I spend a fair amount of time every week prospecting for new writing work. Despite the lucky fact that I’m often on the brink of having too many assignments these days, past experience has taught me I can’t stop looking for more. And as I pick up additional clients, somehow I’ve managed to keep all of them in a rotating system of deadlines everyone’s happy with. For now.
My golden tool and most successful so far is the LOI — letter of introduction. As I scout out leads for potential new gigs, I zip off an LOI to each of them — a tactic that has netted me quite a few quick assignments and even a number of rejections I appreciate, the kind where editors praise my clips and tell me they wish they had the budget to hire me but can’t.
But sending LOIs isn’t as simple as it seems. It would be all too easy to email them to the publication’s HR rep and hope they’re passed along to the right editor, but often that just lands them in a nebulous vat of slush. And finding the right editor’s email address can turn into a time-sucking detective game since many company websites won’t list staff names under the guise of protection.
So I’ve had to get craftier to hit the bullseye. Often I call the publisher’s main number, explain who I am and what I want, and get what I need — the contact info for someone who may be looking for freelance talent and actually in a position to pull the trigger. But sometimes I end up talking to a reticent receptionist refusing to tell me anything but the HR rep’s email address (thanks lady, I could have gotten that off the website).
Lately I’ve found myself playing around with different iterations of email addresses to see if I can circumvent the gatekeepers. Firstname.Lastname@company.com, FirstInitialLastname@company.com, LastnameFirstInitial@company.com — these are commonly used variations of email formats, and I have no qualms trying all of them in an effort to reach the right editor. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? They come back undeliverable, and I have to try again.
I realized last week that two of my most recent gigs — including one with a huge, prestigious medical center — came from editors whose email addresses I’d wrangled with before sending my LOI. I could have sent them into the virtual slush pile, or I could have given up when the receptionist wouldn’t tell me what I needed. That extra step meant the difference between victory and obsolescence.
It’s a satisfying reminder how much persistence pays off in freelancing. How has it paid off for you?