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This Isn’t a Hobby—It’s Our Business
Being a contract writer, as many writers know, is a challenging way to make a living. It’s fraught with a lot of rules that can prevent us from doing that and most are rules that don’t apply to small business owners in other industries. Ultimately, however, independent writing, for most of us, is not a hobby or a leisure time activity at which we don’t need to make money.
It’s a business and, usually, a for-profit enterprise. “For-profit” means exactly that—we are trying to reach revenue objectives that, after expenses, provide a profit off of which we can live. We’re not only trying to make a living but a real life. Perhaps we want to reach six-figure writing consultant status, too, which I’ve learned is entirely possible if you do it strategically.
For some reason, there seems to be some confusion about that among many writers and prospective clients. Somehow, independent writers get required to operate under different conventions that no other business owner is expected to honor. One of those is the subject of campaigns and vigorous online debate—that of on-time payment, on-time and according to the real value, we bring to our clients. But, there are several others, one the subject of this blog post.
Pitching Is Our Primary Sales Strategy
The subject of pitching to media outlets or blogs is often hotly debated on journalist forums. The common belief is that we should pitch our stories to one editor at a time and wait to hear back.
But “pitching” is “sales” and that’s the lifeblood of any business. That means editors are “clients” just as any agency or other business for which we write would be.
Why not just pitch and wait, though?
There are several issues with this “pitch and wait” sales strategy that make up the reasons why I believe contract writers should pitch their story to more than one potential editorial client at a time.
Sometimes, editorial clients don’t respond for weeks or ever.
We get it. Editors are busy people and are getting flogged with lots of pitches. And, if we don’t already have a relationship with the editor (you should give the ones you do know right of first refusal), our pitch may not be a high priority. But, sometimes, our stories are time-sensitive, and we need to hear back sooner rather than later or not at all. (Often, it’s just lovely to hear back, period.)
Because we don’t always know when or if a prospective editorial client will respond, it makes sense to pitch your stories to more than one. If it makes you more comfortable, tell the editors you’re pitching the story to others or provide a timeframe in which, if you don’t hear back, you’re sending the submission to other editors.
Rarely do two editorial clients want the same story.
It almost never happens. And, in the rare case that I have had it happen, I wrote the story from a different angle for each editor, and both publications got exclusives. It’s why I make my pitches somewhat general—specific to the publication and its audience but not so precise I can’t write on the subject for another publication. “Ideas” aren’t copyrightable so you can pitch them more than once to different publications.
In fact, you should make sure the pitch is somewhat customized to each editor, even if it’s on the same topic because they’re all different publications with different voices and different readers. Therefore, pitching to prospective editorial clients with this in mind rarely backfires. And, if it ever does, just be honest and say another editorial client had bought the story before they did. Most understand you’re running a business.
You wouldn’t send out a single letter of introduction, quote, brochure or proposal.
Because we’re consultants, many of us offer other writing-related or marketing services like content marketing strategy or social media management. Think like a sizeable consulting agency.
To get those contracts, they would never send out just one piece of marketing collateral and wait for that one business or prospective client to get back to them. Those potential clients may not respond for weeks, months or longer—or not at all. Or, they may turn down your offer.
That’s why you send numerous LOIs, quotes, brochures or proposals out to increase your chances of getting business, right? (And, some of that marketing material may be identical to the others of the same type.)
Well, your pitches are your marketing collateral if you’re an independent journalist or blogger, and you must sell you multiple stories to drive real and sustainable revenue. So, you shouldn’t send them to more than one potential buyer?
You wouldn’t send out a single resume or job application in a job search.
Many of us have to take on part-time jobs to support our contract writing. So, if you launched a job search, would you send just one resume or application out and wait for that prospective employer to respond? Of course not.
That’s because you know from previous job hunting experience that you may not hear back for weeks or months or never. So, you hedge your bets by sending out multiple resumes and submitting numerous applications Well, when your independent writing is your employment, you have to send out multiple pitches to various publications to get enough work to be profitable and grow wealth. But, this sales strategy irks some editors.
Some Editorial Clients Won’t Be Happy with This Policy
If you decided to execute this sales strategy, will you offend some editors? You bet, especially if you tell them. I’ve seen some get downright indignant during discussions about this. But most will get it because many are or have been contractors themselves, and they’re also in business to make a profit. They know this strategy isn’t any more personal than their not responding to your pitches right away. It’s merely about making a living as a freelance consultant because #FreelancingIsntFree.
Likewise, most of us are not employees getting regular paychecks. We depend on the profits on revenue we generate from writing. So, we have to take the chance that some editors won’t like us not waiting for them to respond. That makes this pitch strategy a risky move but being a business owner is risky.
Again, no other type of business you know is required to make a sales pitch to only one customer at a time and wait for that one customer to decide to buy. Why should we as independent writers?
Execute the Best Sales Strategy for Your Business
This sales process is one way we can take control of our business and its revenue. We do that by deciding who we’ll pitch and when so we can derive the income we need to thrive—and not just survive—as a contract writer.
Each writer has to make their business decision about this, of course, and each of us has a right to run our business the way we see fit. Before you make any decisions, it might make sense to talk to your legal counsel, accountant or other professionals and if you have one, your life partner. But, I’ve decided the best decision for me is to give myself as many chances as I can to get paid writing work.
I achieve that end by letting as many potential editorial clients in my niches as possible know I’m available to write for them and can produce an excellent work product. So, I’ll pitch more than one at a time and customize each pitch to each editorial client as I’ve always done. That way, everyone is happy
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