Trisha Andres is a journalism associate at the Press Association. She is a writer specialising in digital media, books and culture. Trisha’s website and books-related blog can be found on

The world of freelancing is sometimes a bit like a secret society. Those who inhabit it guard it closely. Those starting out are deterred even from joining because they have no connections in the industry.

But you don’t need contacts and it doesn’t have to be so daunting for the absolute beginner, says freelance journalist Catherine Quinn in her new book, No Contacts? No Problem! How to Pitch and Sell a Freelance Feature.

A how-to book, it guides the novice freelancer and shows him/her the freelance ropes: from the processes editors use to commission new writers through to how to get clips if you don’t have any under your belt.

The book covers writing the perfect pitch, the importance of chase-ups to establishing the tone of your feature, how much to expect to be paid, and working with PRs. Quinn divulges crucial information that may seem simple enough, but which most beginners may not know and which more experienced freelancers may not be so willing to share.

For the absolute beginner, this is an insightful resource that’s as readable as it is helpful. For current freelancers, it is a good book to help you re-think your pitching strategy.

We talked to Catherine Quinn about her book and what makes a successful freelancer.
So, what sparked the idea for No Contacts? No Problem!?

When I started out freelancing I read every book out there and was really frustrated that nothing seemed to give the real 'insider info'. I was desperate to know what exactly you needed to send to editors in order to get commissioned. So I felt really strongly that there should be a book on the market which spilled the beans on this secret info and show people with no prior connections how to get published.

How important is having a decent portfolio in securing that first commission?

I actually don't think it’s important at all in actually getting commissioned. But your confidence is a very valuable resource, and first-time writers often feel much more confident knowing they have professional clips to show editors.

What do you find is the most effective approach in chasing up pitches?

Take a deep breath, stand up tall, smile and pick up the phone. You learn much more by doing the brave thing and speaking direct to editors.

What databases would you recommend to help the freelancer track and manage pitches more seamlessly?

You can waste a lot of energy if you don’t keep track of where your brilliant pitches have been sent. And it can very quickly get hard to remember who got what. I developed d:lance to help new writers and more established freelancers capitalise on their efforts.

How important is deciding on a specialism when starting out freelancing?

There are different schools of thought on this one. I would say it's useful to help build better pitches and keep on top of news in one sector. But it does no harm to have a few different specialisms.

Is it a prerequisite for a freelancer to have a website to showcase his/her work?

I can’t speak for every editor but I certainly look at other freelancers’ sites when I’m commissioning. But it's by no means a prerequisite.

How does a freelancer bounce back after a rejection and get back on an editor's good books?

There’s no reason why you should be on an editor’s bad books because you've had some ideas rejected. Personally I just politely give my thanks for an editor taking the time to reply and keep sending ideas out.

What's your message to aspiring freelancers?

Always remember that the popular notion of needing 'contacts' to get to the top really is a fallacy. Journalism is much more of a meritocracy than people like to make out.

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