The most important actions you can take when waiting for a response to your pitch.
I think I speak for everyone when I say waiting for a response to your pitch sucks.
Waiting is not an uncommon experience for writers. If you’re not waiting for an editor to get back on a proposal, you’re waiting for payment, for the article to get into print, for the edits to come through, for the source to return from vacation, for any number of things in a given day.
The hardest wait for freelance writers is when it’s waiting for a response from an editor on an idea that is timely, and of course, marketable elsewhere.
While you’re waiting for a response, here are a few things you can do to keep from losing your mind.
1. Send invoices
That work you completed last week and didn’t invoice for? Do it now. Most writers, including me, admit to being complete louses when it comes to accounting, paperwork, and most other forms of simple organization. In fact, I once had an editor follow up with me, asking, “Hey, don’t you want to get paid? Where’s your invoice?” So while you’re waiting for that genius idea to sell, send some paperwork through.
2. Research more ideas
You do have an idea file, don’t you? If you don’t, get one. It can be a binder with several bits of paper or a notebook where you jot down random thoughts. I have two. One’s a notebook where I write everything that ever pops into my brain and the other is a selection of stories that I actually plan to execute in the next year. I cross them out as they get done.
If you do nothing else while waiting for a response, start thinking about the next story you want to work on.
3. Send out the rejects
It’s likely that you’ll have at least a couple of pitches that have come back rejected, but that you haven’t sent out again yet. Do that now.
4. Study the market
Read. Go to the library and browse through obscure titles. It might give you ideas for new pieces, or you might find a publication that you can write for. Either way, just make a habit of reading new publications and websites in your downtime. It’ll help in your marketing, and it’ll also make you a better writer.
The periods of waiting for a response are typically the times when I’ll go on an organizing mission—I’ll rename all the files on my computer, I’ll create folders and actually sort stuff into them, I may even finally look at that ever-growing stack of papers on my desk. You don’t have to go all in, if that’s not your style, but while you’re waiting for the green light on a project is a great time to tidy up your workspace and get things in order.
6. Intensify your marketing efforts
This is also a great time to keep the momentum going. Pitch more! What better way to spend the time waiting for a response than by pitching more and selling more? I send out queries in batches. When you’re having a good submission day, it’s a fantastic idea to make use of it and send out as many pitches as you can.
7. Work on a personal project
If you have no deadlines, you’ve marketed your ass off, and your idea notebooks are full to the brim, make use of this time by working on personal essays or stories that need to be completed before they can sell. You need to finish writing an essay before you can submit and sell it, so in the periods after I’ve done intense marketing and am waiting for my schedule to fill up, I’ll work on first drafts of essays and humor pieces.
8. Hone your skills
There are a lot of changes happened in the writing and publishing industries (AI, anyone?), and keeping up-to-date on trends in the marketplace is important. Get up to speed with them in your downtime. Learn how to write faster. Sell more efficiently. And negotiate better.
Editors can take weeks, sometimes months, to get back on ideas sent their way. Make sure you’re doing something productive in the meantime.
While you’re waiting for a response, you could also read a series of free case studies I’ve put together that detail how I broke into The New York Times, how I sent pitch after pitch (and received rejection after rejection) before becoming a regular writer for TIME, and how I made more than $10,000 from a single story in a year. Yours for the taking. For free. Sign up here.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more. She is the founder of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators. Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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