Advertisement
Freelance

4 Steps to Create a Great Pitch and Sell Your Writing

by

One of the constant struggles of freelance writing is finding work, and gigs in the print world (and, increasingly, online) require writers to pitch their stories to editors.

As a freelance writer, your pitch is your greeting card, your foot in the door, and, hopefully, your meal ticket. Because editors don't usually have time to review full articles, those queries will likely affect the bottom line more than your writing itself.

That said, it pays to know how to sell yourself and your ideas: in other words, how to quickly craft compelling pitches.

Step 1. Start out strong

Think about your proposed article. What is its driving force? Is there some intriguing question which the story is trying to address?

Distilling the article's focus is essential, because this is how the most successful pitches begin. Hook your audience by stating the main thrust of your article in one or two irresistible sentences. You learned about the importance of capturing your reader while in middle school; only now your income—not just a grade—depends on it.

Step 2. Tell a story

All the work spent determining the essence of your article in step one will come in handy here. Briefly outline the proposed story while keeping the basics of narrative in mind; this is likely your only chance to sell this editor on the idea. As you flesh out the specifics, be sure to mention key points: central issues, what you already know as well as what you can figure out, and (when appropriate) if you have contacts who can lend their authority or add new dimension to your story.

Step 3. The 3 whys

a. Why here? If it's not immediately apparent why your story belongs in the publication to which you're pitching, clarify that now. Editors want to know you've thought about their audience. What makes your article interesting or useful to this publication's readers? If your target is a smaller subset of the publication's demographic, explain how the publication as a whole will benefit from running the article.

b. Why now? Just as many publications are aimed at specific groups of people, so too are many driven by time-sensitive content. Skiing articles should be kept for winter months (or whenever is appropriate due to editorial lead time—i.e. the delay from pitch to publication), while news-centric stories should be pitched as quickly as possible, while still allowing for a well-crafted query.

c. Why you? By now, just from your pitch, the editor should be able to see your ability to weave a story. But word-wrangling will only get you so far. In the Internet Age, when anyone with a computer can turn out content of dubious quality, credentials matter. What makes you uniquely qualified to write this article? Do you have certain school/job/life experience which makes you, if not an expert, at least credibly informed on the subject? Don't be modest; here's your chance to sell yourself as the guru you are.

Step 4. Back it up.

If all the self-flattery you did in the last step wasn't enough, you're in luck! Now it's time to present the priors: the names of prior publications as well as prior published articles called "clips". If the publication to which you are submitting has writers' guidelines, check them to see if clips are preferred via URL links or as attachments. Also, keep your priors down to 2 or 3; listing too many publications for which you've written will make editors' eyes glaze over, while any clips over 3 or so will at best go unread or at worst show off less than your top work. Remember, if you have good clips related to the article you're pitching, by all means include them. However, quality clips always trump related ones, just as a few quality clips are better than a vast quantity of them.

A final tip: Know your buyer. Directing your query to "Whom it may concern" isn't your best bet for making a good first impression. Then again, neither is sending material to the editor-in-chief when it should really be addressed to, say, the entertainment editor. Always verify which person at your target publication deals with the subject of your pitch, and then look up their name; "Dear Ms. Austen" sounds a whole lot better than "To the Entertainment Editor." If your idea is strong and you follow the steps above, that editor may just call you back.

Haidn Ellis Foster is the editor for the general-interest web magazine The Hatchet.

Related Posts
  • Business
    Communication
    Writing Speeches That Grab Your Audience from the Opening Sentence6 preview writing speaches to grab your audience
    Writing a presentation is a daunting task. You wonder: Will anybody listen to me? Will anyone remember the ideas I share? Can my presentation really make a difference? The answer to these questions is yes, yes and yes. That is, as long as you've got to grips with basic presentation skills and you give your presentation a solid structure. Let's look at the structure you can use in your presentations to grab attention from your opening line.Read More…
  • Business
    Blogging
    A Proven, Step-by-Step Process for Managing Multi-Author BlogsManaging multi author blogs preview
    When it comes to running a multi-author blog, one of the biggest challenges is in the content: soliciting, editing and publishing it.Read More…
  • Business
    Planning
    Unlock Your Superpower: How to Bottle Your Business Passion2 unlock your superpowers
    In this new Tuts+ series on business planning, our aim is to help you strategically inject energy into your business. Your passion for your business is an amplifier to your success, without it even the best plans will fall flat. That's why we're unleashing articles on falling in love with your business and unlocking your business superpowers, with more on the way.Read More…
  • Business
    Marketing
    How to Pitch a Guest Post (Email Template Included)Preview photodune 3948501 email concept xs
    Guest posting on blogs is a fantastic way to build brand recognition, establish yourself as a credible expert in your field, and drive traffic to your website. Guest blogging champion Danny Iny bulit his Firepole Marketing business through the power of guest posting on popular blogs. I've established my name as a freelance writer through guest blogging. I've won regular writing gigs on a number of blogs, most of which started by pitching a guest post. In this tutorial I'll guide you step-by-step through the process of pitching a guest post to a blog. You can use this technique for pitching to any blog in any niche. Even if you never plan to write a guest post, it's worth learning how to pitch by email. Pitching, after all, is how you sell your services and expertise to clients.Read More…
  • Business
    Freelancing
    10 Effective Marketing Strategies for New Freelance WritersPreview
    When you're a new freelancer, it can seem impossible to get anybody to hire you. It's easy to feel like you can't get a job without experience, or experience without a job. But you can break the cycle of being brand-new at this by marketing your budding freelance business. Concentrate on finding better-quality clients, and you can move up quickly and start earning a real wage. Remember that every successful, six-figure freelancer out there today once started with no samples or experience. Somehow, they managed to build their portfolio and start getting lucrative assignments -- and you can, too. Which marketing strategies work for new freelancers? Here are my 10 best tips:Read More…
  • Business
    Communication
    Query Letter vs Letter of Introduction: Which to Use WhenPreview
    Here's something fun about being a freelance writer: If you want a gig writing an article for a magazine or a newsletter for a business, you can get it, even without a lot of experience. How? You can send that market a short pitch letter or email and land the assignment. The trick is knowing exactly how to craft that message, so that it impresses the editor or marketing manager and gets you hired. I've critiqued heaps of these pitch letters...and most of them aren't very compelling, to put it mildly. I'm not surprised when the writer tells me they're not getting a lot of responses. This means if you learn how to write strong pitches, you can stand out and snag a lot of assignments.Read More…