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Alison Fromme has tracked rattlesnakes, witnessed dynamite blasts, and eaten goat stew while on assignment for national magazines and regional publications, including Backpacker, Discover, Pregnancy, and Mountain Home Magazine. She has also created educational materials for the New York Times Learning Network, PBS, McDougal Littell and many others. Alison lives in upstate New York, where she founded Ithaca’s Food Web, a hyperlocal website publishing local food news and commentary on topics ranging from crop disease outbreaks to school lunch reform. Alison is currently the Project Manager for The Science Writers’ Handbook.

5 responses to “Keeping irons in the fire”

  1. Chris

    I enjoyed your post, Alison. I like the idea of budgeting a few hours per week for pitch development, funding applications, or whatever activity would otherwise go by the wayside. I’ve struggled to do that. When I’m on a big project, that’s all I want to do. I would also advise finding a small bit of regular freelance that comes to you from a client you can count for, say, one day a week, or one week a month, or whatever you can find/tolerate). For me, it’s a freelance fact-checking gig.

    A few years ago, I was despairing about how much of an uncertain scramble freelancing still was, even after 15 years as a professional (now 18). I brought this up to another freelancer, far more experienced and accomplished than myself. His response, “That never goes away.” It comforted me in a strange way. At least I wasn’t doing it wrong.

  2. Alison

    Thanks, Chris. You’re right that the uncertainty never goes away, but, as you’ve found, it helps to have a client you can count on.

  3. Bethann

    I totally empathize with the “too many ideas, not enough time” vs. “too much time, not enough work” dilemma. Lately, I’ve been concentrating particularly on developing the visual side of my business (illustration and photography for science & sustainability), which means having to allocate extra time to grow that element while still maintaining the writing and editing I already do.

    I’ve developed a list of target publications and clients, and I’m working my way through them. I pitch a couple a week and keep track of the responses, as well as any new targets, in a Google Doc. It is amazing how proactive this makes me feel, just knowing I am making progress on building connections. I’ve also had some great breakthroughs, some planned and some utterly unanticipated. Those definitely help maintain the momentum.

    I also do something like what Chris suggested. I write about science, sustainability, etc. for a city newspaper. It’s regular work, and I’ve built up a beat that didn’t exist in that paper before. It’s great to know that they’ll send me assignments and are open to most of my pitches, too.

    It means that I have to budget my time, to ensure it all gets done, but I find I am at my most productive when I don’t have big gaps of downtime. The tricky part, now, is helping people in the city who know me as a journalist for that one paper to understand that I work for myself, so I’m potentially available to work with them.

  4. Alison

    Bethann, I like your idea to track your targets and their responses — even if you get a “no,” you can still see that you’re making progress. Glad that it’s lead to some breakthroughs!

    1. Bethann

      Alison, I’ve found tracking the results (no and maybe, as well as yes) does a few things for me. First, I can see that I am achieving (mostly) my goal of reaching out to 1-3 new contacts per week. Next, when I update that spreadsheet, I scan back through the previous contacts, and can spot who might be due a polite follow-up. Third, it helps me keep track of all those queries and pitches, which is key for when someone seemingly randomly contacts me. Knowing that I reached out to them once upon a time is a big plus. I know what I said, what I offered, and even if they’re no longer at the company where I contacted them, we have at least that initial correspondence history to build on. Finally, keeping track of the “no thanks” responses is helpful for refining my pitches, and for remembering that it’s really not personal. They’re not declining ME, I simply didn’t offer a service or product they could use at that time. Getting rejected is part of this game, and if I didn’t see that as a pattern, I would be mighty tempted to take it more personally.

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