Breaking into the international freelancing market
I wouldn’t be able to survive, bring up a child, pay my bills if I was just freelancing for Indian publications alone because the pay is very low even for long-form pieces.
If you are a good writer, if you can tell stories well, if you have multimedia skills, you should definitely reach out to international publications. The money is great and the experience is always a learning one. I have survived on freelancing for most of my 18 years long career. I had no godfather or godmother, I had no one to recommend me to anyone, I didn’t have to kowtow to seniors in the profession for jobs and assignments, I didn’t even have someone or somewhere to turn to learn how to do it. So, I learnt by making mistakes. Here’s five mistakes you should not repeat when pitching to an international publication.Do not pitch hyper-local stories — International publications are not interested in stories with a narrow focus. The stock phrase I have heard and always kept in mind — think whether your story will be of interest to a reader in Brazil or in China.
Do not pitch breaking news — most of these publications have their own reporters and staff writers. They will look at your piece only when you offer a unique take on a breaking news or when you offer a story that only you as from an Indian or based in India can tell. This is true for every other country.
Do not send a completed draft — Most editors would like to work with you on how to develop the story. If you send the complete draft — and if hey don’t like what you wrote, they will pass. It often happened that I would send a pitch with a different story in mind — but through the drafting of the story or discussions with the editor, a different story (often a better one) will emerge.
Send a Query — Before you pitch (unless you are responding to a pitch call), always send a query first, introducing yourself and your areas of expertise, and politely asking if they would want some pitches from wherever you are based. Follow that up with a pitch.
Keep your pitch short — Here’s one piece of advice I received early on that has stuck to me like glue. It was in reference to publishing but I think it works for journalism too. Imagine you are in an elevator with the editor and you have just four floors to sell them a story (it’s known in publishing circles as the elevator pitch). You will try and get as many details as you can within a few short sentences, right?
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