Episode 27: Contract Work with Patty Tiberg
Patty Tiberg is a cornerstone in the niche publication industry. Rising through the ranks at Cowboy Publishing and on through Morris Media Network, Patty is the vice president of the company’s Equine Enthusiast Group, which houses such publications as Barrel Horse News, Quarter Horse News, Reined Cow Horse News and Western Horseman.
A fellow graduate of Texas A&M University, as well as a founding member of TAMU’s Equestrian Team, Patty is a wealth of knowledge and has become a trusted resource for both of us as we have worked with her over the years. We’re excited to share what she has to say about contract work in equine media, and how freelancers like yourself can score such a gig.
First off, I saw your daughter had a great eventing show recently. Talk about being a horse show mom!
Patty has a Western background and she finds her daughter’s horse shows very fun because they’re so different from the industry she works in. She loves watching her daughter show.
The equine publication and media industry is ever evolving. While you have a deep pocket of talented writers based in Fort Worth, in the past few years the publications seem to be more open to utilizing folks not living in the metro area, both full time and freelance.Howdo the equine publications under you incorporate freelance work—both writing and visual/photography/video?
The digital and social media platforms have been a catalyst. Cowboy Publishing editors are needing “backpack journalists” more and more, that can do print writing, photography, online and social media—and now video. Expanding the freelance and contract worker pool has helped them meet their needs.
What are some qualities you look for in someone to fit in at one of your publications?
In a niche publication like those in equine media, it’s critical that the writer understands the industry and be an expert in that field. For Patty, that makes it important to find the right people – either in the office or on contract or freelance—that have that industry knowledge for those assignments. A freelancer with deep knowledge of a particular aspect of the Western stock horse industry is an ideal candidate for Cowboy Publishing assignments such as event coverage.
Can you talk to us about how contract work has found a place in equine media? How has this type of work evolved during your time in publications?
It has become a challenge to find qualified candidates willing to relocate to work in an office. And the amount of content needed does not always match the budget for staff. The advent of digital and telecommuting, and other factors means contracts with freelance journalists have taken a greater place in the Cowboy Publishing.
Additionally, the freelance industry has evolved to encompass more contract work because skilled freelancers have carved out niches for their careers, and publications want to utilize those talents.
What makes an ideal situation for contract work with a freelancer for your publications?
Hiring a freelancer for contract work at Cowboy Publishing is similar to the process of hiring a staff member. You’ll go through a similar process as hiring – submit a cover letter, resume, writing samples and mention in your cover letter that you’re looking for part time or contract work rather than a full-time position.
In addition to in-house staff, Cowboy Publishing does have full-time employees that work remotely—in sales positions as well as editorial. A qualified candidate out-of-town may have a place on staff, but more frequently today, they would be on contract.
For freelancers, it’s best to submit a story idea/pitch, photos for consideration, reaching out to the editors for an assignment. Involvement in the horse industry is required, as well as good references.
A couple of questions from our Freelance Remuda Facebook Group If a freelancer signs a contract with your publications, is there ever room to work with other titles or is it exclusive?
Cowboy Publishing has some in both situations—some contract workers do not write for publications that are “direct competitors” as outlined in their working agreement. Freelancers are not typically limited in this way.
Another question from the group: Are contracts forged with photographers too, or is it mainly writers? What determines a photographer as a good fit for this type of gig?
At Cowboy Publishing, contracts with photographers are infrequent, outside of event photography, but not prohibited. Most of the editors either work with a freelancer or contract person to take photos for the article. There is opportunity there to forge a contract work relationship, but it’s not as frequent as contracts with writing. Patty says it’s a great idea for freelance writers and freelance photographers to team up to gather content that is the total package for the magazine.
You can send a sample of your work to the editors so they can keep a database of photographers. There are projects such as the Western Horseman calendar and books where freelance photography work is welcome.
There is a lot of opportunity to contribute written, photo and video content to Cowboy Publishing across multiple platforms, and Cowboy Publishing is always keeping an eye out for talented freelance work.
Don’t be afraid to pitch ideas for online photography – slide shows, etc and compelling video storytelling. Digital revenue has become a huge focus for the media group, so if you have a good blog post or series that could be promoted by one of the Cowboy Publishing magazines, that could be positioned with ads or sponsorship around it, that generates revenue, which allows the publications to compensate you. If you’ve got an idea for a blog or a photo series or video, pitch it!
How can a freelancer go from being unknown to a trusted contract worker?
Networking is huge. Fellow members of the Freelance Remuda are good resources to connect and find the right avenue to contact the editors. If you don’t have that connection, contact the editor for the publication you want to pitch, and CC Patty.
Facebook group question – how does negotiation work for contract or freelance work for Cowboy Publishing?
That’s mainly the responsibility of the editors, as they know their editorial budgets and needs. Each publication has its own parameters for payment for freelancers and contracts.
Do you have any advice for freelancers looking to carve a niche in equine media? How can they help themselves stand out?
Be a backpack journalist – be able to offer more than one service, such writing/photography/digital content. If you only offer one thing, pitch something unique and creative.
Anything else you’d like to share?
One of the factors for an increase in contract work for Cowboy Publishing was a tax code change for compensation at the end of 2016. Due to these changes, the company moved employees making under a certain pay threshold to hourly. This impacts staff that needs to travel—the company has to pay overtime for travel, and as many of the magazines do a lot of event coverage, that can quickly rack up costs. It is now more cost-effective for the company to hire freelance or contract work to cover these type of assignments.
Are you looking for freelancers to cover events, as maybe a way to get their foot in the door with your companies?
Absolutely. Cowboy Publishing also publishes The Cutting Horse Chatter for the National Cutting Horse Association and Reined Cow Horse News for the National Reined Cow Horse Association. Between those two publications, Quarter Horse News and the National Barrel Horse Association’s Barrel Horse News, Cowboy Publishing is always looking for freelance writers to cover all the events. It’s a great way to get in the door. NBHA’s website is going to be overhauled soon, with increased need for freelancers. And the company is also working with The Road to the Horse for content and photos.
Where can listeners learn more about Cowboy Publishing?
*Special thanks to our podcast episode editor John Harrer of The Whoa Podcast!