Dear Freelance Dude,
Cold pitching game reviews to a new outlet you’ve never worked with before is one of the toughest things you can do as a freelancer. Since reviews editors at most publications already have a stable pool of experienced freelancers they’re accustomed to working with — writers they know will hit the bullseye in terms of deadline and quality — they’re often less inclined to try a new person out unless they’re in a pinch or are understaffed. Sometimes they may be in a position where they’re looking to bolster their freelance roster, but getting on their radar during one of those rare moments of need is a real crap shoot.
“Anyone” can write a decent review, or so the argument goes, and while that’s not necessarily true, you’ll find it’s much harder to stand out as writer pitching a review vs a writer pitching a unique feature idea. Pitching features remains one of the best ways to break into any new gig. Period. However, once you establish yourself at a publication, making the leap to writing reviews and other content for an outlet is typically as easy as asking your editor for an introduction to the person in charge of assigning reviews.
If you’re still inclined to cold pitch reviews, you’d better be prepared to make a compelling argument for why you’d be the best person to tackle the review — while at the same time making a brief introduction and providing links to relevant clips. Specializing in a genre that’s less popular among many reviewers, like sports games or MMOs for example, can sometimes help your case a bunch. Other factors, like having access to debug hardware, early code, or advance copies of games will also help. Your pitch should be short, sweet, and focused on why you’re the person for the task.
All of this changes when you start talking about scoring reviews with outlets you already have your foot in the door with. Thankfully, once you’re more established in the freelance world and have a solid list of editors you regularly work with, pitching reviews becomes a much more streamlined process. For editors I already have a strong working relationship with, I often just send a short casual e-mail asking about reviewing a certain game. Sometimes I’ll highlight my expertise with a particular genre or franchise, but that’s about it.
Most of the bigger outlets will provide you with a review copy, ask you to pick one up and bill them for it, or give you the PR contacts needed to hunt down any review materials you may need once you’ve received an assignment. Other medium and smaller outlets may sometimes expect you to fend for yourself or obtain review games at your own expense, which can seriously cut into your profits from the assignment.
It’s a good idea to gradually build up your own PR contacts over time and get on as many mailing lists as possible. Then when you get a PR blast for a game you’re interested in covering, it makes it a lot easier to figure out who to contact about review materials. You’re also more likely to obtain review copies and codes from PR if you have a firm assignment in-hand for an outlet.
The Freelance Dude
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