Today’s question comes from one my LinkedIn Editors & Writers compadres, Rosalind Cummings-Yeates.
She recently wrote, “How does a seasoned writer find long-term clients? I’ve been freelancing for 15 years and had a steady list of publications that I wrote for regularly. Now, most of the editors I worked with have been laid off and the publications are folding or cutting pages. I’m very visible online and have a website and blog that have attracted assignments but I’d like consistent assignments like I had before. I do network and have started new relationships with editors but I’m wondering if there are other steps that I need to take.”
Well, Rosalind, I can think of a few key strategies off the top of my head.
First off…you mention that most of your editors were laid off. Hey, mine too! In the past year pretty much EVERY editor I wrote for was out of a job. But I’ve continued to have steady work from many outlets through this whole downturn.
Why? Because I’ve followed each of those laid-off editors to wherever they landed next!
You don’t say anything about staying in touch with these editors who previously clearly adored you and gave you a steady stream of work. Where are they now? What are they doing? Look them up on LinkedIn and connect with them.
If they’re out of work, send them job leads! Ask what type of work they’re looking for so you can refer them. Help put them back to work, and they’ll be forever grateful. While you’re helping, they may well refer you as well.
Personally, I am still in touch with all my editors. I’ll just give you one example of how that’s paid off for me.
One former magazine editor I worked with landed a freelance gig at a popular online business portal. They paid very little, but I signed on just to keep the relationship. That connection led to a huge opportunity to write a $6,000 article package for a major corporation a few months later! Which I would have missed completely if I hadn’t stayed in touch.
Some of my editors are still out there interviewing, and I’m sure when they find new gigs, I’ll get work from them again. Because I’m still in touch. In this economy, we have to stick with the people we’ve enjoyed working with — we can’t afford to lose any of our relationships.
Strategy two: You say you’re getting assignments, but they’re sporadic. What are you doing to further cement your relationship with your new editors and get them to assign you regularly?
I know it’s often hard to build relationships with new editors when you’re part of a previous regime, because we’re feeling sad that a relationship has been severed. But it can be done!
I’ve experienced this with Entrepreneur magazine, which brought in a whole new editor lineup in the past year. I’ve had to reach out repeatedly and meet new editors. But now I’m actually writing more for them than ever, including blogging for them, a great steady gig that has given me huge exposure. I have five different section editors I’m working with there now, all new to me.
Show new editors you have a lot of ideas and can really help them impress their bosses with the solid work they’re overseeing. I sent one editor of mine a pitch letter with 11 ideas in it last week…that’s what I’m talking about. Be a fountain of information, and they’ll bring you back for more assignments. Whenever you turn in an assignment, don’t leave without asking when the next pitch cycle is and what types of stories they need.
If I’d just slunk off after my previous editors left, I’d be out my connection with a great publication, and would have missed the chance to meet a bunch of great new editors there.
If any of them end up leaving there, guess what I’ll be doing? That’s right — staying in touch.
Strategy three: when publications cut pages, I’ve found they often add online content. Be sure to investigate whether there are additional writing opportunities for your publications online. You may need to reach out and connect with a different editor who’s overseeing online content…but I can tell you there’s lots of articles being assigned to beef up publication Web sites and offer something exclusive for online viewers.
Strategy four: Pitch a regular column idea! Nothing creates a steady gig like being assigned a regular slot in a publication. I’ve previously been Entrepreneur’s tax columnist, and currently I’m writing a monthly article on “Who’s Got Venture Capital.” Neither pays a ton, but it’s steady money and I find helps make you the first person they think of when they’re assigning other stories, too.