I used to hate the thought of pitching for freelance writing work.
A long time ago when I was a student, I briefly (very briefly) had a part-time job cold-call homeowners to sell them kitchens.
To emphasise: these weren’t qualified leads. I called people who were happy with their kitchens – who had never expressed dissatisfaction with their current set up – and tried to persuade them to get a whole new refit.
Yeah, people hated me. People hung up, shouted at me, got upset. I didn’t sell many kitchens.
I was a student and desperate for beer and pizza money, but even I could only be demoralised so many times. I think I lasted a week. If that.
I mean, selling kitchens. By cold-calling. Please.
What has (not) selling kitchens got to with pitching for freelance writing gigs?
When I quit my job to become a freelance writer online, I didn’t want to pitch for freelance writing gigs because I equated it with calling people in their homes (probably as they sat down for dinner) to persuade them to have an entire room of their home ripped out and replaced.
It didn’t exactly inspire me to take action. I didn’t want the rejection. I couldn’t handle it.
I soon figured out this was purely an emotional reaction though. And old emotional reactions that no longer serve a purpose can be looked at, scrutinised and (on a good day) rationalised and eliminated.
When it came to pitching for freelance writing work, the cold hard facts looked more like this:
- Unlike those unsuspecting homeowners, companies online actually need what I’m offering (ahem): a consistent source of quality content to attract and engage customers. So not kitchens.
- I can actually do all of my pitching over email so I don’t have to pick up the phone once. *smug smile*
- A kitchen is a (large) one-off purchase. My pitching efforts were all about developing a long-term relationship with clients and adding value to their business over time.
The last one on that list is super important. As I say time and again – and again in the How to Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer Online course – pitching for regular clients is usually how you make a full-time living as a freelance writer online.
Individual freelance writing gigs are handy though – for your bank balance and your confidence as a writer. They can also lead to the holy grail of regular work.
How to pitch for freelance writing gigs
Your approach for each of your pitches will naturally differ, because it depends on what sort of writing you’re offering and what sort of client you’re pitching to.
But you can use the following as a sort of universal pitching checklist: tick each one off before you hit send on that email pitch.
1. Research the client
Obvious? Yes. Often skimmed over? Double yes. It doesn’t matter if you perpetually pitch for individual freelance writing gigs or to potential regular clients, nothing is more important than having an understanding of the company/publication you’re pitching to.
This means researching general information about their business/blog/etc, but also identifying any challenges they may be facing. You can then address these issues in your pitch. (Clever, huh?)
Tip: Follow your potential clients on social media and get to understand what’s important to them. Some writers call this: ‘stalking potential clients’. I call it: ‘being thorough’.
2. Get a contact name
Find out the name of the relevant person you need to address in your pitch – and then address them. Your pitch should appeal to the actual person you’re pitching to, and include any pain-points, concerns or issues that individual may be facing.
Yup, this is where all that research comes in.
Tip: It doesn’t harm to drop in something about saving them time, money or hassle in some way. Bonus points if you include a way for them to impress their boss. Everyone wants to impress the boss. (Apart from the boss-boss. But only because she doesn’t have a boss.)
3. Respect people’s time
Keep your pitch short and get straight to the point. (I know you already know that.) Try to summarise your idea or angle in the fewest words possible.
Tip: Bullet points are good. Huge masses of dense grey paragraph? Not so much.
4. Know your worth
Pitching for freelance writing gigs and regular clients can be a bit of a tightrope walk.
You need to make clear your unique skills and abilities as a writer and expert on the topic. You need to sell the benefits of hiring you. But don’t act desperate. Those people trying to eat their dinner while I tried to sell them kitchens could hear I was desperate. You’re not desperate. There are other clients out there. Know your worth.
Tip: Introduce yourself and your ideas in a way that leaves the person you’re pitching to informed of what you can offer but excited to find out more.
5. Structure well
The best email pitches begin with a hook to draw the reader in to your idea or angle, followed by a mini-synopsis and links to examples of your work.
Sign off by thanking the recipient for their time (see tip 3) and directly ask for a response. Be polite, but don’t give your potential new client a chance to leave your email in their inbox for a month before downgrading it to the trash can come zero-inbox spring-clean season.
Tip: Include suggested titles of any blog posts/press releases/IDK-whatever in your pitch – even in the email subject line if it makes sense to.
Do all that when you pitch for freelance writing gigs and you’re well on your way to freelance writing success. No phones, no unsuspecting homeowners. And definitely no kitchens.
Get pitching templates I have used (and that have worked), plus step-by-step instructions on how to earn a living from freelance writing online, in the How to Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer Online course.