Tying in with a relevant news story is sure to get the editor’s attention. As soon as you wake in the morning, scan the news – BBC website, Guardian etc. See what the big news is. You might find a news story about new research related to your field or story. You can set Google Alerts but I prefer to just type ‘freelance’, ’women in business’, ‘motherhood’ etc into Google and click the ‘news’ option. All the most recent stories on these topics will then pop up.
Using a news hook
If you’re pitching that you built your business while dealing with anxiety and panic attacks and you see on the BBC news website that the Government have just released new figures about the number of days people have out of the workplace each year because of mental health issues, this is the perfect time to pitch yourself to write an opinion piece. You’re responding to a news story with your solution to this particular challenge (setting up your own business so that you can work at your own pace).
If you’re up and at it early, and have your pitch ready, try and get it over to the commissioning editor as early as poss. They have their morning meetings around 8/9am, so get it over before then and they will discuss whether it’s a ‘goer’ in that morning meeting. Also, you’ll be ahead of the others with a similar story. Make sure you add a line about it being newsworthy –
Have you seen the new government figures, released just this morning, about mental health issues being the number one reason for people taking time off work in the UK? [add link]. Well, unfortunately I experienced acute anxiety firsthand and wondered if you’d like a piece about how this led to me setting up my own business; so that I could work more flexibly?
My story –
I was working for a corporate company when the anxiety started. Soon, I was missing a few days of work a month. My boss was unsupportive and I didn’t feel good about being absent so I decided to go freelance and take control of my work-life… etc etc.
Whether you’re pitching in response to a news story, or just sending your pitch out generally, be sure to always have a good photo of you to hand. Some publications will want to send a photographer out to you but if your photo’s really good it saves them time and money, so they might just use it. Get headshots taken professionally; it’s really worth it. Go for a natural look, not corporate.
But if you have a photographer friend, call in a favour. If you don’t, approach a photographer on social media and see if they’d be up for a skill swap. I did this with Penny Wincer. I actually asked if I could pay her for a headshot but she was keen to get into writing so asked for my help with her blog and pitching articles. She now takes photos of me every few months, and I help her (proofread, offer advice, share contacts) whenever she needs it.
After sending your pitch, if it’s newsworthy and they don’t respond, give it a few hours then try again. If it’s not related to a news story, give it three/four days then follow up. And try again a week after that. Just a brief email:
Hope all’s well. I sent an email last week about how I baked a cake for Lady Gaga and my cake business blew up. I wondered if you thought this might work for the business section?
Again, these people are busy so may miss your email or think: that sounds like an amazing story – but then get called away to work on something else and forget. So it’s fine to follow up.