If you’d like to write for us but don’t have a lot of experience as a freelance journalist, follow these tips
One thing we feel strongly about at The Overtake is opening up journalism to people who might not normally make it into the industry because of barriers like their background, financial status or geographical location.
This means, unlike many other publications, we’re open to commissioning people who haven’t done much freelance journalism before. Here’s a quick guide on how to pitch to The Overtake — and it might be useful for other publications, too.
(We’re aware that some of this stuff is the basics for experienced freelancers, but it might help to read it as a refresher and to understand our way of doing things.)
What we’re looking for
We’re looking for original features (ie, stories that haven’t been told elsewhere) covering social issues, insights into other people’s lives, a close up on an emerging trend in popular culture, and investigations. We’re also looking for interviews of well-known people or people who are doing genuinely exceptional things.
At the moment, we’re not looking for articles about party politics, comment/opinion pieces, listicles, reviews, or articles about London.
We will take personal essays about an experience if they’re engaging enough, and we’re particularly keen to hear from working class, BAME, disabled and LGBT+ writers.
We pay a set rate of £50 per article, which we appreciate isn’t lots, but in some cases (usually an exclusive interview or an investigation that requires more work), we might be able to pay more. Just FYI — this is a really good independent guide to who pays what in the journalism industry.
How to pitch
Please email a short description of the piece (mentioning any research you’ve done or people you have spoken to), along with a couple of links to things you have written. If you haven’t had anything published, put some of your work on a blog so we can see what your writing is like.
Please note that academic writing (such as university essays or academic papers) is completely different to journalism. As a journalist, you’re aiming to use the fewest words and the simplest language to tell the story. (If you’ve never written a journalistic article, you might want to contact us about work experience instead. Understand that, while there’s no “standard” route into the industry, professional journalism is a set of skills that are learned and honed. Great journalists make it look easy.)
The links are important as we won’t commission anyone whose writing we haven’t seen.
The best format for the subject of the email is “PITCH:” and then a suggested headline for the piece.
Make sure you know what the story is before you email. For example, “I’d like to look into food hygiene in hospitals,” will be a no. But, “I have interviews or research that suggests budget cuts at hospitals are causing food hygiene standards to fall,” will most likely be a yes.
The difference is that no editor wants to plan for something that might fall through, or agree to pay for something that could end up drastically different.
The most common reasons for rejecting a pitch are:
- Haven’t done any research or identified/contacted potential case studies, or generally the article hasn’t been thought through
- Didn’t send links/writing is terrible(!)
- Something we’ve specifically not asked for (especially opinion pieces)
- It’s a press release, or sounds like one
- It’s not relevant or interesting to an audience of millennials (people roughly 18–35)
When pitching and writing, pay attention to the style and tone of the articles we’ve published recently. It’s to be expected that new writers won’t be bang on, but it should be obvious that you’ve looked at The Overtake’s existing content and tried to emulate it.
Do feel free to send more than one pitch in an email. Once freelancer sent four and had them all commissioned.
We get a lot of pitches and do look at every single one so please be patient, but if you haven’t heard anything in week, feel free to send a follow-up email. We try to reply to every one but at busy times that might not happen. However, as much as we want to commission new people, if you ignore the pitching guidelines, we’ll simply ignore your email.
We’ll ask you to supply pictures where appropriate. Please make sure you have permission from the copyright holder (usually the person who took the picture, not the person the picture is of) and tell us if we need to credit anyone.
Writing and filing your copy
The main thing to bear in mind is that if we’re paying you, we expect you to do a professional job.
We take plagiarism very seriously and check every article. This also means we need original quotes (with the exception of quoting something very high profile, like a prime minister’s speech), rather than words copied and pasted from a press release or another article. If you’re unsure whether a quote a source has sent you is original, Google it.
Please don’t send a “draft”. It should be what you consider to be the finished version of the article. It’s likely we’ll come back to you with a few edits or questions before we publish it but otherwise it should be ready to go.
Meeting the deadline we’ve agreed on is important, so if we suggest a deadline you think is too tight, let us know. Build in a bit of time for something to go wrong. However, every now and again, the sources freelancers want to use for stories go AWOL or freelancers get the flu. Shit happens. Just let us know if you can’t file on time.
Do feel free to submit your invoice at the same time as your article. It needs your name, address, telephone number, bank account number and sort code, the amount, as well as the date and the headline or a one-line description of the piece.
Send your pitches to the editor: robyn (dot) vinter (at) theovertake (dot) com.