Welcome to Pitch Clinic!
We have a lot going on in this course—and we want to make sure this course works for you.
So here are 7 tips to help you get the most for your money, succeed as a Pitch Clinic student…and learn enough to land some great gigs.
1. Don’t take shortcuts.
Guess what? We can tell when a student submits an idea for a query or LOI without having read and watched the course materials. And let us tell you, it ain’t pretty. 🙂 We cover all the basics in our trainings — and how to avoid the most common mistakes. So seeing one of those in your query is a sure sign you haven’t watched them yet.
Avoid all that awkwardness and begin each week by taking in the training in your chosen format (read a transcript, watch a webinar, or listen to a recording). Read through the forums, and carefully read/watch the additional resource materials. This will save you a lot of time and angst.
2. Get your idea approved first.
Please don’t write your query or LOI without having gotten an idea approved by us first! We feel so bad when someone submits a beautifully crafted pitch—and we can tell it will never fly because the idea just isn’t where it needs to be, or there is no paying market for it.
Carol and Linda aren’t the be-all-end-all of idea mavens, but we’ve been freelancing for a total of over 40 years, so we have a pretty good concept of which article ideas work and which don’t. Let us help you tweak it for maximum salability before you move forward.
3. Participate in the forums.
Pitch Clinic comes with five weeks of forum support. One common mistake we see is students only looking at the threads they started. They post a question, or a homework assignment, and only ever look at the answers we give to them—and not at what other students are asking…thereby missing out on some of the most educational stuff in this whole course.
Be sure to read through ALL the threads. Chances are, someone has a question that you also have—or one you didn’t even know you had until you read it!
Also, reading other people’s homework assignments and our critiques will help inform your own queries and LOIs. You can learn a lot from other’s mistakes—and successes.
We’d like to encourage you to interact with other students on the forums, too. Don’t let this be a one-way conversation with students asking questions and Carol and Linda answering! (We hate that.)
If you have an idea for someone, a resource to share, a suggestion, or some experience you want to share—please do so! It makes the forums much more fun and useful.
4. Email the right people.
If you have a technical question — for example, if you have trouble logging on to the forum or downloading materials — email the helpdesk at email@example.com. If you email Carol or Linda, this will delay your response, as we’ll need to forward it to the helpdesk ourselves. (We’re the writing pros, not the tech geeks.) We have tech wizards standing by to help you with website and forum questions!
Note that we do not support Pitch Clinic on email—please do not email us query drafts or questions. We are just going to refer you back to the forums. We need your work posted on the forums, so all the students can learn from the exchange of ideas instead of just you. The forums accelerate the learning…so be on them.
If you’re having any trouble getting on those forums, that email to contact, once again, is firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Choose an idea that fits.
Many writers want to write personal essays—and that’s fine. However, you typically don’t need to pitch essays as editors like to see the entire manuscript.
Our focus in Pitch Clinic is not on essays, because it’s such a hard niche to get paid well for. So for the purposes of this class, please pitch ideas for reported/journalistic articles that include interviews. That’s where the bulk of the lucrative assignments are, so that’s how we’re going to train you up in this course.
Exception to this rule: You CAN pitch a reported essay—that is, a service (how to) article that’s built around your personal experience but still includes quotes and advice from experts. If you have a reported essay idea you want to pitch, be sure to specify this is a reported essay idea so we know it’s not a straight personal essay.
6. Remember, it’s not all you!
Many writers hate hearing this, but you will need to interview experts for almost every article you do—even if you yourself are an expert in a topic.
For example, when Linda writes about, well, writing, for a magazine like Writer’s Digest, she still has to interview other people, even though she’s a super-experienced freelance writer. And when you see an article by a Registered Dietician in a magazine, notice that he’ll still interview other RDs.
You can use your personal expertise or experience to inform your article and help you know where to research and who to interview, but in general you will not be the sole expert source in an article. Keep that in mind when you’re formulating ideas and when we ask you to do pre-interviews for your pitch.
7. Stay away from your family and friends.
No, we don’t mean you need to avoid your loved ones as you progress through this class. We mean don’t interview them for your query.
Why? Most publications won’t let you cover a friend or family member’s business, cause, etc. According to journalism ethics, you need to avoid even the APPEARANCE of bias…so even though we know you’re not biased, and YOU know you’re not biased, if it looks even the slightest bit like you MIGHT be biased, you can’t do the story.
Instead, look for ideas and sources outside your circle of friends and family. It’s more difficult, to be sure, but is the only way to ensure you come up with ideas that a publication will assign to you.