You got the assignment, filed the story and cashed the check.
Get a repeat assignment, of course.
Most freelancers will attest that while getting a second assignment is definitely easier than getting the first, far too many clients end up being one-offs, and second assignments never happen.
How can you ensure that the editor who gave you that first assignment will give you a second, third and more? Here are some ways to keep those relationships going and those checks rolling in.
1. Consistently send good ideas.
Persistence is one of the most important character traits a writer must have to survive in this business, followed closely by the ability to generate good ideas consistently. Put these two together, and you have the recipe for second-assignment success.
When an editor knows your name and is familiar with your work (and, needless to say, is happy with it), send through more ideas that would be a fit for his or her publication. You may not always hit the mark, but editors appreciate it when you keep trying, even if you’re failing. It tells them that you’re interested in working with them on an ongoing basis. If there’s one thing freelancers can forget, it’s that editors like ongoing relationships just as much as writers do.
2. Send new ideas right away.
When I was a green freelancer a decade ago, I operated like this: Send an idea, receive an acceptance, write the story, send the invoice, get paid, receive the published story in the mail and, then and only then, pitch another idea.
Do you see the flaw – and the time lost – in this methodology?
These days, I’m a lot more impatient, and that’s not a bad thing. After I wrap up an assignment and send off the final edits and the invoice, I submit another idea almost immediately. What is, after all, to be gained by waiting?
3. Learn quickly.
You know how I said that editors love writers they can work with regularly? There’s a caveat: You have to make their lives easier.
It is far less time-consuming and much less hassle to work with a writer who already knows the house style, the topics an editor’s interested in and the general workings of a publication.
Learn everything you can during your first few assignments. The more ingrained you are in the process, the less work your editor has to do on your manuscript and the more likely he or she is to assign work to you again.
4. Add value to the publication.
Freelancers sometimes see themselves as separate from a publication, and while that is true – you have your own business to run, after all – it can be helpful, especially when you’re new to a publication, to try and be a part of the team. Think like a staffer and go one step further by suggesting additional material such as sidebars and photography.
When I worked in India, I often offered to connect my American editors with local photographers for stories I’d reported on, for instance. You could ask if there are blogging opportunities or if they’ve got holes in the editorial calendar that need filling. Act like you belong, and you will.
5. Be appreciative.
Freelancing can be a thankless job, but so too can editing. Not many freelancers take the time to tell editors who’ve slaved over stories that they did a great job. Years ago, after a particularly harsh edit, my editor was expecting pushback from me. Instead, I was fascinated. Her edits had tightened my writing and made it stronger, and I learned dozens of tricks that have served me in my career. She was surprised to hear my absolute joy in being edited and my immense gratitude for what she had taught me. Needless to say, she was happy to work with me again.
An editor who has enjoyed working with you is much more likely to want you writing for him or her regularly. Make it a pleasant experience for him or her, and you’ll have more second, third and fourth assignments than you can count.
Mridu Khullar Relph is a journalist and the publisher of The International Freelancer.
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