Eleven branch members signed up to the first NUJ professional training course to be organised right here in Oxford. Anne Hall (@AnneHall222) was one of them and reports on the experience.
The NUJ’s famous Pitch and Deal course came to Oxford a few days ago and the timing couldn’t have been better for me. I’m new to Oxford and returning to freelance journalism after teaching English, so I’m a bit of a newbie in more ways than one. I snapped up my place on the course and only wish I’d done it sooner.
Long-standing freelancers and course trainers, Louise Bolotin and Phil Sutcliffe are used to doling out advice, support and encouragement by the bucket-load and I was relieved to find it wasn’t just me who needed a bit of a kick-start to get my ideas to pitching stage.
Our group of nine included several experienced journalists looking to venture into the freelance world. Others, like me, are keen to revisit our journalism careers after a break and some are experts in their own field and need advice about writing for a specialist market.
What we all had in common were plenty of good ideas but a serious lack of confidence about the best way to pitch them. Phil and Louise didn’t waste any time getting stuck in to help us and it wasn’t long before furniture was moved around and it became clear the role-plays were going to start.
Despite initial nerves, they proved to be really useful both for those taking part and those watching from the side lines. “I found this part of the course terrifying at first,” someone confided to me afterwards, “but it really made me think about the essence of my story, exactly what I was trying to sell and how I was going to do it.”
It’s all about facing up to the fear and Phil and Louise know that however experienced a freelancer is, this is often the hardest part so we were well and truly put through our paces. Yet there was an open and supportive environment during the role plays, encouraging discussion, asking pertinent questions, helping us to think about improvements. There was plenty of laughter too as we all had the chance to play commissioning editor as well as having to pitch our ideas.
As we worked our way through different role plays – pitching on the phone, discussing a fee and getting the best deal in terms of money and usage rights – something magical happened – it got easier!
At the end of the day I noticed a lot of relieved smiles and more confident faces and we all agreed the best part of the day was definitely the role plays. They’d forced us all to work on getting our ideas over to an editor in the shortest possible time and get the best deal for ourselves.
What’s even better is that the group bonded so well, there are plans to keep in touch about our progress with pitching and keep the spirit of support and encouragement alive and well. Other NUJ members in the area trying to build freelance careers are welcome to be a part of that and if you’d like more information, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org