Since I became a freelance writer, most of my work has been in my favorite niche — the equine industry.
Along with web copy, newsletters, tweets and Facebook posts for trainers, big horse shows, and venues, I write articles and blogs for a few regional horse magazines.
But I had a few dream magazine writing jobs on my bucket list. My dream was to write for the biggies, the national horse magazines that all horse people know. Three topped my bucket list: The Chronicle of the Horse, Dressage Today, and the United States Dressage Federation’s Connection. They’re the Triple Crown of a dressage geek’s reading list.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I’ve now sold articles to all three magazines — within a 10-day period. How did I move them from bucket list to client list?
It was actually a simple process. I followed four basic steps.
- I reached out. I found a person in my niche on LinkedIn who posted a lot. She seemed upbeat and friendly, so I contacted her and asked for whatever advice she would be willing to share. She recommended I become a freelance member of American Horse Publications. Not only did I join, but I made plans to attend their annual seminar, which was just a few weeks and a few hundred miles away.
- I was prepared. At the seminar, I was ready to meet and greet (even though I’d rather stand in the corner and people watch). I had my elevator speech and business cards ready.
- I listened. To everyone. Writers, photographers, editors — all had something for me to learn. When I attended their speed networking session with a handful of juicy editors, I asked what they were looking for and tweaked my elevator speech accordingly.
- I followed up. The fistful of business cards I’d collected wouldn’t have done me any good sitting in my messenger bag. Even if I didn’t have an article to pitch right away, I sent a brief email.
The pitching process made easy
When I pitched The Big Three, the responses were all different (but successful). For The Chronicle of the Horse, I pitched one idea, and was assigned a completely different one, on spec. I took it, wrote a great article, and it sold.
For Dressage Today, the idea I pitched was the one I got a contract for — a profile of a large, popular dressage show for which I’m the volunteer coordinator. I provide an insider’s view, including photos (for which I’m paid extra). Everybody wins.
Here’s the followup pitch that got me the gig:
I enjoyed meeting you and having a chance to speak with you at the Speed Networking session at the AHP Seminar in Charleston.
To give you a brief recap, I’m a freelance writer and dressage rider from Virginia, currently on hiatus from showing, but very actively involved in volunteering. One of my main volunteer positions is as Volunteer Coordinator for Dressage at Devon. I’d be interested in doing a piece for Dressage Today about an “backstage look” at Devon: “Dressage at Devon – Behind the Scenes at an American Classic”.
Being the Volunteer Coordinator, as well as in charge of the Dressage at Devon newsletter, I have a unique perspective and access to what makes Devon such a special show — (including being the first dressage competition to be awarded Heritage Status by the USEF).
May I write about Dressage at Devon for Dressage Today?
It was a matter of timing for the USDF Connection article. I pitched covering a seminar on sport horse judging, being offered by the USDF. The editor was planning to write the article herself, but something came up and she was unable to attend. Because we had met at the AHP Seminar, she accepted my pitch.
Your takeaways? Keep reaching out. Make connections. Be prepared. Ask for advice. Listen and follow up. All it took to start this process was one InMail on LinkedIn. Who can you contact today that may help move some of those bucket list jobs into your freelance writer’s portfolio?
Ever get a dream writing gig? Tell us how you landed it in the comments below.
Penny Hawes is a freelance writer who shares her Virginia home with her husband and several cats, dogs, and horses. You can check out her website at The Horse Writer and catch her blog, The Horsey Life.