One thing that almost every new writer struggles with at some point is how to write a pitch that gets noticed and lands the gig.
If you find yourself sending query letters left and right with little to no result – let alone response – then it’s time to take a new approach. These are all tips that have helped thousands of writer’s land better quality writing gigs. Ask any editor, blogger that accepts guest posts, or even experienced writer – these seven things all play a huge part in a writing a successful pitch.
1: Get Personal
The first thing you want to do when pitching an editor is know who you are talking to. If possible, find the name of the editor you’re writing to. Most of the time you can do this with a search of Google, Twitter or LinkedIn.
You should also do your best to send your pitch directly to the editor you’re looking to talk to – save the firstname.lastname@example.org email for when you absolutely need it. (That should only be when you cannot find an editor’s email or connect with them on social media, or when the publication specifically instructs you to send pitches to such an address.)
Finding the editors name and addressing them personally will both stand out and show them you’re serious about writing for them. If you’ve got some other history with the editor or the publication, feel free to point that out in your introduction.
2: Follow Directions
This goes hand in hand with only using an email@example.com email when you are specifically instructed to do so. Many blogs and online publications have guidelines for their guest posts and have an editor that reviews pitches on a regular basis. If they have anything specific that they like to see included, make sure to send it.
This might seem obvious, but this is somewhere a lot of freelancers make mistakes. It could be a certain number of relevant links, a headline and full outline or just a brief blurb about your idea. If you are replying to a call for writers, a job listing or something similar, then following directions are even more important. Sometimes, editors will tell you to put a specific subject line, so they know not to ignore your email when it comes in.
Keep a look out for any and all instructions when looking at a publication’s contribution guidelines – and then double (even triple) check that you’ve followed them all before sending your pitch.
3: Include Your Headline
Again, it might seem obvious – but you should include your potential headline in your pitch. Don’t just send along a generalized idea, do your best to be as specific as you can be. Give them an idea of what the article will look like published on their blog by giving them a headline to work with.
Many writers will suggest that you put the headline in the subject line of your email if nothing is required to be there. If you’ve written a good headline, it will get the editors attention from their inbox – intriguing them enough to open your email. If it was good enough to make them click, why wouldn’t their readers click too? See where this is going?
If you don’t include a potential headline in your pitch, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to impress an editor. You’re also not giving them enough of an idea of the story you’re trying to sell them. Headlines are powerful, let yours speak for you.
4: Get to Know the Publication
If you’re pitching a publication you read regularly, then this won’t take you very long at all. You already read their work, so you know what sort of thing they publish – make sure that what you’re pitching fits. Taking a few minutes to look over other pieces that have gone out recently or around a similar topic to yours and see if what you’re pitching makes sense.
You should also do a quick search of the subject you want to write about – just to make sure they haven’t published anything too similar already. After all, you don’t want to waste your time or theirs – if they already have something similar, then pitch them another idea and save that one for someone else.
It only takes five minutes of scanning headlines on an unfamiliar publication to get a feel for what they usually put out there. You should also poke around their “about” section and look at any contributor guidelines they might have posted on their website (see #2!).
5: Showcase Experience Briefly
This is good news for most of us – who really don’t want to “sell ourselves” even if we know we need to. You don’t need to spend forever listing off every publication or client you’ve ever written for – keep it simple and relevant. If you have experience writing about (or firsthand with) something specific, mention it, but don’t spend too long detailing your experience.
You should always link to a writer website or online portfolio – at the very least, your LinkedIn profile. This is where you should keep the bulk of your clips for clients to review – then select two to five of your pieces that are the most relevant to the post you’re pitching. (Again, see #2 – provide only as many samples as asked for, and send them in the format requested!)
You should also cater your samples and the experience/past clients you choose to mention to each specific pitch. If your pitch has done the job so far, your experience will certainly play its part – but you will probably land the gig on your pitch alone.
6: Ask for a Response
When you go to close your pitch, don’t be afraid to ask directly for a response. Most of use close with something along the lines of “Hoping to hear from you soon!” While this is an invitation for them to respond, it is not you directly asking for a response to your pitch.
Instead, try asking the editor directly for an answer on whether they are interested in your guest post or not. Try: “Does this sound like something you would like to publish? I can have this to you by next week if you want.” Or: “Would you be interested in publishing this guest post? Let me know!”
By directly asking them for an answer, they will be more likely to respond – and to respond in a timely manner. This is especially true if you provide a time frame in which you could provide the post – in the first example above, within a week.
Really, so many writers never actually ask for a response – they simply leave things open ended. Sort of a “ball’s in your court” kind of a thing. From now on, don’t send off a pitch without making sure you ask them to write you back.
7: Proofread and Edit Before Sending
Think of your pitch as the ultimate writing sample. From the eye-catching headline you’re using as the subject line of your email to your confidence in asking them to write you back, it’s all an audition. When you’re checking a second – or even third – time to make sure you’ve attached everything, take some time to do a full proofread and edit of your email.
It might seem like a lot of extra work – it might even seem like perfectionism in what most of us agree is a numbers game – but it’s worth it. You will never regret the extra time spent proofreading and editing your work – especially when you’re pitching a publication you really want to write for.
The last thing you want to do is lose an opportunity because your email was riddled with spelling and grammar errors that could’ve been easily avoided. Don’t rush – you’ve taken your time so far to find the editor, follow instructions, create a killer headline and outline, pick the perfect way to display your experience and expertise – then signed off while politely nudging them to write back.
Once you’ve put this long into it, you’re really wasting your own time if you don’t take the extra few minutes for a solid proofread.
Combine and Conquer!
While any of these things on their own could be enough to have your pitch stand out from the typical generic query letter, it’s a flowing combination of these things that will land you gig after gig. If you’re looking to move up in the freelance writing world, writing for better paying and well-respected online publications, then follow these tips to get your pitch noticed.
It could mean the difference between getting a response from one in ten editors and getting a response from almost all ten of them. If you’ve been struggling to perfect your pitch, hopefully implementing a few – or all – of these tips will improve your odds of hearing back from editors you want to write for.