Whether you’re reaching out for the first time or checking in for the hundredth, communicating with editors can be intimidating. But behind those disembodied voices and maddeningly snappy emails are people who just want to hire freelancers who will make their lives easier.
We caught up with three to find out what you should — and shouldn’t — do to get on their go-to lists.
Esquire, Medium, Boston Magazine, Hemispheres (currently on book leave)
“My biggest pet peeve is when writers email to ask if I’m looking for writers for anything. The answer, as any editor will tell you, is ‘No, we are are not looking for writers.’ Frankly, we are up to our eyeballs in writers.
Some of them are very good. We do not need a greater quantity of writers. What we need are great stories and ideas that will first, improve our respective publications, and second, make us look good in the eyes of our superiors. Extra points if the work can be done without excessive drama and hand-holding. I always say to writers, ‘Make your editor’s life easier, and you will have an advocate for life — one who will steer already greenlit ideas and assignments to you, which is the ideal.’ Make your editor’s life harder, and you will be living story by story, pitch by pitch, for the rest of time.”
Director of Creative Strategy, Group Nine Media
“Call me old school, but I like phone calls — as long as every single second of the phone call serves to advance a mutual understanding of a project’s goals, and not one single second is spent on banter. I learned the hard, kinda humiliating way that editors simply don’t have the time.
Back when I’d just started freelancing, I’d keep my main lad-mag connection on the line for who-knows-how long, talking about who-knows-what. One day, he flat-out told me, ‘Look, I get that freelancing is isolating and that connecting with an editor can make you feel more like you’re part of the industry/humanity, but I’m working with 10 different writers, and writing my own feature, and dealing with half a million other things, and I just can’t spend more than four minutes on the phone with you.’
I’m not saying all freelancers are as desperate for validation as I was in 1999, working out of Dallas with no experience under my belt and so Internet-incompetent it took me a month to figure out how to use this brand new search engine called ‘Google.’ But whatever your mindset, just know that brief phone calls can be helpful, while anything longer than that could serve as the straw that breaks the calendar’s back.”
Branded Editor/Content Strategy, The Foundry
“Following up is great! ALWAYS FOLLOW UP. I don’t mean to ignore you and I hate when editors do it to me, but it’s usually because I’ve forgotten or marked it low priority for the time being. It’s also important to stand out because I have a lot of random people emailing me all day. If you give me something to sink my teeth into I’ll remember that I read an email from you at 9am or and get back to it.
And what really makes a difference is when a freelancer already knows what my team does and speaks to how their skills or past experience can help us. And if they don’t know exactly what we do, it helps when they give examples of previous work that even broadly relate back to the type of content we produce. It also gives me a reason to advocate for that person when I pass their information along: ‘This person did X project for X publisher or brand. I think they’d be a good fit.’”