AHCJ conference: Time to freelance

Observations

So we all know my career goals by now, right? Make it the freelance thing happen full-time. I think it’s possible. I know it’s possible. I have mentors who say it’s possible and show that it’s possible. And, of course, there’s Sonya Collins as an HMJ example of making it possible.

I’ve been nabbing Flagpole and Georgia Health News clips here and there this semester, which is a nice feeling, but I know that I need to step it up in terms of determining a stable source of income and deciding how I want to balance company copywriting and journalistic work.

At the Association of Healthcare Journalists conference in Boston, there were various sessions about freelancing. I’ve attended similar sessions before, but I find it always helps to attend at least one of these at a conference to motivate myself and get back on track in terms of setting goals and doing so realistically.

A few of the usual recommendations:
Know the magazine. 
Pitch a section.
Don’t pitch a topic; pitch a story.
Know the story you’re pitching.

Some new ones — somewhat strange — that got me thinking:
You’re not going to get an assignment without a connection. Duh. We know that deep down somewhere, but many of us still believe we can cold pitch. For the most part, though, people are going to ignore your e-mails or take longer to get back to you. If you have a small connection, that’ll make all the difference. Network. Yes, that word.

If you want to pitch something for NPR’s blog, you better get ready to bend over backwards and learn their CMS for the website. I understand that an editor doesn’t want to take additional time with a freelancer to work on headlines, tag lines, cutlines, and all that jazz when he or she could write up a blog post easily, but then that’s the question — is it worth trying to pitch this? Or is competition so stiff these days that you should put in the effort to do so?

In addition, some of the editors didn’t want to discuss pay. I understand that to some extent, but the NPR guy was particularly hesitant to talk about any aspect related to that. If you don’t pay, then just say. We’re a room full of journalists, for crying aloud, so someone’s going to find out. If he doesn’t want to deal with freelancers and doesn’t want to pay them, then why is he leading this session, anyway?

Vent over. There were some great freelancer ideas in another session as well. Seth Mnookin really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writer tools and productivity apps. I need to try some of them this summer for longer projects.

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