When I started out freelancing, my first couple of paying jobs came about quite by accident. Although I enjoyed writing, I’d never really thought about making a living from it. I sold my first paying story when a friend referred me. She was busy and needed someone to help out. I then made a point of going to visit the editor of that magazine. Through a Mac user group I met another journalist and he let me know that there was a journalist mailing list running that I’d be interested in. From there I met many other journalists and … well, you get the picture.
At every step of my journey, it’s been relationships with other people that have led to me getting work. I’m now at the point where I rarely have to pitch stories to editors. As I’ve worked with enough people and made a point of delivering what my editors want on time I’ve established a reputation as someone they can rely on.
But as well as delivering the best work I could, I made a point of meeting with people. That’s meant investing in some travel and setting time aside to meet with people. In some cases, that meant drinking a lot of coffee during casual meetings that weren’t about specific work but focussed on simply establishing a professional friendship.
I’ve gone on several conferences where there have been other journalists and editors.While those events have often been hard to justify on a pure dollars per day basis, they have all paid me back many times over. I’ve made contacts at those events that have lead to lots of new work.
More recently, it’s been the use of social media that’s been useful. The challenge of tools like Twitter is that the breadth of relationships is substantial but the connections are usually quite shallow. However, by engaging in dialog with contacts you can get leads for stories, fresh ideas and other valuable information.