Why you should pitch over the phone

Or at least believe in your idea enough that you could if you had to

I love the phone. I know, not many millennials do but I'm a maverick, what can I say.  Something not enough freelancers realise is that there are plenty of editors out there who also love the phone. And not enough freelancers are pitching them that way, myself included. 

I was reminded of this when I was writing the third part of my Ultimate Guide to Pitching, which went out last week to members, and I was writing the section on pitching IRL. The assumption is that all pitching is always done by email, but that's not true! You can do it in person or over the phone.

I used to pitch over the phone quite a bit, but I haven't done it in a while for various reasons. So when an editor emailed me and asked if I had any pitches, I thought I'd take my own medicine and ask them for a call. They did and I ended up pitching them a much more ambitious idea than I would’ve done over email. 

A huge benefit of pitching over the phone is that you’ll get an answer straight away. You can hear it in their voice, get that instant reaction of "oh wow that's a great idea!" If it’s not quite there yet, you have an opportunity to hash out why with them and get it over the line. And if they do say ‘no’, they’ll have to give you a reason for declining; a vital piece of feedback you’ll rarely get via email.

Of course, pitching over the phone is generally reserved for editors you have a pre-existing relationship with – I’m definitely not suggesting you start cold calling editors you’ve never even emailed before. But if you’ve worked with an editor on a story before, consider asking them for a call next time you want to pitch them. Forget trying to get lunch with an editor, try to get them on the phone instead. 

If you’ve read all the way to here and can’t get past thinking that the idea of pitching over the phone terrifies you – ask yourself why. Is it because you just hate the phone or is it something else? Because being able to explain and sell your pitch out loud is a great yardstick for the strength of the pitch. Even if you don’t ever actually pitch over the phone, you want to be confident enough in your story idea that you could.


FJ&Co news

The Freelancer’s Ultimate Guide to Pitching: the above is taken from my four-part pitching guide, available exclusively to FJ&Co members. As a member you also get free tickets to FJ&Co panel events and can access the full newsletter archive, including previous members-only posts.


Dollyvision

“Hold my calls”


Calls for pitches


The reading list

  • There’s a a great interview in Fatherly of all places with Sports Illustrated’s science sports writer David Epstein about his new book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Skip past all the golf chat and get to the part where he talks about how we should be jacks of all trade and says this gem: “I always think if we thought of careers like dating, we would stop pressuring people to settle down so early”

  • In a fantastic what-she-did-next interview, former Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth voices an opinion I’ve long held, which is that working for yourself gives you a “limitless earning potential”

  • According to a new study by Upwork, 90% of freelancers believe that the best days are ahead for freelancing and even more encouragingly, two-thirds say they earn more as a freelancer than they did at their job with a traditional employer.

  • Vicky Spratt reported on the women in full-time employment struggling to make ends meet, a phenomenon known as “working poverty”

  • After making a comment about making $4/word when she was a freelancer, NYT profiler Taffy Brodesser-Akner has become the straw man for the entire media industry’s pay disparity issue

  • And finally, Elizabeth Day’s brilliant How To Fail podcast is back for its fifth season with a corker of a first episode with Nigel Slater. Very glad to hear that he’s part of the early morning workers’ club, but dismayed to learn he’s a fan of sharing plates.


Testimonials

Zoë Beery: Thank you for this one - as a freelance sometimes news, sometimes culture reporter, I’m constantly qualifying to people that I meet that I’m more of a non-fiction writer, not a real journalist. As of today I’m not doing that anymore! 

Nina Pullman: I'm not even a freelancer anymore and I still read every newsletter! Full of insight and useful self-worth tips.


The Professional Freelancer is written by Anna Codrea-Rado, illustrations are by Léo Hamelin. It’s a production of FJ&Co, a platform that gives freelance journalists the tools, resources and community support they need to make a sustainable self-employed living
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