Tips for writing features #6: Hide and seek

Posted on March 24, 2011

tips for freelance writers #6: silenceLast month, I sent a pitch for what I considered to be a fabulous and timely feature to the relevant editor at a major women’s mag. One with whom I’d worked successfully before. One that I thought was just the right contact for this particular story.


Two weeks later, I followed up that pitch with a polite, friendly email, repeating the pitch in a polite, friendly manner.


One week later, I sent a polite, friendly email thanking the magazine for considering the pitch and politely letting them know I’d be taking it elsewhere.


I reworked it to new specifications, took it elsewhere and sold the story.

The longer you freelance, the more you realise the importance of pitching the right story to the right publication at the right time. You may have the best idea in the world, but if it doesn’t land on the right desk at the right moment, it will go nowhere.

What does this mean? Don’t take it personally. If you hear nothing, don’t immediately assume it’s all about you. Give the recipient some space to respond, then follow up – very politely. If you hear nothing again, thank them for their time and think about how you might pitch the story elsewhere.

Don’t send the same pitch again. It didn’t work the first time, and you are now approaching a different publication, which will require a tweak, even if it’s small.

But do send it. If you have faith in the idea, have faith that it will, eventually, land on exactly the right desk at exactly the right time.

There will always be rejection (and someone not even responding to your email lands squarely in this bracket). No matter who you are, or how long you’ve been working as a freelancer. People who work regularly as freelancers are the ones who take that rejection and use it to plaster another layer of insulation on their skin. Creating a suit of armour.

It ain’t pretty. But you’re not looking for pretty. You’re looking for work.

For more tips on freelance writing, check out my ebook: Get Paid To Write: The secrets of freelance writing success.


  1. nickywaywrites

    I agree with Kim H! I’m just starting back after a long absence and only a bit of experience. If I can be 1/4 as successful as Allison, I’ll be stoked!

  2. Kim H

    As I embark on a magazine writing course I am worried about my thin, almost translucent skin. Agh! Can I handle that much rejection?

    It is comforting to know though, that others, better writers than myself, get knock backs or, in your case, Allison, ignored. I’m definitely going to keep reading this post over and over at those times. xx

  3. SquiggleMum

    Thanks for the reminder… I needed that.

    *Telling myself to toughen up*

  4. Readily A Parent

    I find that if you stress yourself out so much at the prospect of sending the pitch letter that you end up with a fever and chills, cowering in the corner and snivelling like a baby, then you don’t have to handle rejection at all!
    It’s a method that kinda, sorta works. All except for the earning money part.
    Obviously I’m going to have to reformulate my approach to this (organising and reformulating are just code words for procrastinating and avoiding. You knew that, right?
    Actually, truthfully, I don’t mind rejection – it’s failure I can’t stand.

  5. River

    It’s a good thing I’m not aspiring to be published or even a writer. My skin is like tissue and I’d cry oceans with every rejection or non-reply.

  6. Jacki

    Yikes! I’d definitely need to work on toughening up and not taking everything so personally!

  7. Sarah

    I’ve been to busy polishing up pitches to reply to this post. Thank you for the metaphorical kick up the rear I needed.

  8. Megan.K.

    Crickets! Love that description.
    Thanks for this post Allison, reminds me to stay on track with a few goals at the moment.

  9. Donna

    This is timely advice as I embark on this scary new road. Loving to write is one thing, being paid and published a whole other… and I’m not so sure my skin is think but I’m working on it.

    I’ll take comfort from the fact even the best writers (you!) have to deal with rejection and that its not personal. Onward and upward you went and thank Goodness for that happy ending x

  10. Green Mama

    The crickets are a major head you-know-what, but when I was freelancing I really, really hated chasing invoices and negotiating rates. That to me was much much worse.

  11. Leanne

    Oh man I hear you.
    When I was peddling my manuscripts around the Australian publishing arena I grew Rhino hide. It didn’t cover the hail damage on my arse mind you, but my skin got very thick.
    When you get that big envelope back in your mail box with your own handwritten address on it with a returned manuscript, it sucks!
    But I would always say to myself “every no is one step closer to a yes ….”
    And yeah … you can’t quit. That’s the only true way to fail …
    Congrats to you on another gig. Woot woot!!!

  12. Christie - Childhood 101

    Those crickets are what bugs me most about freelancing. One minute is all it takes to send a ‘thanks but no thanks!’

  13. Ms Styling You

    I think journos need thick skin – full stop. In 20 years I didn’t work for an editor who actually praised your work. You tended to hear from them when something was wrong. Not a nice place to be.
    And I’m with you on the email thing – I always reply to emails. It’s the polite thing to do.

  14. Naturally Carol

    It all comes down to a certain kind of confidence that says..I can do what I do well, a belief in the integrity of your work, or your product or your service. I’m glad you’ve got it!

  15. Rachel @ Musings of an Inappropriate Woman

    I was sure your story was going to end with the editor jumping in and saying they wanted the story just as your withdrew it.

    Glad it had a happy ending anyway, though. 😉

    Like all freelancers, this is something I deal with on a weekly basis. Unless all I’m getting is rejections though (which did happen one month – the same month I returned to full time freelancing and moved to the other side of the world… a definitely blow for the self-esteem), I tend not to take it personally, though. Like you, I just keep reworking and resending the pitch until I find some place it sticks.

    And if the final product is something I can be proud of – and it usually is – the hustling is worth it.

  16. Maxabella

    Sage advice for life in general, Al. x

  17. Dorothy

    Scary… Not very thick skinned here… May have to delay freelancing for a wee bit until hide thickens…

  18. Kymmie

    So true. And the thicker the skin, the longer you survive in the industry. And I think you’ve got yourself a good suit of armour. Necessary really. xx

  19. Lady Estrogen

    I think I’m far too sensitive to be a freelancer 😉

  20. Lucy

    I tell myself “They are not rejecting you. It’s not like you asked them out on a date or their hand in marriage…”

    All those crickets – Al – my first thought is that the email address may have changed?

    (See? Rhino skinned optimist, me…)


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