By Amy Green
The Web is amazing. In recent months I’ve reconnected with my first boyfriend in high school and a childhood playmate I carpooled with in preschool. I’ve also connected with journalists in Austria, Tokyo and Taiwan.
When I wanted to know how to break into The Guardian I e-mailed my Austrian contact who had written for the London-based paper for advice. I e-mailed my Tokyo contact when I was shopping a story involving Asia. He suggested two publications, and I made a sale.
This week I got an e-mail from a laid-off journalist in Cleveland who wanted to know how to freelance. She mentioned an assignment she had done for AFP, and I asked her for a contact. Today AFP is my newest client. When she asked for contacts at The Christian Science Monitor and Religion News Service I happily shared.
This is how our business works. In a newsroom information is shared over the low walls of cubicles. For us it is shared over the Web.
Early in my freelance career I worried about sharing such information. Wasn’t I in competition with every other freelancer? Well, yes. But the truth is it is a small world and the way I see it, it would be a lonely world if we were unwilling to help each other. I am glad to help you because a lot of people helped me along the way, and I never would be where I am without those people. I am glad to help you because perhaps you’ll help me in the future.
Of course be careful. Don’t give away your business. I e-mailed a freelancer recently for a contact, and he gave some general helpful information but declined to be more specific. The economy is what it is, and I understand that. Don’t share the information if it would put the other person in direct competition with you or jeopardize your business in some way. You’ve worked hard to acquire your contacts. Be smart.
If you are trying to break into a publication try Googling the names of its current writers. What are their backgrounds? How did they get into the publication? If someone has experience that seems interesting or similar to yours trying e-mailing the person for advice.
Who knows where they will lead, besides back to old boyfriends?
Amy Green is chairwoman of SPJ’s freelance committee. She freelances for PEOPLE, Newsweek and The Christian Science Monitor, among others. Her Web site is at www.amybgreen.com.