May - the month of pitching with few returns
Ah, pitching. Most freelance writers I know have a love or hate affair with pitching (and even that may change each week or day). I’ve been lucky in recent years that I haven’t had to relentlessly pitch story ideas to keep afloat, but this month was different. In April I pitched only one story and my income came to me, but my goodness, how things change in the space of four weeks.
May - the month of pitching madly
In terms of feature articles for magazines and newspapers, this month I:
Commissions from pitches or query letters: 4
Offers: 0 (where the editor approached me with a commission)
In terms of feature articles for corporate and B2B clients: (I don’t pitch these)
Overall number of articles filed: 9
* * *
I felt like I spent the best part of this month pitching stories to editors.
For the first time in ages, I felt really invested in the pitches I sent out and as soon as I sent them I was refreshing my inbox waiting for a reply.
I also tried a technique recommended to me by a fellow freelance writer of pitching a new idea when filing a story, but so far, it hasn’t worked (as in, I haven’t had a reply from the editor).
Sometimes I really dislike pitching (and all the waiting and prompting to get a response), but lots of my pitches this month were related to my international trips in April and May, so I already knew the hook and the line I wanted to take.
It’s unlike me, but I felt really impatient to get responses to my pitches. And for most of them, I’m still waiting.
Lowlights of May
Work was pretty slow in May.
Despite feeling as if I was pitching lots of feature story ideas, work only came in dribs and drabs.
One of my regular corporate clients went on unexpected leave with no imminent return-to-work date, and so that work has dried up for the time being. I reached out to other corporate clients to let them know I had capacity and they said they had work coming up that they could assign me.
I also got invited on another international press trip, but I declined.
I probably could have fitted it in, but as I’ve written about before, my daughter really struggled with me going away to India and Canada in such quick succession, so I decided that I needed to be home for a solid chunk of time.
The hard thing about declining that famil was that it was an editor who asked me to go on behalf of the magazine.
So I wouldn’t have had to pitch.
It’s one of those situations where you wonder if you decline, whether you’ll ever get asked to go on a trip again!
Because I was away so much in April and May, my course is still at a standstill. I’m so frustrated and disappointed that things are taking so long to get up and running.
As lots of you know, I’m switching over from Squarespace to Wordpress and trying to do that and get my course up at the same time has been a bit of a nightmare.
Highlights of May
At the start of May I found myself winding through the spectacular scenery of western Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer train. I was part of an international, 14 person famil (press trip) to experience the luxurious journey from Vancouver to Banff.
The trip was, as you can imagine, incredible.
I lived in Canada in my early 20s and it has such a special place in my heart as it was where I met my partner. This was the first time I had been back and I wrote a little bit about what it was like on this Insta post.
Travel writing hack
In the past when I’ve gone on travel writing trips, I’ve always tried to get one story for every day that I’m away.
With international trips and some famils, I’ve found that to be pretty challenging, so my rule of thumb now is to try and get one article commissioned for every two days I’m away.
This means constantly thinking of angles and ideas when I’m on the road.
What really worked for me while I was overseas in May was keeping a page free in the back of my notebook to write down different story ideas and roughly match them with publications to pitch.
I know Gabi Logan from Dream of Travel Writing advocates having a ‘cheat sheet’ of specific sections in publications that you are familiar with and can easily match with experiences.
So for example, I know that a couple of publications I write for like to run ‘best places to eat and drink in X’ stories and I know others that like hotel reviews (and will accept reviews even if you’ve been hosted), and yet others like city round-ups.
Being familiar with different publications and the types of stories they cover meant that when I got back home I had a ready list of four or five ideas from each famil that I could pitch out almost immediately.
This was really helpful for me, because once I get back from a trip I often find that I forget the ideas I had and get distracted by finishing my commissioned stories and pitching goes on the back burner.
Although I am still relatively new in the travel writing world, I was invited to a few lovely industry events this month.
Because I don’t live in the city (I live a good 1.5 hours away) it’s usually takes whole day to attend a lunch.
But more and more I’m choosing to go to these events because they are such great opportunities to meet other writers and editors, but also to learn more about particular destinations or tourism companies. And I always feel so incredibly grateful for the chance to eat wonderful food, talk to interesting people and start dreaming about the next destination I could travel to.
I also received an invitation to attend a domestic famil, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to go because I haven’t secured any commissions yet.
The PR has generously offered me a spot on the agreement that I’ll pitch afterwards, but this makes me very uneasy. I’d always prefer to have at least one commission lined up before I go.
A resource I’d recommend
I always love receiving Susan Shain’s monthly newsletter - it’s so full of links to great articles and resources, so I was thrilled to hear that she has revitalised her ‘Where to Pitch’ website, which is an easy-to-use site where you type in an area that you want to pitch (such as travel) and it will bring up which publications might be a good fit.
I can’t tell you the number of emails and DMs I get each month asking for advice on where to pitch specific story ideas, so I think Susan’s resources (together with James Durston’s PItchwiz) really help freelance writers find possible homes for their stories.
Oh, and I really enjoyed this article about Olga Mecking and her 10 tips for how she gets published in top tier publications (I love number 6).
My income for May
As a part-time freelance writer, I set my income target at $5000 for May.
It was a pretty slow month so I came in under that, having had $4156 worth of work commissioned.
I invoiced for $6,353 in May.
How was your May? Have you achieved what you wanted to in the first five months of 2019?