Let me guess.
You’ve sent out a gazillion email pitches, but you keep getting rejection slips. Or, worse, no responses at all.
Why does everyone except you seem to know how to write a pitch that lands high-paying jobs or guest posts on prestigious blogs? Is there some secret they’re not sharing?
Meanwhile, you can’t even crack the content mills and low-quality job boards, your confidence is zapped, and your freelancing career is sputtering to a halt.
It’s not like you’re trying to pitch the New York Times. But when the only writing gig you’ve landed this month is an ad for a boot scootin’ club, you know you need help.
Thank goodness you found your way here.
Knowing How to Write a Pitch is a Surefire Way to Grow Your Freelance Writing Business
Let’s be honest. No one likes cold pitching. It can be icky and time consuming.
But it can also be very rewarding. And whether you’re a freelancer starting from scratch, or a seasoned, full-time writer looking for more freelance jobs, there’s no better way of getting your foot in the door.
You see, most high-paying clients and popular blogs don’t need to go looking for writers (and they certainly don’t advertise on job boards). They can take their pick from the copywriters, journalists, bloggers, and freelance writers who approach them directly with a well-crafted pitch.
In fact, if you don’t know how to craft a good pitch, you could be stuck in the content mills forever.
That’s why we want to give you all the do’s and don’ts on writing pitches that’ll impress, along with easy to follow tips, and plenty of pitch examples you can steal and adapt for your own use.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
Ready to jump in?
The 8 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make if You Don’t Know How to Write a Pitch
If you haven’t had much luck pitching, my guess is you’ve probably made one of these 8 common mistakes. And if this is your first time, avoid these at all costs.
1. Lead with Your Full Bio
Sad to say, editors and clients aren’t interested in you. They only want to know what you can do for them, and that you can deliver what you promise.
Include a couple of sentences summing up who you are – like an elevator pitch or a tailored version of your bio — but don’t give them your life history.
2. Be Vague
Don’t make them work too hard. Tell them why you’re writing, give them a clear summary of your story idea or proposal, and show them you’re the right person for the freelance writing job by linking to relevant clips. Don’t waffle on about anything else.
3. Write Long-Winded Emails
The people you’re emailing are busy professionals. You need to respect their time by keeping your pitch succinct and relevant. If you bore them with unnecessary details, you’ll never get past first base.
4. Copy and Paste the Same Pitch to Different People
This is a real no-no.
Editors and clients have different needs, audiences, styles and niches, all of which you need to address. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all pitch template. Please feel free to use any of the examples in this post as a framework, or for inspiration, but make sure you tailor the details to suit.
5. Show Your Lack of Experience or Confidence
If you don’t have any relevant clips or experience in a certain niche, don’t pitch them. Start with what you know. Your pitch needs to ooze credibility and confidence (even if you have to fake it to start).
Don’t say, “I think I could be a good fit for your publication.”
Try something like, “I have hands-on experience at parenting and have previously written about nutrition for toddlers.”
6. Ignore Submission Guidelines
Most publications have clear directions for submitting a story idea. Always make sure you follow these directions; otherwise, your pitch will be rejected.
Search for guidelines on their website or try Googling “submission guidelines: [name of publication]”.
7. Attach Anything to Your Email
This adds a layer of annoyance for the editor or client. They don’t want to open attachments and have to read more. They want you to get to the point as quickly as possible.
Plus, attachments are a red flag to IT security systems and your email could end up in spam.
8. Provide a Finished Draft
While some publications may ask for a finished draft, most prefer to hear about your story idea first (which is why it’s so important to check their guidelines). If they like the idea, the editor is likely to make some changes to your original outline. Presenting them with a finished piece before they’ve asked for it won’t do you any favors.
Now you know the mistakes to avoid. Let’s talk about the ingredients you should include in your pitch.
The 8 Essential Ingredients of a Freelance Writer’s Email Pitch
1. Research, Research, and Research
This is vital. Get familiar with the publication’s style and tone of voice. Know who their readers are, what topics they’ve covered in the past and what their most recent focus is. Identify the gaps you can fill.
