Why Now Is the Time to Pitch Your Ideas

Despite the economic fall to the bottom of the proverbial pit and the awful impact that has had on magazines, now is actually a great time to get into freelancing. As a recent piece in MediaWeek discussed, the lack of ad pages means that publishers are changing their production schedules so they can offer advertisers last-minute deals.

The way the process normally works, ad sales folks sell ads for a particular issue then someone in either the editorial department or the production department creates a map of what the issue will look like; it shows where ads will be placed and where articles will go, incorporating both the ads that have already been sold and a certain number of “holes” or places for sales people to continue to sell ads. Typically, magazine companies do all this several months ahead of “real time.” (For example, it’s April and at my office we are finishing up our June issue. We work about 2 months ahead of “real time.”)

According to the MediaWeek Story, this lead time is getting much much shorter, in an effort to provide advertisers with chances to get ads in later and later (which allows them to see how their previous ads have done, but it also allows them to see where their balance sheet is, closer to production time–which is important as some key markets are finally beginning to turn around).

During those two months of lead time, after ads come in, while sales people sell remnant ads, editorial staff works on the articles that will accompany  those ads. Frequently (at least at our magazine) when Sales folks push back their deadlines, this means more of a crunch for the editorial staff. Unfortunately, the printing and binding process can’t be pushed up much–so instead, magazines mail slightly later and the time the editorial team has to put together the rest of the magazine is shortened.

While the regular articles that are included every month probably aren’t affected much, if the sales team sells an extra two pages into the magazine (above and beyond what was mapped) editorial now has to scramble to match those pages with content. Which is where freelancers come in.

Freelancers who pitch timely pieces, or who happen to send an email at the right time may just get lucky. Editors need an article–you pitch a piece that sounds fantastic and promise to turn it around quickly, and they may decide to give you a chance, even if, under normal circumstances they wouldn’t take that chance. The trick is to do what so many freelancers before me have recommended–research a topic, instead of a specific article. Then pitch a few different articles based on that research, but with different slants, to different magazines. This way you’ve already done most, if not all, of your research for a given article and can turn the piece around quickly. And you can write several articles using the same basic research, saving you time and getting you more buck for that same work.

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