Friday, November 7, 2008

The importance of raising your hand

I promised last week that I'd write about how those World Series-related articles came about. The answer is simple: I raised my hand.

I've written for the New York Times twice before: first, about a t-shirt for the New Jersey Section, and second a piece about West Wildwood for the Escapes section.

I'd never written for the sports section -- in their paper or, really, anywhere else. While I follow sports, I don't write about it, just like I no logner write about music because I'd rather be on the fan end of things.

But the latest issue of the ASJA newsletter had a feature about who to pitch in what sections of the paper, and had a lot of great information about sports. So, on the Monday morning of the first part of game 5, I pitched a short article about the "Why Can't Us?" t-shirts. I didn't expect much to come of it. I pitched the article on what could have been the day the World Series ended, and I'd never pitched that section before.

But the editor called me soon after and asked if I could turn the article around by the end of the day. Sure, I said! I dropped everything else, called the key players who created the t-shirt, and had the piece done in two hours. I went over edits over the phone while I was headed into Philly to watch the game.

Success! It ran in the paper the next day. So I told the editor I could help out with post-win coverage if they were to win when Game 5 resumed. And I did. Then, when the Phillies won, I offered to cover the series parade. And I did.

None of this would have happened if I didn't tell them that I was available. Granted, I have a relationship with some editors at the paper, and I've been freelancing long enough to show examples that I could write these articles. But, still, it took reading that newsletter and sending an email and giving it a chance even when it seemed like a long shot for those three articles to come about.

My book came about the same way. I saw in a newsletter that the publisher was looking, and I raised my hand. I'll be reporting about another new outlet for my writing in mid-December that came about the same way: I raised my hand.

I tell new freelancers all the time to aim high because the worst thing an editor can do is say no (and then I tell them to keep pitching since they caught that editor's attention). It's this attitude that has kept me relatively insulated from the economic downturn -- that and it's impossible to be laid off when you work for yourself.

I'm not sure if this interest anyone other than freelancers, though I have to imagine that it applies to other areas of work, whether you're going for a new client or new position or new job. Raise your hand. Otherwise, you're just part of the crowd.

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John and Lisa Howard-Fusco said...

Lisa needs to read this. - John

Susan Johnston said...

Way to go, Jen! Maybe sports will become your new niche?

ZoeyBella said...

Well said, Jen. I referenced your post twice today as an example for freelancers and how they need to have a "go-get-it" attitude.

Shan said...

good for you! this was a great post! one of the best pieces of advise ever received was two simple words: BE AVAILABLE.

much continued success to you!