Likewise, with clients, do your homework. Crawl through their website. Check out their Tweets and Facebook page. Set up a Google Alert to get the very latest news or announcements. Then wow them with a pitch that speaks directly to the problem they have and how you can solve it with your writing skills.
2. Know Who You’re Pitching to
Don’t address your email to “Dear Sir”. It’s lazy and generic. Editors and marketing executives all have names and email addresses, which are not that hard to find.
The easiest way is to pick up the phone and ask who you should send your pitch to. You could also use a tool like Hunter.io or go to LinkedIn and do some digging. It shows you’ve done your homework and you care enough to get the details right. And when you address a real human being, you stand more of a chance of your pitch getting read.
The exception to this rule is when the publication’s guidelines tell you to email your pitch to a generic address, or via a submission form. In which case, do what you’re told.
3. Write a Zinging Subject Line
Your subject line needs to grab their attention and compel them to open your email. Test a few techniques like these:
- Keep it brief. Data research suggests 7-9 words is optimum.
- Use their name in the subject line to catch their eye. For example: “Mary, I have a great pitch for you.”
- Use a headline that shows you’ve done your research and you know what their readers want. Example: “Story Idea: How to Train Older Dogs“
- Speak to their pain points. “Jeff, need help keeping your blog up to date?”
- If you have been referred by a mutual friend or associate, use their name. “John Brown suggested I drop you a line.”
Whatever you do, keep it professional. Your aim is to get your email opened, not have it redirected to spam.
4. Include a Hook
The aim of the hook is to demonstrate you understand their audience or business needs and you have something fresh to say. You want to get them nodding in agreement, eager to know more. Ideally, your hook should appear as close to the start of your email pitch as possible.
Here are some ideas:
- Spark their interest with a question: “Is social media marketing a priority for your business right now?”
- Stroke their ego: “Your recent post on knitting for beginners was fascinating. I have a great story idea that will expand on the topic of how to read knitting patterns and increase your blog’s authority in this niche.”
- Let them know you can solve a current problem for their business or audience: “Did you know 90% of millennials worry they’ll never be able to get a foot on the property ladder? My story idea shows your millennial audience how attainable home ownership really is.”
5. Get to the Point and Be Relevant
Now they’re hooked. You have to reel them in. Here’s how:
- Get to the point: What’s your suggested headline or proposal? Go straight to this after your opening and keep your email as brief as possible. It’s okay if you need to take a few paragraphs to explain your pitch. But don’t waffle.
- Be Relevant: Make sure everything in your pitch is relevant. Don’t veer off course. Don’t tell a food blog about your philosophy degree. But, if you’re a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, that’s something you should include.
6. State the Benefits of Your Pitch
This is one of the most important ingredients. How is your pitch going to help the editor’s audience or the client’s business? How is it relevant or timely? What gives it an edge?
For instance, if you’re pitching a client you might say something like, “What would it mean to you if I could help boost traffic to your website and open the door to more sales?”
Doesn’t that sound more enticing than, “I’m an SEO writer and can help you rank higher on Google with some improvements to your website content.”
Or, if you’re pitching a parenting blog, spell out how your story idea is going to benefit their readers? Like this:
“COVID-19 has presented parents with a new set of challenges. This timely post will explore how collaborative parenting leads the way in a pandemic and gives them techniques they may never have tried before.”
Be clear and direct about the irresistible benefits of your pitch.
7. Tell Them Why You’re the Best Person for the Job
They’re sold on your idea. Now you need to sell them on you. This is where you get to boast a little, but make sure everything is relevant to the topic you’re pitching. Here’s what you might include:
- Your experience in (or passion for) the niche.
- Your experience as a freelance writer in the niche.
- Any qualifications that add to your credibility on the topic.
- Links to a few of your best writing samples and published pieces to illustrate your ability.
“I have been a freelance writer for 2 years and a passionate advocate for animal rights for 10 years. I’ve previously been published in [names of relevant blogs or publications] and my clips include [add links to 2 or 3 relevant clips].”
