Pitching stories during the holidays: Should you do it?

Carolyn Crist

About Carolyn Crist

Carolyn Crist (@cristcarolyn) helps AHCJ’s freelance members find the resources, tips and contacts they need to create and run a successful business. A freelance journalist and author, Crist covers health, medicine and science stories for national news outlets such as Reuters, Runner’s World and Parade. She also writes for trade and custom publications. Contact her at carolyn@healthjournalism.org.

December 20198The holiday season is close, which could mean a well-earned time to take a break. For some freelance writers, though, it could also mean a time to send out more pitches.

Like many of us, editors, marketers and content clients are still working during the last two weeks of the year — and even if they’re not, they’re likely checking their emails. Newsroom editors, in particular, are still “feeding the beast” and meeting deadlines for the 24/7 news cycle.

“Here’s what I’ve learned over the years: We might fantasize that our clients have great work/life balance and they’ll be super unplugged and focused on family during the holidays … but it’s often not true,” said Carol Tice, a freelance writer in Seattle who runs an online coaching community called the Freelance Writers Den.

Tice has heard of several writers who landed new assignments on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve and reminded her email subscribers to stick with their pitching plans during the holiday season.

“Think about it — how many people do you know who kinda dread spending time with extended family for Thanksgiving or Christmas and retreat into a back room to check their phone?” she wrote.

Your tactics should depend on the market and publication, of course. If you know the editors are taking time off, it may be best to wait. For instance, one editor told me in November that she had run out of her freelance budget for the year. At the same time, another editor told me that she set money aside for year-end roundups and future-focused 2020 lists.

Since there’s still time in the “normal” pre-holiday work routine, take next week to reach out to your current editors and check whether they’d like to receive more pitches from you before the end of 2019. In that email, I also like to take the time to thank them for hiring me this year, name one or two of the assignments that I enjoyed in particular, and emphasize my excitement to work again with them next year. Expressing this sentiment alone has landed a few “can’t wait to work with you in 2020” responses, which gives the perfect excuse to jump back into their inboxes in January.

If you have questions or want a gentle nudge from accountability partners, look for freelance groups to keep you in check. Freelance Success, for instance, is hosting a Pitch-o-Rama this December to encourage the flow of good ideas.

If you’re not in the mood to pitch, a few small changes could help your 2020 marketing as well. Add your favorite 2019 clips to your website, create a profile on Contently or Skyword, or update your bio and publications on your LinkedIn account. Develop an “editorial calendar” for yourself to generate themes for your pitches next year, take an online class to boost a skill, or create a list of your favorite 2019 sources and stories so you can explore follow-up angles later.

Even if you decide to set aside holiday time sans work, which I’m doing this year, it’s a good idea to prep a few pitches before you leave your desk in December so you’ll be ready to go when you return in January. You don’t want to start 2020 without any marketing plans in the works.

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