You may be desperate for work, just don’t act like it
It’s one thing to be desperate for work. It’s another to act like it.
You may have just lost a big client, or even more than one, so you’re scrambling to add some new writing assignments to your calendar. You send out letters of introduction and query like crazy. A few nibbles come in as a result, and you pounce on them, immediately emailing more suggestions.
This is standard operating procedure for lots of freelancers, myself included. Seizing an opportunity is a good thing.
But putting a full court press on a new-to-you editor before you’ve established a rapport is sort of like wanting to go steady before you’ve had a first date. You need to try each other on for size to see if it’s a good fit.
This point was driven home to me this week talking to an editor friend who’s been on the receiving end of a barrage of queries from a prospective freelancer. This particular freelancer has written about a wide range of subjects and the editor was interested in some of the ideas he’d proposed. But rather than following instructions to let the editor think about some possible assignments that fit the publication and get back to him, the writer kept sending ideas.
At that point, at least in this editor’s mind, the writer crossed the line from aggressive to annoying. “It feels desperate to me,” the editor wrote me about the situation, “and as much as I’d like to help writers out, I don’t know what kind of writer this guy is yet. I haven’t had a chance to work with him. All I can see so far is that he’s overbearing and eating up a lot of my time. Not a good omen for a long-term relationship.”
When work has dried up and you’ve got bills to pay, it’s easy to glom onto an opportunity and want a quick return. But that’s not always how things work. Like relationships, some new markets need time to cultivate. As this editor says, “If I have a relationship with a writer, and we have a track record together, I’m happy to spend time, because I know it will pay off.”
Instead of trying to beat an editor into submission, why not expend some of that nervous energy doing some in-depth research on a handful of markets and then pitch stories that are well thought out for those particular publications.
Because once you step over the line with an editor, it could be hard to step back.