What if you don’t have any published clips? Don’t worry. Link to your own posts in Medium or LinkedIn. Even unpublished samples in Google Docs will do fine.
If an editor or client loves your idea and you can demonstrate your ability to write and your relevancy to their niche, that’s all that matters.
8. Make it Really Easy for Them to Follow Up
It’s amazing how often freelancers forget to include their basic contact details. Sure, the editor or client has your email address, but sometimes people prefer to pick up the phone, so give yourself every advantage.
Include your phone number and location so they know what time zone you’re in. Better still, create a professional email signature, with all your contact details and relevant links included.
If you happen to be in their hometown, this can also be an advantage as many clients prefer to use local freelancers. So, in this instance, tell them you’re available for a face-to-face meeting any time.
Now that you know the mistakes found in bad pitches and the essential ingredients to include in good pitches, let’s go over how to write a pitch to editors (for blog posts) and clients or hiring managers (for freelance writing jobs).
Up first, how to write a pitch for blog posts:
How to Write a Pitch for an Article or Blog Post (With Example Pitches)
Firstly, follow all the do’s and don’ts we’ve outlined above. They apply to all freelance bloggers, article writers, even authors of personal essays, op-eds, creative writing assignments, and opinion pieces.
But there are two more key components you must include when you’re pitching a story idea to a blog editor.
1. Be original
This is crucial. Editors are looking for relevancy and originality, and we’ve already talked about the importance of relevancy.
So, what do we mean by originality?
- It’s never been published anywhere else. It must be offered exclusively to the publication you’re pitching (until they reject it and you can move on to the next editor with the same idea).
- The story idea fills a gap or presents a fresh, new perspective their audience will want to read.
That’s why research is so important. You may think your idea is sparklingly new, but you need to be sure of it before you pitch. Go back and look at the posts or articles they’ve published on the topic. What new angle can you use that will add value to their readers?
For example, say you’re pitching a health and fitness blog which has published a few posts about push-ups. You need to make your story idea original by pitching an angle they haven’t covered before. Something like this would work:
“Your readers already know that push-ups are the perfect exercise for multiple muscle groups. But what if there’s a new approach to the humble pushup that could transform their body in 30 days.”
2. Pitch a great story, not a topic
If we take the previous example, the topic would be “push-ups” but the story is how a new approach to push-ups can transform your body in 30 days. See the difference?
Another potential topic is “the growing popularity of motorhome vacations.” But if you tried pitching that as a story idea, you’d be rejected. Where’s the angle? What makes it different?
What about this:
Example of a Story Idea Pitch
Motorhome vacations are becoming increasingly popular, and increasingly expensive. But there’s a new movement of motorhome vacationers who have found a way to travel the country for $1 a day, or even for free. This article explores the little-known benefits of RV relocation – the return or transfer of hire vehicles. It includes an interview with the fleet executive of XYZ Van Hire, and the Murray family who traveled in an RV from Palm Springs to Toronto without paying a dime in rental fees.
Do you see how this gives the story idea substance and a new angle? It also tells the editor the plan of action for tackling it which shows them you’ve thought it through and who you want to interview. These are the trademarks of a professional freelance writer editors love to work with.
Now let’s pull it all together and show you a full example of a pitch email to an editor using all the tips and tricks we’ve covered:
Full Example for a Blog Post Pitch
Hi [name of editor],
I am an avid reader of your blog and loved your recent post on puppy training. But this got me thinking about the challenges of teaching older dogs, which is often overlooked. I have a story idea that will add a new dimension to your series on dog training techniques and help readers who are concerned about the apparently strange new behaviors of their aging dog.
How to Train Older Dogs When They Go Off the Rails
As they age, dogs start to physically deteriorate. Their eyesight and hearing get worse, their memory suffers, and – like humans – they get tired and cranky. And sometimes, they display new and unexpected bad behaviors. This post explores the reasons why your older dog may be changing, how to recognize the signs and how to re-train your dog when he goes off the rails.
I intend to interview Dr John R Smith, renowned veterinary surgeon for his insights into physical changes; and Peter Smith, a dog behaviorist and trainer for his surprising take on how you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The main takeout for your readers will be the comfort in knowing their ageing dog isn’t beyond help, they’re not bad owners, and there are some easy techniques to correct Fido’s newly acquired bad habits.
About me: I’m a freelance writer with 3 years’ experience, and passionate dog lover. Some of my recent and relevant clips are [Name of clip], [Name of clip], and [Name of clip]. My website and further details are here.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear back from you soon. Please feel free to email or call — my phone number is […] and I am based in […]
Take this example, tweak it, and make it your own.
How to Write a Pitch for a New Client as a Freelance Writer (With Examples)
Once again, follow all the do’s and don’ts we’ve outlined above. With a couple of exceptions, they apply to client pitches as well.
When you’re first starting out, there are two kinds of pitch emails you should consider: the proposal, or the general introduction.
The Proposal Pitch
This is where you cold pitch a client with a specific proposal in mind. Think about all the writing services you offer and how these might benefit the client you’re targeting: case studies, landing pages, blog posts, email campaigns, and so on. Now match these to a prospective client based on the research you’ve done.
For example: Maybe the client’s blog hasn’t been updated in months, or their “About Us” page on their website could do with an overhaul.
Or you think a business who sells complex software might benefit from some case studies to better explain their product and boost sales.
The proposal pitch should identify the problem, without being over critical, outline the solution, and highlight the benefits. Keep it short, polite, and professional.
Full Example for a Proposal Pitch
Hi [name of client],
I’m a freelance writer and a great admirer of your business. I noticed you recently expanded your product line into the consumer market. Congratulations.
I know this because I was interested in purchasing your [product name] myself, but got a bit lost in the technical information on your website. It occurred to me a couple of case studies might be the perfect solution to help demystify the complexities of the product and boost sales to less techno-savvy buyers.
I have experience in writing case studies in your industry and some of my recent and relevant clips are [Name of clip], [Name of clip], and [Name of clip]. My website and further details are here.
If this idea is of interest, I would be delighted to discuss it with you to scope out a brief and likely fee. I look forward to hearing from you — my phone number is […] and I am based in […]
The General Introduction Pitch
You may not have a specific project in mind for the client you’re pitching, but you want to get yourself on their radar.
In this email you’re going to give them a general feel for your services and find out if they ever use freelancers.
They may not need you today, but if they like your approach, they may consider you in future. So, as ever, treat them like a fellow human being and tailor your message to pique their interest.
Full Example for a General Introduction Pitch
Hi [name of client],
Congratulations on your recent expansion into the consumer market. This must be an exciting time for you, and I’ve been watching your new marketing campaigns with interest.
I’m a freelance writer with experience in your industry and I wondered if you ever have the need to outsource any of your content marketing or copywriting activities – especially as you are targeting new consumer market segments.
I specialize in blog posts, web content and email campaigns and some of my recent and relevant clips are [Name of clip], [Name of clip], and [Name of clip]. My website and further details are here, and I am also an occasional guest on an industry podcast that may be of interest to you.
Incidentally, the last clip resulted in a Page #1 ranking on Google and a significant traffic boost to my client’s website.
I’d love the opportunity to do the same for [name of business], so please feel free to reach out if you think I can help, either now or sometime in the future. My phone number is […] and I am based in […].
A Final Word on Pitching
I hope we’ve inspired you to rethink your approach to pitching and spurred you into giving it another try.
Tomorrow, start fresh.
Pick your mark. A local business, or a blog that’s right in your pocket. Do your research and pitch them with an idea that’s relevant and original — something their audience or business is going to love.
This time, you’ve got the ammunition you need to avoid the mistakes, include the right ingredients, and pitch with all the confidence and credibility you can muster.
But always remember, pitching is a numbers game.
The more you do it, the better you will become at crafting those winning pitch letters and emails and landing the high-paying writing gigs and blog posts you deserve. I promise.