A freelance journalist's pitch becomes much easier if an editor knows who you are before you approach them.
On the whole websites are a good way for publicising yourself. Last month I had an approach from a new (to me) magazine with a £360 commission - they had found me through my website which only costs around £20 per year to maintain (excluding my own time and there is not much of that involved).
If you are not a savvy designer and cannot afford to get a professionally built site there are a lot of basic web packages out there that can be used to get you some presence in cyberspace.
People with Macs can download RapidWeaver from Realmac software - although you can also get Apple's own iWeb for a similar price. A site using something other than the market leader will give you less of an identikit look.
When putting the site together, it is worth getting input from non-journalists. I had had lots of complements about my site but only when I showed it to someone outside the trade did they tell me that it looked like a vanity site.
"It's not clear whether you're telling PRs about your commissions, asking editors to give you some work or just showing off," he said.
His answer was to start off with an over-arching page with buttons saying 'editors enter here', 'PRs enter here' and divide the rest into sub-pages.
Getting people to your website is not the art that it was - link to as many colleagues and relevant sites as you can. The reason for this is that they will probably link back, and Google - by far the most popular search engine - prioritises websites in search results according to how many other sites are linking to them. Link to loads and you are likely to come out on top of your search.
Make sure you have a decent web address and email address too: a service like Easily.co.uk will reserve whatevernameyouewant.co.uk and for £9.99 per year (that's what I pay for Clapperton.co.uk and for another tenner they forward mails addressed to Guy@Clapperton.co.uk to firstname.lastname@example.org or wherever else I want it).
Having a 'serious' web address works well when you are selling corporate writing skills rather than straight journalism. The clients are likely to be PRs or at least in marketing and they respond to a bit of image. The rewards can be high: with luck you can ask for 100 per cent more of a word rate than you would get in the ordinary media; but you will also get twice the hassle in instances where clients like what you write but 'it's not quite what they had in mind'.
Content is essential if you are trying to promote yourself; this is where a lot of journalists' blogs and websites fall down. Many of them only list the journalist's achievements and the places where they have been published. But a potential client will want to know exactly what they will be getting if they hire you. So some examples of your writing, a description of your methodology, an indication of your rates are all additional information that might help you land that deal.
Some journalists find the blog invaluable rather than just helpful. Blogger and freelancer Graham Holliday said that the last three commissioning editors he had contacted prior to this article being researched all knew him through the blog.
The trick, as always, is to have something to say on a blog before you set one up. Costs can be minimal; if you have an ISP which offers web space and a package like the ones mentioned above, you will have everything you need already paid for.
However it is best to avoid writing just anything. Better to set up a 'clippings' page for links to published stories instead of just blogging when you have a story in the national press - and keep it up to date so people know you are still active.
It might be worth noting that my own success rate in selling ideas on the strength of such links shot up when I took my friend's advice and put the first paragraph of each story on my page as well as a link to the full version.
Simone Castello, a freelance sub, spent her first few months methodically putting a database together and then offering her services to fill the breach immediately someone was advertising.
She kept her database up to date by scouring mastheads and browsing internal contact lists whenever employed on site somewhere; more recently she became involved in an online forum for sub-editors to enhance her profile.
One hint she offers is to keep an eye on ABC lists. "You know how a magazine is doing," she says - and you wil not be offering your services to something in danger of imminent collapse.
Yet not everything is down to technology and the established ways of building contacts are often undervalued.
Simon Read, personal finance specialist for the People, has tried a lot of the online approaches but still finds most of his work comes from personal contacts made by talking to people. He has appeared on TV and radio by ensuring he's at the right parties and filling the right glasses with champagne.
"I've tried all the usual sort of things like online listings and found a much better bet is the personal approach, going to events and making yourself known to people," he said.
Press parties and press conferences are all opportunities to make yourself known as well as getting a story - have a stock of business cards and put a photo of yourself on your website so that people will recognise you when they find the card in their pocket and can't remember who you were.
Robert Schifreen, a former editor turned freelance, is another one for the traditional approach.
"By far the best way for journalists to publicise themselves to me is to send me ideas for articles or stories, accompanied by links to previously published work," he said.
A side effect of much of this sort of self-promotion - and nobody else is going to do it for you - can be that the requests for TV work, radio work and public speaking will increase. This is fine but depending on your field the money can be terrible. The thing to remember is that this can still lead to more work, albeit indirectly.
Mr Schifreen said: "I guess it's all brand building and if someone wants a security expert for a conference then my name is likely to be in their mind."
Overall there are no rules but it remains important to remember that nobody is going to market you for free and just sending floods of business cards and mailers to editors who are already flooded with PR material is unlikely to work. A more tailored, creative approach across many fronts is likely to produce better results.