Mentoring & 1-2-1 pitching course for freelance journalists

I work with journalists, bloggers, PRs and students at all levels on a 1-2-1 basis, providing general support and career coaching.

I also offer a bespoke online course in ideas & pitching for freelance journalists.

Helping you source and pitch great ideas, the aim is for the cost of the course to be refunded when you get your first commission; we workshop saleable ideas throughout the 4-week course. A delegate in 2015 received her first commission from the Daily Mail before she’d even completed the programme.

Please note: the four-week ideas & pitching course for freelance journalists was originally launched with the fabulous Olivia Gordon in 2010 and has been run independently by Johanna Payton since 2014. Very similar courses have been launched online since by other freelance journalists: but if you’re looking for the original, this is it.

Pitching course for freelance journalists

Ideas & pitching course for freelance journalists

‘It was the best investment I’ve ever made for developing my career. My pitching has been totally re-vamped!’

‘I have been on six Press Association courses and none come close to yours!’

A four-week online pitching course on a 1-2-1 basis

Freelance journalists (new and experienced) who completed this course have gone on to get commissions from national and regional publications including The Guardian, The Times, The Mail on Sunday You magazine, Grazia, Cosmopolitan, The Lady, The Daily Mail, The Express and Take a Break.

It’s a unique and intensive remote course including detailed, individual feedback on your practical assignments, and a 30 minute telephone conference with the tutor, Johanna Payton, at the end.

In effect, you’ll have a personal journalism mentor for the month.

Cost: £250

If you’re interested in taking my 1-2-1 ideas & pitching course for freelance journalists, you can email me to book –

Course outline:

Ever wondered how the bylines of successful freelance journalists pop up in every national magazine and newspaper going?

How do they generate those killer ideas that make their way onto the page? And how do they make sure their suggestions grab the attention of editors who are being bombarded by pitches from freelancers in an increasingly crowded and competitive market?

Most prolific freelancers are not ex-staffers or best friends with the features editor. Plenty of highly-regarded freelance journalists are pitching and selling their ideas because they know how to pinpoint stories that sell to the highest profile publications and can write punchy, perfect pitches that cannot be ignored.

These freelance journalists don’t wave a magic wand – they possess skills and knowledge that can be taught.

From where to source story ideas and working out what kind of features editors are looking for, to knowing how many editors to pitch to at once, this course will take the mystery away from the pitching process and give you the tools you need to become a successful freelance journalist, selling ideas to the markets you wish to target.

This course is popular with experienced journalists and writers, as well as those new to freelance journalism. Whether you’re a pitching novice, or a savvy freelance journalist looking to enhance your pitching skills and up your hit rate, this course will help you become a more confident, professional and successful pitcher. As the course can be completed from your home or office, it’s also perfect for people who can’t take time off to attend an offline course, or live too far away to travel to lectures.

The course tutor, Johanna Payton, has successfully pitched and sold her ideas to a wide and impressive range of publications over the past 13 years. By sharing her own secrets and top tips, as well as giving you a real insight into the workings of an editorial office, Johanna will provide you with top-notch training in the art of sourcing ideas that sell and pitching them successfully.

Although the focus of the course is on the consumer print market (glossy and weekly national magazines and features sections/supplements in national newspapers) the skills you will learn on the course can be seamlessly transferred to niche or trade markets.

The ideas and pitching course for freelance journalists covers the following areas:

Week one: Sourcing ideas; what makes a good story, finding stories and generating ideas.

Week two: Getting ready to pitch; deciding where to pitch, matching stories to publications, pitching checklist, finding the right angle.

Week three: Pitching; crafting the perfect pitch, pitching dos and don’ts.

Week four: Pitching issues; chasing pitches, negotiating fees, writing on spec, handling rejection.

How the course works: 

Every Monday morning you’ll be emailed course notes to study and a practical assignment to practise what you’ve learned, workshopping your own ideas and pitches for features.

You’ll send your completed assignment back to Johanna each Friday, together with any questions you may have on that week’s topic. On Monday morning, along with your new course notes and assignment, Johanna will reply, giving you personal, practical and constructive feedback and responses to your completed ideas, pitches and queries, making sure you stay on track.

The week after you complete the course, you’ll have a 30-minute phone chat with Johanna so you can ask any final questions.

Is this course for me?

As a busy and hard working freelancer, Johanna knows how precious time is, and so this isn’t an excessively administrative course; it is tailor made for those who are working, with busy lives, and to pay serious dividends, whatever your experience.

The correspondence course is manageable and practical; preparing regular pitches is something serious freelance contenders, newbies to the game, or experienced freelancers looking for additional income streams, are willing to do in their spare time. Delegates shouldn’t be spending any longer than an hour or two on each exercise – and there is one exercise per week.

You’ll also need to spend time reading the correspondence lectures, as this is crucial and valuable advice, and it’s advisable to spend an hour or so each week reading and researching. This shouldn’t be too disruptive, whatever your circumstances.

