Once you’ve successfully pitched a new client and have an assignment, how can you turn that initial assignment into future work?
A first assignment with a new editor is like an audition. If you perform and work well with the editor, it can be the beginning of a lucrative long-time relationship.
Follow these tips to turn a client into a repeat client.
1. Know all the facts
When you receive an assignment, spend some time looking through all the emails you and the editor have exchanged and any notes from phone calls. If you have a formal assignment letter or supplementary materials, take time and go through everything. It’s important to know exactly what is required for the piece.
I always compile all this information into a single document so I have it all in one place for easy reference.
If you have any questions, be sure to ask your editor right away. It’s okay to have questions. If you’re not sure if there’s a particular person they would like you to interview, ask. If you think it might work well to write the piece in Q&A format, but you’re not sure if your editor is receptive to that format, inquire.
You don’t want to barrage your editor with unnecessary questions, but if you’re confused about something, ask as soon after you receive the assignment as possible. You don’t want to ask basic questions about the assignment the day before (or worse yet, the day of) deadline.
2. Triple-check your facts
Before you turn in an article, double or even triple-check your facts. You don’t ever want to get a fact wrong, but if you’re working with a new editor even a small mistake can harm your relationship before it gets off the ground.
Check the spelling of each person’s name, all the locations you’ve mentioned, dates, numbers, URLs and anything else you can.
I like to go through a digital draft of my article and use one color to highlight everything that needs a fact-check and a different color for the quotes. I listen to my interview recordings and check that the quotes are all accurate. Then, I go and double-check each fact.
It’s best to find two sources to confirm each fact, but that’s not always possible. Once I confirm each fact or quote, I remove the highlighter from that line until all the highlights are removed.
3. Turn your work in early
Sure, turning your work in at 4:59 p.m. on deadline day is getting it in on time if your deadline is 5 p.m.. But if you’re working with a new editor, why not turn it in a day or two early?
Anyone can have a last-minute emergenc, but if you have a couple buffer days, the odds are much less likely that a last-minute emergency will interfere with your deadline.
But don’t be upset if your editor doesn’t get back to you quickly. Sometimes editors will assign a particular deadline because that’s the day after the last issue goes to press, or perhaps after they get home from vacation.
Just because you send it in early doesn’t mean they’ll be able to read and respond early, so be patient.
4. Be responsive to feedback
When you turn an article in, you’ll usually have a few edits to make. When your editor asks for changes, be sure to respond promptly and do your best to turn it around quickly.
Try and take a look at your editor’s comments and questions as soon as possible. If you have any questions, reach out to them right away and ask.
If you disagree with an edit, it’s okay to push back gently. Many editors view the editing process as a collaborative endeavor.
5. If something goes wrong, address it
If something goes wrong when you’re reporting, writing or editing a piece, don’t close your eyes and hope things will sort themselves out. Address any issues promptly. Whether it’s an impossible-to-reach subject or a technical glitch on your end, communicate with your editor.
Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes it’s your fault and sometimes it’s not. Either way, it’s important to communicate as soon as possible to find a solution.
6. Wrap it up right
At some point, whether it’s when you turn your draft in or when you’re wrapping up your edits, be sure to thank your editor for the opportunity. If you like working with them, let them know and tell them you hope to work together again soon.
Don’t clog up your editor’s inbox with unnecessary emails, and don’t be over the top, but thanking them and letting them know you like working together and hope to do so again soon is a good thing.
Be sure to share the story on social media and tag the publication and possibly your editor as well if you think they’d be agreeable to it. Of course, don’t link to their personal Facebook page, but if it feels right to give them a Twitter mention, go for it.
7. Pitch again soon
After you wrap up the piece, don’t let too much time pass before pitching again. In two or six months, your name might ring a distant bell to the editor, but editors work with a lot of writers and it’s easy to forget a person they’ve only worked with once.
Keep your name at the front of their mind by pitching other ideas quickly. Reach out within a week with some fresh ideas. Then, you’ll be on the top of your mind, and they’ll remember how great you were to work with.
From time to time, you can also drop them a note and ask if they have any particular holes they’re looking to fill. Sometimes, an editor will have a particular department they need pitches for and if you can fill in quickly and save the day, they’ll remember you as the pinch hitter who comes through in a jam—and that’s exactly how you want to be known. But be sure not to email too often or you risk annoying the editor.
Using these tips will help make a good impression when you’re working with a new editor. And they will hopefully lead to a second, third, and even more assignments.
Your Turn: How have you turned a new client into a repeat client?