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Meet the Freelancer Who Will Give You His Contacts and Secrets

By Yael Grauer December 1st, 2014

When he’s not busy writing articles for mainstream media outlets, veteran freelancer David Hochman can be found running UPOD, which stands for “Under promise. Over deliver.” UPOD, which started as a listserv in 2003, has turned into UPOD Academy—weekend-long workshops where Hochman invites editors to speak to small groups of writers and helps each participant hone and polish article ideas.

Hochman, who’s been published in The New York Times, Esquire, GQ, and Fortune, had previously taught workshops about freelance writing for Mediabistro. He launched UPOD Academy after attending a TEDActive, an event featuring a live simulcast of the annual TED Conference. “I saw how much you could do in these breakout sessions in a couple of hours with people, talking about your goals and making stuff happen,” he said.

For freelancers, making stuff happen takes time. We have to build relationships with editors and clients, and most time, just finding an email address can be a challenge, let alone actually securing work.

I attended UPOD Academy in Los Angeles earlier this month and was struck by how quick Hochman was to share contact information for editors—including those he’s currently pitching. “I just think there’s plenty to go around,” he said. “They’re all out there, it’s just a matter of asking around. So why not just give that up front?”

This attitude may be prevalent in small circles, but usually not on a mass scale. Anyone who’s been to enough conferences geared towards freelancers is familiar with a radically different scenario: writers cutting lines to engulf editors trying to leave the room, interrupting other writers they see as competitors rather than allies.

To foster a sense of community and camaraderie, Hochman also produces a series of podcasts, called Pod Nights, that sometimes run more than two hours and feature seasoned professionals talking about themes like “Cracking the A-list” and “How to Make Editors Love You.”

Hochman is quick to point out the hard part of freelancing isn’t finding contact information. “You can get the contact for any agent in the world, but will they sell your book for a million dollars? Not necessarily,” he said. “You still have to have the work and talent and ideas behind it all.”

He believes if writers spend some time reflecting on people who helped them along the way, they’ll be more conscious of the importance of guiding new freelancers. “Think about who’s helped you and how important that’s been. Think about how it felt to be mentored by someone or to have someone share something with you, go out on a limb, and take a chance on you. If you think about that and how it’s applied to you, it’s easy to start feeling more gracious about sharing with others.”

Hochman pointed to Jamie Malanowski, a former editor at places like TIME, Esquire, and Playboy, as someone who helped him along the freelance path: “He was just so willing to connect me with editors and take a chance and give me emails and introductions, and that really mattered.”

Years later, Hochman isn’t concerned about training potential competitors. “There’s enough room for everybody, if you’re good,” he said. “I will continue to work until there’s no more work to be had, and others will too.”

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