As a freelancer, it is refreshing when an editor or outlet publishes a pitch guide. It helps us know how to tailor our pitches, article style and timeline for the publication.
Unfortunately, there is no playbook to help editors work with the growing slate of talented freelance journalists in the marketplace. This has facilitated some horror stories that no one wants to deal with.
Here’s a guide for editors on how to avoid common faux pas, and what freelancers appreciate when working with editors.
Be upfront about your editing style
This may seem self-explanatory, but career freelancers work with a wide variety of editors. While one may like a flawless draft that only needs a quick glance before publishing, another may not operate that way. Some like to be an active sounding board and go through several rounds of edits.
Most career freelancers work with a combination of both. Don’t assume that one way is standard. Like any workplace, the workflow is an element of the company culture which can be drastically different depending on the publication. “Be transparent about the scope of the project and how many edit rounds you think it will be,” said Sonia Weiser, writer of the Opportunities of The Week Newsletter.
I often preemptively ask how the editor I will be working with likes to operate. What do they expect from a draft? Do they want to see something as close to done as possible, or would they rather a frame we can work on together?
Don’t pass along freelancer pitches
Don’t take a freelancer’s pitch and give it to a staff writer or another freelancer. This also is fairly self-explanatory but it does happen, though fortunately less than it used to because, of course, people talk. It happened to me three times, all of which were from publications under the same parent company. Pre-reporting and putting together a pitch takes time — time that we may or may not be compensated for.
Please don’t tweet out copy from pitches or correspondence. You may think our pitch or approach is outlandish or not a good fit, but not everyone will feel that way. By tweeting out an idea, you may inadvertently hand off our idea to someone else.
by Andy Hirschfeld, International Journalists’ Network
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash