One of my least favorite tasks as a freelancer is submitting article ideas to editors, high profile bloggers, and website administrators. It’s time-consuming and can crush your spirits if your idea gets rejected.
Unfortunately, it’s just a part of being a freelancer.
I learned, however, that one of the reasons I dreaded pitching ideas was because I was getting turned down — a lot.
Why bother wasting my time if nothing’s going to come out of it?
The thing, it wasn’t because I had terrible ideas.
It’s because I wasn’t pitching them correctly.
With some trial and error, I got better at pitching — and I learned these seven tips along the way, too:
(1) Do Your Research
Just think about how many emails editors and high profile bloggers get every day asking for guest posting opportunities.
Do you think that they’ll read your entire email if it’s generic and spammy?Do you think editors will read your pitch if it’s generic?Click To Tweet
Give editors some credit.
They know when they’re reading just one of the many copy-and-paste emails that you sent out.
What if you took the extra time to look over their site, read their content, and then offered some feedback?
They might actually read your email and take your suggestions into consideration. And — with that — you could start a conversation that might eventually become a working relationship.
To make that happen, however, you must first know the types of publications that you want to write.
You need to make sure that your expertise and voice are a good match for the website. If you run an Italian cooking blog, for instance, then you wouldn’t waste your time trying to guest post for a leading tech publication, right?
Also, don’t forget to get in touch with the right person.
Sending a general email is probably going to get overlooked. But, sending an email pitch directly to the editor increases your chances of getting noticed.
(2) Pitch an Idea That Only You Can Write
Here’s some great advice from Patricia Marx, who has written for the National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, and The New Yorker:
“I think the most important thing for a writer is to be distinctive and write something that only she could write.”
— Patricia Marx
Let’s say — for instance — you aren’t just an expert on Italian cuisine. You actually lived in Tuscany for five years, and you’re familiar with the cuisine in that specific region of Italy. That makes you an expert.
And not just valuable to a cooking publication, but even to a wine or travel publication. Their readers may also value your knowledge and experience.
Also, attaching previous articles that you’ve written or a link to your portfolio will help prove that you’re the expert that you claim to be.
(3) Pitch a Story, Not an Idea
“Pitch a story, not an idea. [A] story has characters, timeline, conflict. Like a movie!”
— Adam Sternbergh
Great advice from Adam Sternbergh, culture editor for The New York Times.
Your ultimate goal is to explain your concept and how you’re going to make it relatable to the audience.
(4) Create an Attention-Grabbing Headline
David Ogilvy, the father of advertising, said:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
— David Ogilvy
Without a headline that is going to pique the interest of the reader, you can be certain that your email is going to get trashed.
When composing the headline for the story you are pitching, consider the following:
- What titles have worked in the past? A split test can help you determine this.
- Be clear and concise.
- Offer value.
- Use catchy words, such as “5 Benefits of …”
(5) Use the 4-Paragraph Pitch
Once you’ve got your headline down, you want to compose an email body that’s going to hook the editor and prove that you’re the real deal.Craft a pitch to hook the editor and prove that you’re the real deal.Click To Tweet
I’m a fan of Alex Crevar’s four-paragraph pitch, which is the following format:
- Salutation begins with “Dear” and then the editor’s name.
- First paragraph hooks the editor by letting him or her know that your content is timely, something their readers will appreciate, and proves that you’re an expert.
- Second paragraph outlines what the story will be about based on why it’s relevant to the publication.
- Third paragraph opens with, “I propose a story about __.”
- Fourth paragraph explains why you’re the right person to write this story.
- Closing similar to, “I look forward to your response, __.”
(6) Practice the Art of Summaries
I know that sounds like a ton of information to cram into an email…
…but remember that editors are extremely busy and only have so much time to review pitches. The more clear and concise you are, the more likely they’ll read your entire pitch.
Keep these pointers in mind when writing your pitch:
- Why should you write this article?
- Is there any data from studies or surveys that can can back up your views?
- Have you researched the publication in advance?
- What are the main points you want to cover in the article?
- What’s your angle?
Don’t forget to spell and grammar check your pitch, too.
(7) Be Persistent
After you’ve sent out the pitch, don’t just sit there and wait for a response. Much of the time you’ll never hear back from an editor, so keep pitching! Sales is a contact sport — the more contacts you make, the more wins you’ll have.
But if there’s a publication that you really want to be a part of, then take the initiative and follow up with the editor to see if he or she received your pitch.
Just please don’t be pushy.
Politely ask and go from there.
How have you successfully pitched your freelance ideas?
Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments below…
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- How to Write the Perfect Freelance Pitch to Editors - August 15, 2016