The Best Way to Get a Freelance Writing Assignment
Today, I sent her a quick e-mail letting her know that my assignment schedule is wide open after May 15, and telling her that besides web copy, I write articles, brochures, books, press releases, and more.
Not ten minutes later, I received a reply: “We need a brochure for our oncology division. What do you charge for a tri-fold?”
If I hadn’t asked for more work, chances are I would never had heard from this client again. But because I did, I have a new potential assignment.
Many writers hem and haw and never ask for what they want. They write query letters that don’t ask for the assignment. They finish one assignment and never ask for another one. They send out letters of introduction to markets and never tell the editor why they’re bothering to introduce themselves.
If you want something, you need to ask for it. Here’s how:
End your queries with a request.
I typically end my queries by telling the editor why my idea is perfect for her readers and why I’m the perfect person to write it, and then I ask: “May I write Fusilli vs. Tagliatelle: Pasta Showdown” for Noodle Manufacturer Fortnightly?” Of course, there are many ways to phrase the question — and technically, it doesn’t even have to be a question — but the important thing is that you ask the editor for the assignment.
This makes things crystal clear for the editor: You’re not a PR person pitching a product or a source. You’re not a reader sharing an idea — out of the kindness of her heart — that the editor can give to a staffer. You’re proposing that you write the article.
When I send out a letter of introduction to a trade or consumer pub, I usually ask, “May I send you some clips?” I’m not asking this editor, who has never seen my work before — and who I’m not even sending a fleshed-out idea to — to throw assignments at me. That would be too much. Instead, I make a request that’s easy to say Yes to: May I send you a few clips? I get a pretty good response rate with this.
I aim to stay in touch with my editors and copywriting clients and let them know I’m available for more work. Whenever I see that my schedule is about to start looking thin, I write to them and let them know that I’m finishing up a bunch of deadlines and will soon be available for more work. This has another benefit: When I tell the client that my schedule will be free after May 15, it implies that I’m a sought-after freelancer who usually has a full schedule. (And this is true; I DO have a lot of deadlines until May 15!)
Even if you have no work at all, don’t let the editor know that you’re facing the prospect of eating ramen noodles for dinner for the next month. Desperation is a turn off. Don’t lie and tell the editor you have deadlines if you really don’t, but also don’t let on that you’re dying for an assignment. Be cool.
You may be surprised that getting assignments is as simple as asking for them. Try it today and let us know how it went! [lf]
If you liked that post, you might also like:
- 7 Excuses to Stay in Touch with Editors and Clients
- The Real Purpose of an LOI or Sales Letter (And It’s Not to Make a Sale!)
- You Ask, I Answer: Should I Avoid Sending Queries on Certain Days?
- Reach Out and Touch an Editor Today (No, Not Like That!)
- 8 Ways to Land New Writing Assignments (Not Just Queries!)