Pitching is the new commute

I’m finding the hardest thing about freelancing is pitching. Regularly.

I have all the ideas in the world – they’re not all good, obviously. But when I think of the infinite number of publications out there that could possibly take any of those ideas, and how I could adapt it for several different publications if I was organised enough, it’s often overwhelming – and crafting a good pitch is an art, and takes time, and research. And yet all that – all that is part of the dream. It’s fun, it’s creative, the endless possibilities are inspiring, and you love that response.

But what I’m finding hard about it; it’s uncertain, it’s work-intensive, I risk rejection (without any constructive criticism) and even if they do accept it, it might be changed and revised beyond recognition or the pressure starts when they give the commission and then it could be pulled, or not published (and therefore not paid) or the rejection could come at the end of all the work, rather than at the beginning (and without any constructive criticism).

In short, it’s unpaid work. And potentially pointless; if there’s no results, it means I have no work, and I am left with doubts and tumbleweed.

Sure, risk it, for the biscuit. If I don’t try, I don’t get. But I am talking about the very real possibility that I put all that work in, and nothing comes of it – if I’m endlessly pitching and nothing is good enough (for those companies, for whatever reason) then, am I still working? Am I still a freelancer? Do I still exist?

The equivalent in a normal job.

So, the way I have reconciled this in my brain.

The work of pitching (which includes coming up with ideas, researching publications, reading news and anything else) would be, if I was working in a role for a company, the equivalent of the commute.

So, say in London (where I happen to be based) I don’t get paid for commuting on the London Underground for an hour each way. The office doesn’t value that time; there is no reward for hacking it or doing a ‘good commute’ (whatever that means). Essentially, a boss doesn’t care how you get there, they just care that you do get there.

As for the risk of rejection? If you’re late, you could lose your job. (Equivalent: if I don’t pitch, or don’t pitch in time, I could lose my work).

But it gets you (to) work.

In fact, that gives me an idea to frame it. I could aim to pitch (think of ideas, research companies and read news, etc) for an hour each way. One hour before work, one hour at the end. It could help to see which time of the day I’m better at it – and it becomes a habit. And it is the most important part of freelancing – which is why it’s the hardest. Without pitching, without setting your own ideas and agenda, you are nothing. You don’t exist as a freelancer.

(Which, by the way, is fine – freelancing what works for me right now, and I’m committed to it because it improves my skills. I also apply for roles where I can apply those skills. Here’s my CV on LinkedIn if you’re interested in a journalist/marketing/research type.)