Whether you’re diving into a freelance writing career or are simply doing a bit of independent journalism on the side, if you want to land assignments, you’ll need to spend a lot of time sending pitches.
This process can be frustrating and time-consuming, but following the suggestions below can help improve your odds.
Research the publication
Put your backgrounding skills to the test when selecting a publication to pitch. Put some time into this. Make sure you know your way around magazine, newspaper, or website. Be familiar with which publications and sections use freelance writers, and don’t pitch stories to a publication or a section written entirely by staff reporters.
Check out the section for advertisers on the publication’s website, which will give you more information on its readers’ demographics as well as any themed issues. You can also look at social media to see which stories the publication is promoting.
By the time you’re done with this, you should have a good sense of the section(s) you’d like to pitch, what the average word count is, what the general tone is, and when you might pitch one publication over its competitors.
Researching the publication includes poking around online and in social media to find out pay rates and to see if there are any ongoing lawsuits or difficulties that writers have had with the company.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to check to see if the story you want to pitch has been covered recently, and what makes your particular angle unique and fresh.
Pitching the story
Editors have their own preferred pitching styles, but there are some tips that seem to apply across the board. It’s best to start with a headline and a lede. Editors get a ton of emails, so make sure to get their attention and draw them in.
Then, you’ll want to include your nut graf, why you think the story is relevant and timely, who you intend to interview, what research you’ll draw on, and any experience you have covering the topic. If it’s a new-to-you publication, some pre-reporting for the pitch is a good idea. You can reuse any quotes gathered during interviews for your pitch in the story itself.
If it’s a new-to-you editor, you’ll want to introduce yourself at the end of your pitch. Include links to two to three stories in the subject matter you’re pitching. If you don’t have any relevant clips, make sure that your pitch is well-written enough to assuage any editor concerns about your writing.) Your pitch should match the tone of the publication.
Many editors are hesitant to open attachments, so try to include your clips as links to URLs if at all possible rather than attaching the files.
If you haven’t heard back from your editor in about two weeks (or sooner if your idea is time-sensitive), it’s a good idea to follow up with a quick note. The editor may not remember your particular pitch, so it’s best to follow up in the same email that you’d already sent so that they can quickly scroll down to view your original pitch.
After following up a couple of times, it’s okay to move on by tweaking your pitch and sending it to another publication.