Skype your way to more work with Virtual Client Connections
Our in-person speed-networking event, Client Connections, has evolved into a “conference within a conference” in New York and in other cities where we’ve held it, including Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco and Washington, DC. ASJA members have reaped tens of thousands of dollars thanks to these nine-minute meetings. We decided a few years ago to bring that experience into the digital landscape so that members far and wide can participate.
Held quarterly, Virtual Client Connections offers the chance to “meet” with an editor, literary agent or content marketing manager for 15 minutes via Skype, Zoom or phone. We aim for eight to 10 clients per event and schedule about 120 meetings over a one- or two-week period. ASJA members have sold book proposals, landed content writing gigs and placed hundreds of stories during these events. We’ve hosted Smithsonian, Popular Science, Psychology Today, Men’s Health, Lonely Planet and more.
How to make the most of your 15 minutes:
- Carefully read the information listed in each editor’s blurb. We ask them to provide details about how they use freelancers, what coverage they need, and whether they prefer members bring story ideas or just be prepared to have a get-to-know-you conversation.
- Familiarize yourself with their outlet or organization. Understand their audience, or see what genres their literary agency represents. Read as many stories on their website as you can, and before you craft your pitch, check if they’ve covered it already.
- Because clients are given your 200-character bio prior to the meeting, assume they will Google you and peek at your online portfolio, so be sure your digital footprint is professional and up to date. That includes your website, your LinkedIn profile and other platforms.
- Follow up as soon as you can after your meeting, providing whatever ideas and clips the client has asked for. Do not expect to get an assignment five minutes later, though! VCC is the FIRST STEP in that long journey between pitch and publish. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. Repeat!
As with most successful ventures, it takes a small army to organize VCC. Devised and overseen by Jennifer Goforth Gregory, VCC has been supremely well-run by Kristine Hansen for the past four years. Now that Kristine is moving on to other ASJA responsibilities, Lisa Rabasca Roepe and Stacey Freed have generously stepped up to take over VCC. Since this event is evolving every time we do it, we’re still looking for more volunteers for other tasks, so please get in touch if you’re able to help: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Got a great story idea? Bring it to Virtual Pitch Slam
Inspired by the wildly popular Pitch Slams held during our national and regional conferences, during which a panel of editors gather to hear live story pitches and provide valuable feedback, Virtual Pitch Slam recreates the excitement via telephone. Every other month, we host a guest editor for a one-hour interactive call. A moderator kicks off the event by asking about the outlet: What are they looking for? What does the editor love and loathe about pitches? Where are the opportunities for freelancers to break in?
Then, it’s time to pitch! Up to 20 members get the chance to present one or two ideas within a two-minute window, after which the editor offers constructive criticism.
VPS also provides a great learning experience: Listening to your peers pitch can help you improve how you present and organize your ideas.
We’ve welcomed editors from Discover, Atlantic CityLab, American Way, Sierra, Eating Well, Your Teen, PBS’ NextAvenue.org, Boston Globe, Wine Enthusiast, The Open Notebook, TheKitchn.com, Costco Connection, Preservation and Landscape Architecture. Recordings of past events are accessible via the ASJA website for both Associate and Professional members.
Want your pitch to blow an editor away? Here’s how to do it right:
- We provide a link to your website or LinkedIn profile to the editor in advance, so don’t recite your entire bio. Just get right into your pitch. We keep time, and you’ll be cut off at the two-minute mark, so practice in advance!
- Call in from a land-line, or at least from somewhere with a strong cell phone signal. We’ve had members whose phone lines cut out or were too garbled to understand. Don’t let this be you!
- Just as you’d do when pitching an idea via email, READ the publication thoroughly.
- If you’ll be reading your pitch, do so very slowly. It’s normal to be nervous, but too often, members race through their idea and it’s hard for the editor to follow along. Pretend you’re pitching to a five-year-old child – we tend to slow down when reading to a pre-schooler!
- Listen carefully while the editor provides feedback. This is a fantastic way to improve your pitch before fleshing it out during your follow up email.
- As with VCC, it’s vital to follow up. More than once. Enough said.
Michelle Rafter will be moderating upcoming events, and we look forward to working with her! I’ve led VPS since its inception in 2016, and am looking for an ASJA member to carry the torch forward. It’s a lot of fun to organize, and does not require much time at all, so if you’d like to give this a whirl, please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And don’t forget! If you refer a client and that client registers for a VPS or VCC event, you get the appointment of your choice in an upcoming virtual event!
For more information about upcoming Virtual Client Connections events, keep checking the ASJA website’s dedicated page: http://asja.org/Benefits/Client-Connections. Virtual Pitch Slam recordings and future events can be found here: http://asja.org/Benefits/Virtual-Pitch-Slam