Chris Evans | Editor of The Set Pieces

Our next guest is the editor of The Set Pieces and freelance journalist, Chris Evans.

Photo credit: Nick Dawe

Hi Chris, thanks for speaking to Freelance Football Opportunities today. Can you tell us about yourself, your journey and how you ended up as the editor of The Set Pieces?

My story is probably quite unusual because I haven’t taken a particularly well-trodden route to this point. I did a degree in sports journalism, but despite keeping my hand in after graduation, my main income has always been away from football writing.

I took a job at a content marketing agency and worked as a writer and editor on projects for loads of different clients over the years, including the likes of Speedo and Tesco. I even bagged industry awards and shortlists, but it just wasn’t what I really wanted to do, which was football writing.

I’d been freelancing alongside my agency work — most regularly for FourFourTwo — so decided to go part-time to make time to start bridging the gap. Among a number of extra things I picked up included becoming editor of The Set Pieces (who I already wrote for).

Some prospective football writers may find themselves in a similar position as you did. Was taking a different route a help or a hindrance?

In a weird way, I’d say it was a huge help — aside from the obvious time constraints. While I worked on some really cool projects agency-side, I also had to work with some smaller clients too. But that helped me hone a really strong sense for a story because I was mining for diamonds in the rough and finding ways to make less-glamorous stories appealing.

I then applied that to finding football stories. That’s probably how I managed to become a regular contributor to FourFourTwo’s magazine because I hunted down stories that wasn’t on anybody else’s radar. One of my favourites was about the Brazilian non-league side that were led by a pastor, who was trying to bring young pros to England from South America by playing in the lowest tier of the football pyramid. I also got to know Brighton boss Graham Potter back when he couldn’t get an interview for jobs in the Football League because I was writing stories about his work out in Sweden.

It might sound old school nowadays, but I’d hugely recommend any young writer to go and learn their trade working on something that’s not football first — go and get those skills first and things will come back to you eventually because you did.

That sounds busy, so what does a ‘normal’ week look like for you?

A lot of plate spinning. But I’m used to it now and happy to do extra because it’s what I’m passionate about. The weeks can change depending on what I’m working on at the time, which can fluctuate. The aim is to eventually to work exclusively in football, but it has to strike the right balance.

What is the most enjoyable part of your role?

It’s hard to pick only one thing. But I still get a massive buzz when I unearth an interesting story and when something I’m proud of it published. I get as much enjoyment from digging out those quirky stories as I do from talking to big-name players or managers.

When did you know you wanted to work in football?

Probably when I was at college as a teenager. I’d never really thought about what I wanted to do before then, but when it came to picking a degree and spotted sports journalism as an option, I was sold. Is writing about football really a job?

Who are your favourite writers at the moment and what do you think it is that makes them so brilliant?

One of my favourites is Rory Smith because not only is he incredibly considered in what he writes and says, but he also pulls out some brilliant offbeat features from time to time too. Sure, the elite clubs and players draw a lot of attention, but there’s so much football out there, I love to read a really well-told tale about something I’ve never heard about too.

I’m also a big fan of Miguel Delaney. He’s another who is intuitive and is very entertaining too. The king of the comment piece!

What general advice would you give to those individuals looking to pursue a career in football writing/journalism? What are the key skills required?

Always listen if someone is giving you advice. You might not agree with them or even follow what they say, but if they’re trying to pass on some of their experience to you, there’s probably something in there that will help you or make sense eventually.

My biggest piece of advice for individuals trying to make their mark is to find a niche. Anybody can sit in their bedroom and churn out an analytical piece on something they watched in the Premier League last weekend but, frankly, who cares what you think? If you’re an expert on a particular subject, have found your own story or have gone out to get an interview, that’s worth so much more.

As the editor of The Set Pieces, I’m sure you’ve received countless pitches in your time. In your opinion, what makes a good pitch? Any key advice you can share with freelancers at the start of their journey looking to pitch their stories/ideas to editors?

It leads on from my point above. Pitch something different and really sell it to me because if I don’t believe in the idea with seconds of opening an email, isn’t a reader going to do just the same if I commission it?

That said, it’s important not to get too downhearted. You do get a lot of nos in this game, especially when you’re starting out — but sometimes it’s worth just asking why it’s a no so you can learn from it and come back with something better next time. I pitched to FourFourTwo for nearly three years before I finally got a yes, so perseverance does pay.

As you know, we often feature opportunities from The Set Pieces in our newsletter. You are currently looking for a freelance social media person. Can you tell us more about this opportunity for any of our readers it may interest?

We’re looking for somebody to lead up our social channels on a part-time, freelance basis. It’s an area we’ve fallen behind on (which is probably my fault) and so we’re after someone who is passionate to pick up the baton. We want someone who is a bit different and a distinctive style to help us stand out a bit more in the social space. We’ve also got an interesting launch coming on The Set Pieces later this summer, so it’s hopefully an exciting time to get involved.

And finally Chris, where can people find you on social media?

I can be found at @ChrisEvansWrite on Twitter. If you need any further proof that I need help on the social media side of things, just look at my numbers on there! But don’t be put off following, I do have some fleeting moments of inspiration.

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