There are two basic ways to go about pitching an idea. One is to come up with an idea first, and then try to find a potential market for it. That’s what I used to recommend for new writers. The second method is to find a market that you want to write for, and then come up with potential ideas for it.
Today, I suggest that writers use the second method. Here’s why. Marketing, especially when you’re a new freelancer, takes a huge amount of time. If you can find a market that you can write for multiple times, you cut your marketing time. It’s much easier to sell an idea to an editor you’ve worked with before than to someone completely new.
I learned this lesson the hard way. I was so focused on coming up with saleable ideas as a new freelancer that I wound up doing a lot of “one-shots,” where I would write about one subject for one market and then move on. So, I wrote one story on a charity car show for The Lion magazine, and then moved on. I wrote a profile for a magazine called Accent on Living, and moved on. I wrote a story for Editor & Publisher, and moved on. I sold a piece to a (now defunct) health website…and moved on.
You’re getting the idea, right? Each of those stories took a lot of time to pitch, plus I had to research and write them afterwards. By never writing for those markets again, I wasted my time.
My career took off when I started to focus on markets that reflected more of my interests. For example, when I started freelancing fulltime, I was planning my wedding. Then, and as a newlywed, I had lots of bridal-related ideas. Well, I didn’t write just one story for Bridal Guide. Because I came up with more ideas, I got more assignments. And then my editor started approaching me to assign ideas she’d come up with for me.
When I sold a piece to For the Bride, another national market, the same thing happened. Yes, I was still pitching, but now I was a known entity to my editor, and she responded more quickly than she would have to a complete stranger—and also reached out to assign ideas she had come up with to me.
So forget about selling one idea to one market. Start with markets you can write for more than once, and work with the goal of writing for that publication multiple times. That tip alone will make you more efficient (and smarter!) from the start.
**This post was taken from Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets. It's for new freelancers who want to transition from unpublished to published and paid. If you already have a few clips, check out Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition, available through Kindle (print editions coming by March 30).
Readers, what about you? Do you come up with an idea, and then look for a market? Or do you find a market you want to to write for, and then pitch it? And why? Please comment here!