The ideas and pitching course is suitable for freelancers with a little pitching experience as well as those with considerable experience who are lacking in confidence, have made the leap from staff journalist to freelance, or just want a boost. Total beginners are also welcome on the course, though a basic knowledge of journalism pre-course will help you get the most from it.

The course is designed so that you will be pitching out a fully-fledged idea at the end and hopefully getting a commission that (at least) refunds the money you spent on the course.

Doing this course is about understanding the process of sourcing an idea, finding the right publication and crafting the perfect pitch – all this should become second nature with practice and the course is designed to quickly and effectively teach you that process.

What Johanna’s past delegates say:

“I have had two features from the course commissioned and the phone call is a real selling point – a rare opportunity to ask lots of questions without feeling like you’re being a pain!”

“Absolutely invaluable! Essential! There’s nothing left in my new style from the way I was preparing pitches before the course at all! I have loads more confidence. I did half a course in freelance journalism at The City Lit, but learned more from just the first week in this one than all I learned there.”

“The course was over too quickly! Excellent value for money, would have happily paid for another 4 weeks. The feedback provided every week was invaluable and I will undoubtedly refer back to it for many years to come.”

“This is a fantastic course! I learnt so much – excellent support and critique that has really helped me on the slippery slope of establishing a freelance career! I still dig out my course notes on a regular basis and got several commissions on the back of ideas generated as coursework.”

“[The course has] filled in a lot of the gaps I had in my head about the whole pitching process. I think it would be hard to find a course as directly related to the specific areas I wanted to learn about. The feedback on my pitches was really helpful but more than anything I probably appreciated the phone call – there was lots of really useful stuff that came up that I hadn’t really thought about.”

“[The course has] already made a big difference to my attitude. I feel a lot more positive. My pitches are a lot more professional. It’s improved my confidence greatly and has made a real difference to how I approach pitching. I’ve also gained a real insight into the commissioning process, which will help me in future with tailoring pitches & generating feature ideas. I thought the format was perfect: easily digestible modules and homework assignments that really made me think. The course was comprehensive but easy to fit around work.”

“Thanks so much for running this – I think it’s a great course. It is useful to get some reassurance that you’re not going to look daft by sending a certain pitch. Or indeed, to be tipped off that you are going to look daft!”

“[The course] has given me both the confidence and the technique to approach a new range of publications. I really appreciated the detailed feedback, the hints and tips for finding contacts and the checklist to run through before developing a pitch. I loved the pace of this course – with time to think about the course notes and the flexibility to change the pitch I was working on within the course. The personal feedback was fantastic – I was glad it was critical as that was more constructive. Plus, it made the praise at the end feel very motivational!”

“I have been on six Press Association courses and none come close to yours! I think this course has been very useful and I hope to put my newfound knowledge into practice as soon as possible. It boosted my confidence and gave me the push I needed to start approaching editors. That alone was worth the money. When you start out as a freelance it is all a bit of a mystery, so to find out from people already doing the job how to crack the industry was fantastic. The feedback was always helpful and constructive and my questions at the bottom always answered fully. It was a great course and I will be recommending it. It was excellent value for money. The chat at the end of the course is a very good idea.”

“It was very helpful to have so many examples of pitches, good and bad, included within the course notes. The phone one-to-one was also very useful to address my individual concerns. Everything was useful in terms of refreshing my knowledge.”

“I just wanted to share with you the successes I’ve had since the pitching course because it’s all down to what I learned with you. I’ve had a great week this week and have now written two pieces for Take a Break, a piece for Grazia, and have a commission for a piece for YOU. My working life has been transformed by the course and it moved me along from ‘trying’ to be a journalist to succeeding as a freelancer.”

“I studied journalism in a degree that cost $45,000. I found your course much better and more enjoyable – it’s much more focused, practical and professionally-oriented. It’s a good feeling to know you’re being taught by people who continue to work successfully in the field rather than former journalists.”

“The course structure is spot on. The detailed feedback, which was in excess of what I expected, has been really helpful.”

“Your course has given me the confidence to get out there and keep going! I’ve already had very constructive feedback from two editors and that’s just in one week. I had the right sort of ideas but needed to hone them and this course has done that. I now have a blueprint of what to do and how to do it. I’d certainly recommend it.”

“I’ve just got my first ever commission from the Daily Mail! Thank you VERY much for all your help, I never would have got that without doing the course.”

“Thank you SO much for your feedback and the fantasticness of the course – it’s been amazing.”

“This course absolutely transformed my pitching skills. Within weeks of finishing, one of the pitches I’d worked on during the assignments was commissioned by an editor I had never pitched to before. Financially, this more than paid for the course but, more importantly, it gave me a break into a new publication and a relationship with an editor I hope will commission me in future.”

If you’re interested in taking my 1-2-1 Ideas & Pitching course for Freelance Journalists, you can email me to book –

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