Going Part-Time To Pursue Journalism

Resume Email Template by John Adrin

Going part-time? Expect a lot of time to be spent sending email pitches (Pic: John Adrin)

By Helen Edwards

I’ve had a series of office jobs over the years, but I’ve always wanted to write for a living. Last year I had the opportunity to go part-time, and I grabbed it with both hands so I could devote more time to my writing. Prior to going part-time I’d already had several articles published in magazines, so I was confident I could build upon this.

It’s a good job I didn’t completely give up my day job, because I had just one article published in 2013 – and that was online rather than in a magazine. It wasn’t for lack of trying or ideas, and I followed the standard protocol:

• Research magazines which accept pitches from freelancers
• Pitch appropriately
• Tailor your pitch to the magazine’s style
• Find out the name of the Features Editor or equivalent
• Send an email outlining your idea (mention word-length and photographs)
• Explain why your idea suits their magazine
• Include a short biography

I would then wait a week or two before following this up with a second email – not pushy at all – always remaining professional and polite.

Was the same courtesy extended to me? In the majority of cases I never received a reply – bad manners as far as I’m concerned. I know that editors are busy, but how long does it take to reply and say, ‘Thanks, but it’s not right for us,’ or something to that effect? Not long at all. It would save so much of my time. Once I know a magazine isn’t interested in my idea, I quickly pitch it to another magazine. I’m never going to earn a living from my writing if the response rate is either zero, or if I receive a reply six months later as I did in a few cases.

Of course, a few editors were responsive and replied to me within days, sometimes on the same day. More often than not it was a case of, ‘Thanks, but it’s not right for us.’ Others replied to inform me they’d just commissioned a similar feature. In another case the editor liked my idea and said she would take it to the magazine’s next ideas meeting – although she never got back to me (despite me sending a follow-up email).

I read in Writing Magazine that to approach a certain weekly women’s magazine you should pitch to the appropriate editor (details often can be found on their website), and include the first line of your article in your pitch. The guidance suggested you will always get a response, and this was advice given by the editor herself. I followed this advice to the letter and guess what? I have never received a reply to any of the pitches I sent to that magazine.

The number of pitches I was sending tailed off as the year went on and I was thinking of giving up article writing as I was very dispirited. In desperation I found that adding, ‘Will you take a look?’ to my pitch sometimes elicited a response, although when I sent one article off (it covered Christmas time-saving tips), they said they did something similar last year!

My husband gave me some good advice. He said to try different markets and with this in mind I began sending pitches to websites. I became a YAHOO Contributor, and I have had two articles published by them to date. I have also had another three articles published on other websites. I’ve found that the people I’ve been in touch with via the websites have been much more responsive and helpful, and I’ve built up some new contacts as a result.

My earnings have been negligible as most websites don’t pay, but I’m not overly concerned about that at present because I want to build up my writing portfolio. Payment will be an issue in the future – I don’t want to write for free indefinitely.

Have you struggled to find work after going part-time? Or have you had some success? Get in touch if you’d like to write about your experiences. You can follow Helen on Twitter, @heedw

 

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