Keep in Touch, Or: Postage Desired!
The Author of Freedom to Freelance Reveals How to Stay in Touch with an Editor, Even After the Project's Over
Your assignment is over and your check is in the mail. (You hope.) You're satisfied with a job well done, a new credit for your growing portfolio, and your editor's glowing praise.
With the project over, there's no real reason to keep in touch. But keep in touch you must. In the world of freelance writing, you never want to burn a bridge, or even worse, leave it unattended. Publishers, editors, freelancers all find each other through a sophisticated system of networking potential.
Conferences, retreats, book shows all offer super chances to bump into folks whom you'd love to work with again, or for the very first time.
Over the years, I've discovered several unique ways freelancers have kept in touch with me. They are all simple, inexpensive, effective, and best of all, unobtrusive. Why not try one after your next assignment? Who knows, it just might work:
Postcards are one of the least utilized communication tools known to man. The postage is cheap, they're easy to handle, they're neither bulky nor verbose, and you can find them anywhere. There's a movie theater around the corner from my office. Occasionally, in between a massive deadline crunch (or two) I jet out of the building for a 3:30 matinee and return just in time to catch my second wind. Every time I go, I make sure to grab a few of the free postcards that lie in a display case next to the concession stand. They are usually for soft drinks, comic books, new albums, or new movies. Best of all, they're free.
And even if you can't find them for free, they're everywhere else for less than a buck. Anywhere you live you'll find wacky, goofy, cheesy postcards that are bound to cheer up an editor's otherwise gloomy and envelope-filled stack of daily mail.
Keep things brief, and don't send one too often. About every six months is an acceptable rule. That's just enough time for an editor to begin a new project, but not too many a year to become bothersome. Say something like:
"Dear Edna Editor,
This is just Freda Freelancer checking in from sunny Idaho to see whether you have use of my services. You may remember me from such projects as 'Preschool Pen Pals' and 'The Reading Software' series. Thanks again and happy editing!"
Postcards serve two purposes: They make an editor smile, and they keep your name inside her head. Two things that can never be bad. I have a bulletin board that's slowly filling up with postcards from former freelancers. I don't always have jobs for them, but if I'm on the phone and another editor from across town needs somebody, that's the first place I look.
There's nothing wrong with pitching an editor with a new project or updating them on a project you've just completed, as long as they are neither too long or too frequent. Like the postcard idea, they should be brief, to the point, and unobtrusive. A VERY short letter should include who you are, what you worked on for the editor, and the project you're proposing and have most recently worked on. Samples are fine, as long as they are short and to the point.
A simple 9" x 12" envelope with minimal postage should be able to handle the entire package, with room to spare!
A quick, brief, light e-mail is another simple way to keep in touch with your former editor. Keep in mind that, just like slush piles, editors now face a huge onslaught of e-mails every day, so it may take awhile to get a response, if you ever get one at all.
Put your name in a subject heading so your former editor doesn't think it's junk e-mail or spam, and remind her that you worked with her on such and such a project "recently." Recently is a good word, since to an editor, "recently" could mean any time at all – weeks, months, or even years are all considered "recent" in a world where publication dates are often two years from the time of people working together on a project.
Keep the e-mail light and don't sound too needy. Simply remind the editor of the project(s) you worked on together, what you've been up to PROFESSIONALLY (no long-winded tales of broken arms or sinus infections), and keep the e-mail to about the length of one computer monitor – the editor shouldn't have to scroll down more than an inch or two to find your signature line.
Change of Address
Moving can be the best thing for a freelancer's career! (No, I'm not talking about picking up stakes and moving to New York.) A change of address is one of the best ways for a freelancer to legitimately e-mail or write an editor, without seeming pushy or overly ambitious. A quick note, either on a postcard or in an e-mail, to let the editor know of your new address, followed, of course, by your willingness to work on future projects together, is a great way to keep your foot in the door.
Rusty Fischer is the fomer editor of the Buzz on Series, and author of Freedom to Freelance