By Heather Taylor Imagine that you’re a celebrity gossip writer who wants to switch gears from the red carpet to health and wellness advice. Or maybe you’re a political writer who’s becoming more passionate about fashion. Switching beats is a great way to expand your portfolio and writing chops, but how do get started when you’re not yet an established expert in your desired area? Ed’s got the tips you need to get started.
“Google, then get to work.”
This is a direct quote from Richard Larsson, director of digital content and social media at Advertising Week, who says the first step starts with self-learning and research. If you’re worried that a cold pitch, even if it’s a good fit for the site, may not be accepted because you don’t have a background in this specific subject, Larsson advises creating an account on Medium. On this platform, you can begin building up your expertise as a writer for a new topic and ask your audience for their feedback.
“When you’re in previously uncharted territory, asking questions like ‘Did you find this article useful?’ is going to be one of your most valuable assets,” Larsson says. “Medium readers are honest, so take the feedback they give to heart and use it as a tool in your arsenal to figure out how much of an ‘expert’ you’ve become.”
When it’s time to pitch, start small.
Once you’ve started building up a presence in your newly chosen vertical, it’s time to submit pitches. But take baby steps on this step, cautions Marissa Gold, beauty editor at BestProducts.com. “Try getting something newsy into a local paper or website first, where you’ll have better luck as a newbie,” she says. “Then, you can work your way up to the big name brands that have existing relationships with freelancers and are less likely to take chances on new writers.”
What qualifies as a newsy pitch? Gold says editors are constantly on the lookout for great ideas. Do your homework first since so many pitches are ignored or denied if they’re been done before or don’t fit the brand’s tone or content. “Make sure your pitch is timely, new, interesting, and on brand for the publication you’re pitching.”
Clean up your social media.
In your previous beat, you probably used social platforms like Twitter and Instagram to promote articles you wrote. Transitioning to become an expert in a new field doesn’t mean that you have to fully delete your past life, but it does mean you need to be mindful of what you’re sharing. Gold suggests looking to Twitter and Instagram influencers within these fields for inspiration. “Start building up your own social media pages with similar content that positions you as someone in the know. In this day and age, an engaging Insta and/or big following counts more than you’d think if someone takes a look.”
Rejected? Don’t let it get you down!
You’ve established yourself with a Medium account, began rebuilding your social media accounts to reflect your growing expertise, and submitted pitches with some pretty killer ideas. But… not all of your ideas are landing. Maybe you’re hearing “no” from editors, or maybe you’re hearing nothing in reply at all. What now?
Dorothy Crouch, a contributing writer to STEM Jobs, says that now is the time to embrace your thick writer’s skin and keep at it. “If you don’t hear from a publication, don’t let it ruin your motivation. Ask yourself how you can pitch better next time,” she says.
Crouch also notes that just because you’ve been rejected from your goal publication once doesn’t mean that you can’t pitch them again later on with even better story ideas. “Don’t be afraid to approach your goal publication more than once. All it takes is one good, solid story idea to catch an editor’s eye and have your story published.”