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On turning down pitches

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CONTINUING our series of pieces on pitching stories, we present this from Heidi Scrimgeour, a freelance who commissions for Psychologies and for http://Goodto.com as well as contributing to the Guardian, Telegraph, Mother & Baby and more. Heidi first posted these thoughts on turning down pitches as a Twitter thread; we reproduce it with, of course, permission.

IT'S TIME for some #pitching chat. I've turned down some excellent pitches lately. Fascinating features ideas. Compelling, artful pitches. Relevant to the readership. Freelancers doing everything right.

But there are only so many pages to fill per issue...

This made me think about the times I had an idea turned down that I thought was a corker. How dejected and disillusioned you can feel. How much it makes you doubt your pitching skills. What a waste of time it felt like.

I try to reply in a way that conveys: "it's not you, it's me."

And I add "I hope you get this commissioned elsewhere" or "I'd love to read this piece" - because I mean it. I'm often a bit disappointed that I can't commission it. But your name and / or the idea usually stays with me. Which means I'll think of you when we need a freelance.

So it's really not a waste of time. You're getting your name known and stretching your pitching muscles. You're honing your ability to dream up a great feature. These are skills that benefit from development, like any other. And if the "no" is warm it encourages you to pitch again.

That really means the editor likes your work and want to see more of it. That's a massive success. It doesn't pay the bills, I know, but it's a brick in the slow building of a freelance writing career. Pitching is not a waste of time. Keep at it!

I have one caveat: a brilliant idea pitched well IS a waste of time if it's not a thing we'd ever publish. For example if it's of the current moment - monthlies commission four months in advance, so what's current now probably won't be then - OR if it's just not the kind of topic we cover. For that you can't beat a flick through the publication to check.

If you haven't picked up a copy for six months, do not pitch. That is a waste of time!