Recap of Katie Vagnino’s “Pitch Perfect: Navigating the world of Freelance”

Katie Vagnino

Katie Vagnino

By Alex Zitzner

On October 12th, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor and writer Katie Vagnino shared her tips about the world of freelance writing. If you missed her talk, here is a recap of the points we thought would help the most. If you are interested in hearing this talk in its entirety, at the end of this article there is a link to her next presentation.

Getting Started

Find someone to share your ideas with.

One of the best ways to jumpstart your creative process with getting into the world of freelancing is finding someone who can work with you to make your writing better. It is better to have a second set of eyes bringing their experience to the table, this way your work will be twice as knowledgeable when figuring out what and where to pitch. 

Write down ideas for potential pitches.

I’m sure we’ve all been in this situation before where a great idea comes to us, but we are without a way to write it down or are too lazy and let it go. Make a habit out of writing down potential ideas and cataloging them. When you find a place you’d like to be published, you may already have a pitch that will fit their tone and themes. *Pro-Tip: Most smartphones have a note taking app where you can store these gems, otherwise consider never being without a pen or pencil.

Read far and wide to expand your perspectives.

In relation to the first point, the best way to see what is out there is to do research. By doing this, you will grow your view and challenge your own previous notions while coming to understand what areas you can offer the most to.

I’ve Got An Idea For a Story, Now What?

Research what has already been said about your topic.

Touching on the previous importance of reading many different publications, editors are going to want pieces that are not cliche or on topics that have been thoroughly explored. Here is where the importance of the personal connection can come in handy by offering a unique perspective that has not been heard before. 

Keep the arc of the story in mind. 

You are going to want to roughly know how your story will begin, what will happen in the middle, and how it will end. Once you’ve done the research, consider how the points you’ve come across can be used to connect each part of the narrative and propel it toward the concluding statements.

Come up with a two sentence pitch.

Once you’ve figured out the arc of your story, come up with a way you can pitch your potential story in a short and sweet manner. Not all pieces need to be written before pitching them, so the “elevator pitch” method is a way of finding out whether or not there would be interest in having your work be published.

A Few Dos & Don’ts

Without too much summary, here are some ways to better your chances of either getting published or eventually getting published.

  • Show you are familiar with a publisher’s content.
  • Put your pitch in subject line of an email.
  • Do not contact editors via social media unless they explicitly say it is ok to do so.
  • If your pitch gets rejected, do not ask the editor, “Why?” 

Final Thoughts

Don’t take rejection personally.

There is a duality with acceptance and rejection in writing. Just because your piece was not taken by one place does not mean there isn’t a home for it somewhere. If the editors offer any feedback on why your piece was rejected, consider it and move forward, as it is all part of the process. 

Some of the best paid gigs are not glamourous.

It is fun to write about things you are interested in, but sometimes it is the uninteresting subjects that will pay the most. Keep your eye on the lookout for potential gigs, no matter how bland they may seem, because they could pay more than the big name publications like The New Yorker.

It is difficult to make a living solely off freelance.

Touching on the previous point, freelancing is a competitive and time consuming practice. If you are considering freelancing as a career, keep in mind how often you will have to be pitching articles and writing while balancing everything else. Consider using it as a way to get extra money on the side until you have become established.

If you would like to stay up to date with Katie and learn more about what she does, consider checking out her website.