Here’s a little secret: The best editor in your niche frequently gives the same freelance writers story assignments.
Sounds pretty good if you’re one of those writers, right?
But what if you’re not? Is there a best editor Book of Commandments you can follow to move up and earn more?
That’s kind of the million-dollar question.
You spend a lot of energy and time sending out pitch letters and letters of introduction. How do you catch the attention of the best editors to expand your freelance writing business?
If you’re feeling like trying stay fully booked is an exhausting effort, you’re not alone.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a more energy-efficient way to get repeat freelance work from the best editors.
Want to learn how to get more assignments with less effort? Here’s how it’s done:
Make connections to make more money
If you want to make more money as a freelance writer, and reduce the amount of hustle you have to invest to land work, get to know the best editors and their publications. Taking the time to build a relationship with an editor will help you:
- Hone your pitches
- Develop strong, interesting story ideas
- Improve your writing skills
- Get more yeses, and
- Be the first writer an editor calls for the next assignment
If you’re trying land an assignment, think about it from the perspective of former Toronto Star travel editor Jennifer Bain:
“It’s 40 percent about the story, 40 percent about taking or sourcing photos, and 20 percent about being a dream to work with.”
So, what can you do to be a “dream” to work with? Here are seven ways to connect with the best editors to land repeat assignments.
Editors like to know what’s going on. If you need clarification about the assignment, or are having difficulties with your story, let the editor know.
For example: If you can’t get a hold of a source or discover new information that could change the angle of the story, check in with your editor.
You’ll build trust, reduce his/her stress level, and raise the chances you’ll be the first to contact for new assignments.
2. Be on time
Never miss a deadline. Make that a mantra when an editor gives you an assignment. Sure, unexpected events might mean you’ll have to ask for a deadline extension someday. But make the norm turning in your assignment on time or ahead of deadline.
Do this: As soon as you get a pitch accepted, or are given an assignment, ask for the due date, and take it very seriously.
Why? The production schedule for the magazine, newspaper, blog, or other publication is usually tight, and depends on everyone taking care of their portion.
3. Keep it clean
One of the easiest ways to win over an editor…turn in clean copy. Every assignment you complete should be:
- Well-researched copy that meets word-count guidelines
- Written in a voice and style appropriate to the publication
- Formatted as requested based on the publication’s guidelines
Note: Although most publications have copyeditors, your editor will appreciate it if your piece doesn’t need cleaning up. Use spell check, triple-check name spellings, polish the piece, and write a great headline.
4. Play well with others
Unless you’re writing a personal essay, most assignments will require you to interact with other people: sources, photographers, graphic designers, and the people in accounting who get you paid. If you want to wow an editor:
- Act professionally with everyone you meet in the course of researching and writing your story
- Be gracious and thank people for their assistance
- Represent the publication in a way they would appreciate, even though you’re a freelancer.
- Use good manners on the phone and professional language in all emails and written correspondence
- Be easy to work with, cheerful and enthusiastic, and leave a good impression
5. Listen to feedback
You submit your assignment on time or ahead of deadline, and then the editor asks you for updates, corrections or changes.
- How do you respond? Curl up in the corner rocking back and forth in the fetal position obsessing about the request, or jump in and make the updates?
If your editor tells you something that needs to be fixed with your piece, or suggests that you should do something differently, listen and respond gratefully.
Do this: Rather than seeing it as criticism, consider it as an opportunity to learn something and improve your skills. Take mistakes seriously, and make requested corrections in a timely manner. Try to not be defensive. Accept any edits gracefully. If you think they’re inaccurate, take it up with the editor and discuss the matter.
6. Be available
When an editor contacts you, write back as soon as possible. You don’t have to be available 24/7, but don’t leave your editor hanging.
When you respond, be enthusiastic and ready to write the article, on their schedule. Realize the article isn’t done when you turn it in, because you may be asked to complete edits and revisions.
Be the writer an editor can count on in a pinch. For example, sometimes pieces need a quick turnaround. Tackle the assignment, do your best work, and turn it in on time. When you step up for an editor like this, you’ll be the first person they think of when they need a writer to fill another assignment.
7. Go the extra mile
Consider what else your story needs, and help provide it. Most stories will be accompanied by photos, so if you have ideas for great shots, communicate this to the editor. Or maybe you have ideas for sidebars, an infographic or pull-quotes for your story. Share this with your editor.
When you go the extra mile, most editors notice. It’s a great way to become one those writers the editor keeps giving assignments to.
Wow editors to win more assignments
If you want to win more freelance assignments for your favorite magazines, invest in building relationships with those editors. Even if your pitch is rejected, stay in touch, follow-up with a better pitch. And when you do land an assignment, do your best work. And you’ll quickly become the go-to writer editors want to work with.
How do you get repeat freelance assignments? Leave a comment below, and let’s discuss.
Catherine McBride is a freelance writer based in Louisville Kentucky who writes about food and health.