This article belongs to The Writing LifeóThe Good, the Bad, and the Ugly column.
You may have the pitch letter down and sources ready, but there is something else that will get you even more jobs than the perfectly crafted query. Not follow-up calls or a sneak peak at all the new studies. Not glossy clips either. The answer is not even a what.
As the old saying goes, it's who you know that counts.
Rub Elbows with the Not So Famous
Before you start cursing and saying there is no way you will meet the right people, let me explain. These people do not have to be magazine editors (although this would definitely not hurt). Writers like you are key to more ins in the freelancing world. Instead of envying the friend with plum assignments, ask her questions about the magazines. What are they looking for? How did she break into them? Would she mind letting you use her name when pitching an editor? If the writer is on good terms with the editor, I have yet to see anyone say no to such a request. And, when you get into Coveted Magazine of Choice, don't forget to pay it forward and help out another freelancer.
Latch Onto PR People
If you don't already subscribe to PR newsfeeds, do so now. Even if you find you cannot use many of their experts or the timing of the info doesn't quite work with your pitch timeline, there is much to be gained here.
First, you will be invited to events where, while enjoying a complimentary lunch or dinner in today's hot spot, you can schmooze with editors. Some may be new; others, you may have only met via e-mail. Either way, introducing yourself, explaining your freelance specialty (health, nutrition, etc.), and discussing a few ideas you have, will make the editors think of you the next time an appropriate assignment comes along.
Second, when you do get an assignment, it's handy to have PR people with experts at their fingertips. Think how much quicker it will be to get experts through one e-mail rather than hours of researching on your own.
Third, PR people are eager for you to use their experts and would like to chat you up about exciting projects. Through these conversations, you can get article ideas you have never thought of before. An added bonus - your new PR friends are often chummy with editors. If this is the case, you can use it as an opening in your next pitch or just to drop a line to editors of choice so you're fresh in their minds.
Check Out Websites
There are a bunch of great websites out there that not only advertise classes, but also give you a heads-up about free events where you can meet other writers and editors. Some of my favorites, with a brief explanation of their services, are below:
Mediabistro.com - Lists classes, a "How-to-Pitch" section for magazines and agents that tells you exactly what editors and agents are looking for and how to contact them, free networking events, transcripts of seminars, and more. The class and event listings are free, the HTP section and transcripts require that you join. However, it's only $49.00 a year and totally worth it.
ED2010.com - Totally free site that lists classes, free networking events, internships, and job postings.
PayingWriterJobs@yahoogroups.com Ė Just go to Yahoo.com and search for this group. It provides daily writing job opportunities.
Get to It
These tips should be a good beginning, but you need to be proactive too. Make business cards, if you haven't already. You can buy a bunch at Kinkos or Staples cheaply. Carry these cards with you always. You never know who you'll meet in that long check-out line!