It doesn’t seem to matter how many times you send a freelance writing pitch. You continue to meet with rejection. Worse still, a lot fail to garner a response at all.
How is it that so many people successfully land guest spots on major blogs and write pitches to secure big contracts and high-paying jobs? There’s obviously a secret and it feels like you’re the only person who isn’t in on it.
It seems impossible, doesn’t it? Selling a story, especially after a long series of rejections. Does it help if I say it isn’t personal? Of course, it isn’t! It might, however, be down to your pitch. We all know that getting clients is essential as a freelancer, but how do you get them? The good news is that the secret is an open one and you can follow a formula to keep it right.
First of all, are you sure that you’re sending your pitch to the right place? One of the most common reasons for rejection is that you’re reaching out to the wrong editor or worse, the wrong publication altogether.
So, before you click send (and before you write at all), figure out which publication is writing for the story you’re working on.
How can you possibly be sure?
Know your subject matter and know the publications that are equipped to publish them. If you feel a publication is right, but it isn’t one you’re well-acquainted with, then take some time to read their content more before you pitch.
You’ll recognize patterns in what they offer and this is something you can use to your advantage. If there’s nothing like your story? You’re looking at the wrong publication and wasting everyone’s time.
What type of story are you working on? Having a strong sense of what you’re working on will inform more than just which publications to contact. It will help you form the content of the pitch and how to write it, too.
If you do a quick Internet search to find the right length for a pitch you won’t find one answer. The reality of the situation is it will depend on the editor. Irrespective of length, some themes stand regardless.
- If you’re pitching a short story, then a short pitch is more than sufficient. You don’t need more than a paragraph or two to pitch a listicle or a news story. Aim to say it in a hundred words or fewer.
- If you’re pitching a personal essay then match the voice of the essay and keep it short. The personal touch that’s weaved through your essay should be present in your pitch. After all, you’re selling yourself.
- Unsurprisingly, the longest pitch comes for long-form story pitches. It’s going to take substance unless you have an existing relationship with the editor. It still depends on the editor, of course. Some may be perfectly happy with 300–500 words, while others want something weightier at over 1,000 words.
Writing an incredible freelance writing pitch won’t do much for you if the editor doesn’t open your email. That’s where the headline comes into play. You have to get descriptive with the subject and mimic a headline.
The reader needs something clickable, whether it’s eye-catching or highlights the important information (the who and the what of it). Before you write it, think about what would make you click.
Regardless of length, there are basic questions you have to answer within.
- Who is the story about?
- What is the story about?
- Where does the story take place?
- When does the story take place?
- Why does this story need to be told?
The most successful freelance writing pitch begins with who — who are your characters? Explain it within the first sentence. This is your opportunity to hook the reader in, just as you would with a story.
Unless you’re dealing with a listicle, analytical essay, or similar, there’s a plot. What is their goal? What is the obstacle? How will they overcome it? These basic elements form the plot of your story and your pitch needs to highlight these points.
Where did it happen? Has it already happened or is it going to happen? This is something you might explain in your opening along with who your story is about. It doesn’t matter whether it happened, is happening, or will happen, your story should be grounded in a place and time.
Why is this story important enough to share with the world? This is perhaps the most important part of the pitch because it’s this that will convince someone to bite. Think about it in these terms:
- Is the story about a widely debated issue?
- Is the story going to shed light on injustice, unknown or otherwise?
- Or is the story of national concern?
- Is the story something that could impact policy decisions on a political spectrum?
- Ultimately, the question is who does this story affect? How does it affect them? And why does it affect them?
The Sales Pitch
At the heart of your pitch? Persuasive writing.
You can make your pitch more convincing by employing factual support, imagery, and emotion.
Often, writers forget to use references when they pitch. You can punch yours up with citation links and journal articles. You don’t want to provide unnecessary information or give the entirety of your work away, but citations will help support your point.
You can make use of descriptive language to immerse the reader in your story. Remember, go easy it’s just a sample. Think of it as an amuse-bouche versus a three-course meal. You want to provide them with a taster that leaves them wanting more.
Emotion, done right, is irresistible. Use emotional impact to do the job versus emotional language, as in touch on drama, peril, families, romance, pets, or children.
What’s at Stake?
The stakes are internal to your story and revolve around what the world will lose if the character fails. If your story isn’t current, you’ll need to highlight why it’s so important that this story is told now. Is there a relationship between it and national news? Is it an investigative story? How does it tie in?
Finally, why are you the writer to tell this story? What got you interested in it, is it in your field of study, is it in your community? What’s your connection to it? An editor will want to know. If you can provide links to relevant stories you’ve written in the past, this will bolster your pitch.
Even the most perfectly crafted freelance writing pitch can fail. Sadly, there are plenty of mediocre pitches editors fall for if there’s an exciting or salacious subject at hand. When an editor reads a pitch and wants to know more about the story, if it sounds entertaining, if there’s potential, then they’re likely to reach out.
That’s why research at the early stages of your pitch writing is so important. It ensures you put your pitch in front of the right people. The biggest reason for failure is missing the mark on pitching the story. You can’t sell an idea if you don’t develop the narrative around it.