Workshop: Marketing Yourself as a Freelancer – March 28, 2009

By John Symon

Former PWAC Quebec member Hélèna Katz flew down from her new home of Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories to visit Montreal in late March. On March 28, she gave a workshop here on Marketing Yourself as a Freelance Writer.

“Right from the beginning, I realized that marketing is really important,” coughed Katz (she coughed through much of her talk, explaining that she had only just recovered from the flu). She strongly advocates that writers market themselves on a weekly basis to ensure a steady flow of work. Katz also spoke about how different sides of the brain are involved in writing and marketing, but successful writers must necessarily engage both. She said it is important to keep a “market development file,” which others might call an “editors to bug file.” Writers should be routinely sending out three pitches a week, suggested Katz. Apart from playing the numbers game, Katz advocates writers targeting their pitches. Katz spends a lot of time in magazine stores and actually reads publications that she intends to pitch to.

Apart from reading the magazine, Katz also looks at publishers’ Web sites. If publications list “writers’ guidelines,” that means they accept freelance submissions. From the media kit (destined for advertisers), writers can often ascertain reader demographics and the calendar of any special (themed) issues, which helps them decide what pitches to send and when. “The best way to break into new markets is with short pieces in the front section. This allows you and the editor to get to know each other.” With new editors, Katz’s pitches are more elaborate but these become abbreviated as she becomes more familiar with the editor.

“It is much harder to get new clients [editors] than it is to work with existing ones,” said Katz, stressing the importance of maintaining good relations with all editors and providing good customer service to them.

“It is also really important to network with other writers.” After Katz began volunteering with PWAC, other writers began recommending her to editors, who started calling her. “It’s really worthwhile belonging to an organization and volunteering,” she commented.

“I’ve only just joined the twentieth century,” joked Katz, noting that she has only recently put up a Web site. Previously, she relied completely on referrals. Her Web site can be accessed at www.katzcommunications.ca

Katz passed out examples of successful pitches and underlined the importance of being methodical in documenting where pitches and submissions are at with various publications. “All writers should carry around a pen and notebook with them,” was another of Katz’s suggestions. She noted that carrying such things forces her to be more alert for story ideas.

The general public paid $15 to hear Hélèna speak at Marianopolis College, while the event was free for PWAC members. This is one of many such workshops and special events that are benefits of PWAC membership.

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