same pitch.
Let’s face it. There’s a really good chance that editor is not going to get back to you. We’re talking odds here.
But, if you have a great idea, and you send it to a bunch of editors, your odds go up.
Problem is, there’s this, mostly unspoken rule, very annoying rule that says you’re not supposed to send the same pitch to more than one editor at a time.
Editors, should they get back to you, want to know that no one else has had the chance to claim this brilliant idea of yours. If an editor accepts your pitch, and you’ve already given it away to someone else, you may have tarnished that potential relationship.
But wait — that doesn’t mean you can’t send your idea to more than one person!
You just have to tweak it enough so that you can write a different story for each editor, should they both miraculously accept.
There are countless angles to most story ideas. Take a look at some of the publications you’re dying to work with, and imagine how a story you’ve already pitched to someone else, could work for them, too.
5. Follow the editors on Twitter
I’ve found that editors tend to tweet some pretty valuable information for writers — like how to pitch them and how NOT to pitch them.
The editor of The New York Times’ Modern Love column, Daniel Jones, often shares little nuggets of wisdom for writers.
Following editors on Twitter is also a great way to remind them of your name. They might experience a spark of recognition when your email comes through if you’ve just followed them — or, even better, engaged with them — via social media.
6.Get started on new ideas.
The most exhausting reality of freelance writing is that you’ve got to constantly create new material. And if you’re pitching stories to publications (as opposed to working on social media management, copy editing, or something a little more reliable) then you’ve got to constantly come up with new ideas for that material.
I would say a good rule of thumb is to get at the very least, one new pitch completed and sent out each week. Let’s return to number 4, and say one new pitch with three different angles, sent to three different editors.
No matter what you do, waiting on editors to respond to your pitches will be a pain. Just keep in mind that regardless of the outcome, each pitch you write and send is a practice in improvement.
(Yes. You will slam your head against the keyboard so many times that you will improve your accuracy and eventually be able to type pitches with misery.)
You so got this. Now, fine. Go check your email.
Looking for more productive ways to distract yourself while you wait for a response? Find freelance writing tips in our Authors, Editors, Journalists and Writers Hive
Britany Robinson is a freelance travel writer who currently resides in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Daily Dot, Mashable, and more. You can read her advice for fellow travel writers on TravelWriteAway.com. Or follow her on Twitter for pics of her puppy.