Desperation (Part II) (Mistake #112)

In Desperation (Part I), I wrote the following, which I make no apologies for repeating, this time with emphasis:

“Freelance writer” tells the editor you’re available for work.   

“Available for work” tells the editor you’re desperate for work.   

It’s no good being desperate, because editors can sniff out desperation a mile off, and they are wary of it, for all the reasons I gave in the previous post.

I’ve noticed lately a number of writers using the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter to advertise their availability for work.

#journorequest was ‘invented’ by a journalist colleague called Sarah Ewing many years ago, for journalists to use to alert PRs, experts and others about anything they were looking for in order to complete their briefs – spokespeople for comment, products for review, and so on. 

It took off. In fact, it worked brilliantly. Years down the line, it still works to some extent, but it’s now a partial victim of its own success, and is regularly appropriated by those with apparently little greater purpose in life than to troll those in the business and post bogus ‘comedy’ requests – and by those looking for work, rather than those who already have it.

Posting “Writer available for work #journorequest” will – I’m almost certain – never work. It just, won’t, work. 

It’s not just the desperation, or the naivety. It’s the impossible successful scenario you have to imagine unfolding: one of an editor with a budget, and a responsibility for a successful media outlet, scouring through the results of a hashtag not aimed at them, chancing upon a self-promotional tweet among thousands, and offering to give the writer of that tweet money in exchange for words. Which words? Who knows. I certainly don’t know. Because it just, won’t, happen. 

Writers are everywhere. We are hay in a haystack. Nobody goes ‘Ooh, a writer!’ any longer. Advertising yourself as such is special to nobody, except perhaps yourself. 

Editors have writers overflowing in their in-boxes and contact books – writers with ideas, writers who they’ve worked with before, writers who other writers have recommended. These are where editors find their writers. You have to put yourself there to be in with a realistic shout.

And to get there you need ideas – I’ve blogged about this dozens of times before. (Try this one for starters.) It is great ideas that make you special; not calling yourself a writer. You need to put these sizzling, compelling ideas in front of editors, and you need to convince editors you’re the perfect person to follow through on the promise of your red-hot ideas. 

There is no other way. 

Found this Mistake useful? You might like my ebook 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make (£1.99 / $2.99).

Comments 4

  • There's a fine balance between being available for work and crossing over into desperation, I agree! It's been a while since I pitched articles and I'm just getting back into the swing of that. It's hard not to exude desperation to editors! I do feel sorry for them with all us writers bombarding them with our pitches.

  • Hi Julie – nice to hear from you. You're right – sometimes it's tricky. I also think it's tricky not just to sound desperate for work, but desperate for that particular idea to sell – especially when you know it's a good one, and you don't want to see it go to waste – a problem that can strike even experienced writers.

    Yeah, poor editors. But we can make their lives easier with great ideas … !!

    A.

  • One writers great idea is an editors idea of mediocrity! Ideas are everywhere but it's getting that unique or unusual angle that appeals to editors that's the tricky bit. Got to keep trying,though. I love editors who give a quick yes or no or ask you to elaborate or consider a different angle but not so keen when you just don't hear anything back. I'm always reticent to chase – don't know why.

  • Always worth a chase – you've nothing to lose!

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