As a resident of New York City for nearly nine years, Alyssa, my friend and fellow writer, is a master at finding the best events in the city. When she emailed me about an event at The New School called the Best Online Editors Panel, I was immediately intrigued. I started typing, clicking, and digging on the web. I quickly discovered that tucked away in Greenwich Village sits The New School, a progressive university that attracts intellectual and creative minds. The event featured a panel of eight online editors from publications like Tin House, Vanity Fair, the New York Times, Dame Magazine, and more. Plus, the panel was hosted and moderated by none other than writer, teacher, and New York Times bestselling author Susan Shapiro. Needless to say I purchased my ticket and replied to Alyssa that I was in.
While the event was geared toward journalists, I found the information to be beneficial for any type of freelance writer or blogger. Whether you’re pitching an article, blog post concept, or even partnership opportunity, engaging with publications or businesses is a major part of journalism, freelancing, and blogging. Ultimately, the panel discussion was centered on navigating these interactions and relationships successfully.
There were three main questions that led the panel. Each of the eight online editors had his/her own unique approach to working with freelancers, and along the way, Susan Shapiro interjected interesting feedback from her students and aspiring writers. Below I’ve summarized the key takeaways from the discussion.
3 Questions Answered by Top Online Editors:
- Should I submit a pitch or a finished essay?
This seemed to be the most polarizing question of the evening. The verdict? A fifty-fifty split. Below are five of the arguments:
- It depends on the publication or an editor’s preference.
- Do your research on the publication and the editor before submitting.
- Kera Bolonik, executive editor of Dame Magazine, suggested writing the full piece and pitching the standout lines in a summary of two to five sentences.
- Another debate arose within the discussion of this question: should you attach your work as a document/PDF or include it in the body of the email? The verdict, again, resulted in a fifty-fifty split.
- Jerry Portwood, a professor at The New School and executive editor at Out magazine, posed a solution: do both so all your bases are covered!
Applying the advice beyond journalism: There’s a fine line between a well-developed idea and a concrete idea with no room for creativity. When pitching any type of concept or partnership opportunity to a potential client, it’s important to research the brand and the point of contact. Be clear on what they expect and show your knowledge of their business in how and what you pitch.
- What should freelancers NOT do?
This question elicited some tough love from the panel. Below are the five key DON’TS for freelancers:
- Don’t submit a piece or a pitch on a Friday. It can wait until Monday!
- When an editor rejects your piece, it’s the end of the conversation. Don’t reply to the editor asking why or looking for an explanation. At most send a simple thank you for his/her time.
- If you have a story, even one that’s not fully developed and could only amount to a few lines, do not publish it on a blog or give it away to an unpaid source if you ever hope to submit or pitch it to an editor.
- Never send a general pitch or simply pitch your services – you must be specific! Don’t make an editor work for the piece!
- Don’t take rejection personally. In this industry, success is all about being in the right place at the right time.
Applying the advice beyond journalism: It’s pretty self-explanatory how these DON’TS can apply beyond the field of journalism. The fourth point is specifically key for any type of freelancer or blogger. Avoid sending general or form emails to potential clients, and don’t make them work for your partnership! Be specific each time you reach out to a brand. This personalized approach will illustrate both your understanding and passion for their company as well as your confidence in your business and services.
- How can freelancers make their work better?
The third question from the panel allowed the editors to give their last words of wisdom for freelancers. Below are five closing pieces of advice:
- Enlist a ghost editor to review your work before submitting to an editor.
- For an even stronger edit, read your story aloud before submitting.
- Learn to love being edited. You can get better every day and with each and every new piece you write.
- Know a publication before submitting a pitch or piece to them. Do your research, know exactly what they’re looking for down to the word count, and show your knowledge through what you submit.
- Be passionate and enthusiastic in your writing. Write the story you just have to tell.
Applying the advice beyond journalism: Much of this closing advice is about the editing process. For other freelancers and bloggers, editing is not always part of the process in a literal sense. However, consider having a friend or colleague review an idea or concept before pitching. Once you’ve secured a client, remember to remain open to their feedback or criticism. Again, successfully building and maintaining relationships is crucial for journalists, freelancers, and bloggers alike.
A final note from the online editors: Buy publications you value. Engage with publications you admire on the web by clicking and sharing links. Support the industry!
This final note from the online editors is, of course, applicable across industries. No matter what type of freelance work you do or blog you have, support your industry!