Friday, 28 October 2011

No Contacts? No Problem!

I have been feeling "under the weather" again this week so it was good to get a bit of a boost today with the arrival of the November issue of Freelance Market News ( as a letter I sent in recently was published as the star letter.

I wrote the letter in response to a reader who had asked about the problem of commissioning editors wanting to see a "portfolio of work" and how you are supposed to achieve this if you can't get a commission without a portfolio of work. (Catch-22 and all that.)

My reply was to point them in the direction of an excellent book by experienced freelance writer Catherine Quinn ( called 'No Contacts? No Problem! How to Pitch and Sell a Freelance Feature' (Methuen Drama). I read this book a while back and reviewed it for The New Writer ( and it is well worth getting hold of. Not only will it help if you are trying to land your first article commission but it is also very informative if you are a well-established freelancer looking to improve your sales and marketing techniques.

To quote from my TNW review: "The author takes a positive view when it comes to believing that anyone can land a commission, providing they can write reasonably well, regardless of whether or not they have been published before. Where editors are concerned, idea is everything. If you come across as confident, present your ideas in a format that the editor likes and can pitch to the right person, you have as good a chance as any "seasoned pro" of seeing your work in print."

Even if you are already getting commissions, Catherine's book is useful in reminding the reader that market before idea is always the right way of doing things, pitching ideas is a necessity not a luxury for the jobbing writer and freelance writing is much more about marketing than writing. Oh and it is vital to have a thick skin when it comes to dealing with editors!

Judging by my success rate with articles recently (after a period of having whole pages to myself in The Guardian and eight-page supplements in national women's magazines), I think it is probably time I read the book again.   


  1. Congratulations on getting the Star Letter slot in FMN. I also found that book very useful and reviewed it in Words with Jam about 18 months ago. The only thing about it I didn't find very realistic was her suggested programme for pitching editors, but you can ignore that and do it at your own pace.

    Interesting that unpublished writers always worry about the portfolio thing. No editor has ever asked me for examples of previous work. Clearly, if you have been published it helps but normally it's the idea they are interested in.

  2. Hi Vanessa. Good to hear from you as always. Thanks for your congrats. I was pleased with that letter because it was a 'win-win'situation. The subscriber who wrote the original letter received some (hopefully) useful advice, Catherine Quinn had a plug for her book and I benefited to the tune of £10!