Where do freelancers find ideas? Sometimes it’s a shot in the dark

I wasn’t covering the UNH Career Fair last October for anyone. There was no story due in the hours that followed and I certainly wasn’t getting paid. So why did I spend 3 hours out of my day and a couple bucks in parking to attend? I needed some business story ideas.

Finding story ideas is one of the hardest parts of being a freelance writer. I’ve been getting better at it, largely by focusing on publications I’ve worked with in the past. I ask them straight up — what are you looking for? Editors always have a wish list of stories they’d like to publish but don’t have the staff to do it. Simply asking them to share that wish list with you is a huge step toward landing a story with them.

Attending networking and trade events is a tool I’ve used lately in better meeting editor’s expectations. I’m not pitching the event as the story, but instead am contacting the editor before I go and asking him or her — if I were to go looking for story ideas, what should I keep an eye out for? This gives me a list of questions to ask people at the event and helps get me closer to finding a subject worth writing about.

I got the idea for this piece for New Hampshire Business Review after attending the UNH Career Fair last fall. I didn’t pitch the event as the piece, but instead called the editor beforehand letting him know I would be attending and talked about some potential stories that could come out of it — who’s hiring, who’s growing, what majors are in high demand? I got some suggestions from the editor and headed over.

As is often the case when walking into a room blind, what you expect to find and what you actually find when you get there don’t always line up. I spoke with plenty of representatives from out-of-state companies, but didn’t find many local, innovative companies. And then I came across On Call International, a swiftly growing company with a unique business model based in Salem, N.H. I pitched a story based on the editor’s recommendations and landed an assignment.

Attending these events can sometimes be a gamble and don’t always pay off, but I’ve more often than not, I can come up with something an editor is willing to bite on if I look hard enough. You can read a portion of the piece below.

Traveling? The last number you call may be in Salem

Keeping cool heads during a crisis has been On Call International’s mission since its inception nearly 20 years ago. It’s a trait that has served its customers well, helping them navigate their way out of foreign jams big and small. It’s also a trait that has helped the company through some rocky times, bringing On Call International from the brink to recognition as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country.

The travel risk management firm provides a wide range of services for travelers both in the United States and abroad. Whether it’s a medical emergency, an arrest or a lost passport, On Call works with officials and medical staff on the ground wherever the client is located to resolve the situation, sometimes traveling to the customer to bring him home.

Last year, On Call International fielded 500,000 incoming and outbound client calls, and 300,000 emails to and from clients. The company brought home the remains of more than 300 people and sent 400 private jets and air ambulances – equipped with a rescue nurse and medical equipment – to locations around the world to bring clients home.

For the rest of the story, go to NHBR.com.

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