Before you go anywhere, contact
and meet editors face to face. Go with ideas, not just apretty face. Find them on tweepz and follow them on Twitter, ﬁnd out what they’re about andread the sections they edit. And the archives. Read everything. Work out what they ﬁndnewsworthy. Ask yourself, what do they want?
Find the contact details of
the section editor you want to approach. Don’t email the ManagingEditor or head honcho - they don’t have time for you. Build a database of contacts and keepit up to date. Over time you will learn what day is best to hit certain editors, even what timeof day. I used to always pitch one Guardian editor in the morning when I knew he spent hiscommute checking his Blackberry - could never ever get hold of him outside that time slot.
Think locally. You want to
be a foreign correspondent, but lack experience. Go work for thelocal press - great for contacts, gives you a regular, living wage and you start to ﬁnd out howthings work. I was offered various sub-editing and editing gigs in Hanoi and Saigon over theyears. All starting at around $1,000 per month - more than enough to live on
Go somewhere cheap. And odd.
The odder the betterIf money is an issue, go somewhere cheap, and odd. If you’ve done your research and you’vemade contacts and you have a fairly good inkling of what you’re gonna be letting yourself infor - Just go.
Read. Read loads. Before you
write anything. Read.Read everything - local press, translations of local news wires, books, blogs, twitter lists. 6months of reading just about where you’re going will stand you in very good stead. And on’tstop reading. Ever.
“Have someone interesting to talk
to, somewhereinteresting to go, something interesting to write about,record, shoot, ﬁlm, link to & an outlet to ﬁle to, every day”You need multiple outlets. Don’t head to the NY Times with little or no clips. Build up to it.And think laterally. That Scottish conservation worker you met in the forest that day -wouldn’t Scottish Field magazine take a proﬁle piece, how about one of the scottish Sundaysupplements - think outside newspapers and big magazines. Many small strings add up to aliving wage - if they pay on time...
Start a blog. Think about
what you want to say. Plan it. Don’t just dive in, really think itthrough. if you want to focus on photography - get a template that will push that end of yourwork. Likewise text - this is an editor’s window into who you are and what you do, be proudof it.
Pitch. Be short and concise.
Three paras is enough. Sell the idea, the who what why and whyyou’re the person to do the job and send it everywhere - use your database of contacts thatyou built from paperboy and elsewhere and ﬁre your pitch off to all relevant markets - makesure you hone the pitch to the particular vagaries of each section and editor. No-one likesreceiveing an irrelevat pitch.
Plan and structure on paper.
Once you have your sources and you know the focus. Get ijntothe habit of sketching stuff out wherever you are - like in a restaurant in Saigon. Sleep with anotebook and pen next to your bed - you’d be surprised how many excellent ideas come toyou in the middle of the night.
Once you’ve got one commission
- go for others. For instance I had a commission to write apiece about some rare dolphins in Cambodia. BBC wanted a news piece, but the onecommission was not gonna cover the transport, visa, food and hotel costs I would incur goinginto Cambodia from Vietnam
£500 $250 $80 £250 $150
£125All in all, it all adds up to an OK week of work which would probably involve 3 or 4 days oftravel.
Keep receipts Send invoices Chase
themGetting paid as a freelance can be a nightmare. Know your rights, don’t be scared to chase,charge late payment interest when and where applicable. Some outlets might get pissed offabout this, so move on. Bad payers will be the bane of your life if you don’t weed them outearly on.
Credits:Two people Business meeting -
http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/mydigitalslrcamera/3784049371/Fishing rod reel - http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/canolais/376388031/Emma reading the newspaper - http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/dsevilla/1910384749/Rob Crilly in Sudan - http://robcrilly.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/so-you-wanna-be-a-stringer/Everything else - me