Pitching publications is practically a full-time job for freelance writers. And if you’re not getting results, it can feel pretty draining. Most of the time, the issue isn’t a question of your qualifications, but a problem with your presentation.
Take the following steps to learn how to write article pitches that actually get the job (or at the very least, a response!).
Create a Relationship Before Pitching
It’s hard to ignore the pitch of a writer who is also a loyal reader. So before pitching a publication or brand to write for them, make your presence known to the people involved with content marketing. This means thoughtful comments on blog posts and helping them spread the word on social (aka, the most important KPIs to these people).
Most freelance writers won’t take this opportunity to go above and beyond, so this tip for how to write article pitches makes for an easy way to stand out from the crowd. For the best return on your actions, you should start doing this weeks or months before pitching, not the day before.
Read the Blog
It’s one thing to act like you read a company’s blog through some of the above engagement tactics, and it’s a completely different thing to actually read it. The best preparation for writing a pitch is to understand what a successfully accepted pitch actually looks like (aka, the final published blog posts).
By creating a familiarity with the blog content itself, you’ll also gain an understanding of what topics have already been done to death. If there’s something similar you’d like to pitch, you’ll have to be prepared to make a case for how your piece can add value (like an easy opportunity for internal linking!). To make sure your topic hasn’t been covered, do an in-site search as such:
Whether the blog has explicit writer’s guidelines or not, reading a company’s blog will also give you an idea of overarching topics they want to be covered. Which brings us to the next important tip for how to write article pitches:
Read their Writer’s Guidelines
Not every blog has writer’s guidelines, but more and more are starting to realize that having this document ensures a high level of quality and consistency with submissions. So if this document exists, it’s in your best interest to consult it for clues to help you understand the editor who created them.
And even if they don’t have writer’s guidelines (or don’t share them with first-time pitchers), do some sleuthing to determine:
- Overarching subjects. Look at the blog’s categories and tags to get this information.
- Their audience. Both their blog and website’s about page will shed some light on the marketing personas each topic should appeal to.
- What topics get the most engagement. Find which posts get the most comments and shares. When pitching topics, you can reference these posts relative to your idea to show that you did your research.
Find the Editor’s Name
If your introduction contains the words, “To Whom it May Concern,” you’ve already been counted out. It’s probably better to go with “Hey” or “Hello” if you don’t know the editor’s name, but that’s not a part of the ideal process for how to write article pitches that get the job.
Instead, use your powers of deduction to suss out the editor’s name (and ideally, their direct email address). A few easy ways to do this:
- Look for staff bios on the company/publication website.
- Subscribe to email updates. Oftentimes, the editor is the “name” behind any blog-related email sends. If you’re lucky, the email they’re sending from is one they respond to!
- Look up the company on LinkedIn. Click through to see a list of employees who work there. From this list, search “content” or “marketing” (or even “editor” if it’s a bonafide publication) to find the most relevant person to contact.
- Do a Google search for “editor” + the company’s name. Sometimes the most obvious option is the one with the best results.
Create a Pitch Template
Up until now, much of the process for how to write article pitches has been primarily based on doing your research and being proactive about creating a relationship with the company you’d like to write for. At this point, you’re finally ready to actually write the pitch—about time, right?!
A successful freelance writer will write so many pitches that it will feel like a job in and of itself. To make the process easier, it can be useful to create a pitch template. If you write for a couple of different niches, create a pitch for each one.
But never send a pitch without customizing it for the intended company. A form letter is easy to sniff out, but a clearly custom pitch can make the difference in standing out from other applicants.
Pitch a Potential Article Title
Many writers pitch the basic topic with a final title “to be determined.” Another secret for how to write article pitches that get the job? Pitch a final title option with confidence. Besides taking the time to create a headline that’s bound to get attention, show that you’ve done some keyword research to demonstrate that it’ll pull in traffic on multiple marketing mediums.
Demonstrate Your Knowledge
If you know the topic inside and out, don’t be afraid to show it. Be confident in your abilities, and the editor can’t help but be influenced to give you serious consideration.
Demonstrating your knowledge is best accomplished through published samples. Published samples show that they won’t be the first person to take a chance on you, and can also provide additional insight as to the power of your written word (through comments, shares, formatting, etc). If you frequently share relevant content on your social channels, it couldn’t hurt to direct editors to those profiles to demonstrate an additional level of expertise.
But if you don’t have any written samples for the niche that you’re pitching, all is not lost. It’s ok to be upfront that you haven’t written on the topic before. But again, exude confidence in your ability to execute your idea. Cite past jobs, projects, etc. that make you the perfect fit for the article you’re pitching. Don’t forget to include a link to your portfolio so that they can get a taste for your writing ability as it relates to the topics you have covered.
Provide a Brief Outline
Another easy way to stand out from the typical pitches an editor receives? Write a couple sentences or subheadings to help your pitch come to life, and demonstrate that you’ve thought about your pitch far past the title.
Keep Your Pitch Short and Sweet
Length is not indicative of quality. Knowing how busy an editor can be, they’ll appreciate a pitch that gets straight to the point in as little text as possible. So lead in with your topic as the most important piece in your pitch email, then share additional information about you and your experience in the proceeding sentences/paragraphs.
Also, remember the pitch is not about you. It’s about what you can do to help make the editor shine in her job. Make sure your pitch answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” from the perspective of the editor.
Identify Potential Sources
Depending on the nature of your topic, it may be necessary to coordinate interviews with experts or identify sources for quoting statistics. Address these things upfront with an editor, so that you can close the loop on any doubt they might have about your ability to complete your proposed topic.
If you know of any relevant articles right off the bat, link to them. If there are some experts within your network that you’re positive you can get an interview with, mention them. If you plan to use HARO to find additional experts, say that too. The more you can do to improve their perception of your ability to rock your topic, the better chance you’ll have to do it.
Do Some of Your Own Editing
Your pitch is essentially your resume and cover letter for getting a job. Don’t mess it up by sending an email that has even one spelling or grammar error. It will reflect badly on your ability to write, and may be the one thing that stands in between you and your pitch coming to fruition.
Ask for a Response
Marketing 101 dictates a clear call to action with each campaign and effort. Even if your pitch is not accepted, it would still be nice to get some feedback – or at least some closure!
Try adding one of the following to the end of your pitch:
- “Even if i’m not the perfect fit, I’d appreciate your feedback!”
- “Is there a fit here?”
- “Does this seem like something that [publication] would be interested in?”
Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Up
Editors are busy and it’s understandable that a pitch might get lost in their inbox. It’s definitely OK to follow up (ideally on the original email thread) once or twice. If you still don’t hear back, it’s time to move on.
Pitching is as much art and science. Even if you get it right with one editor/publication, the same strategy might fall flat with another. But by implementing these critical pieces, your chances of success will increase with each new pitch.
For practice pitching, 99Designs’ pitch form offers a lot of awesome prompts to help flesh out a topic. And well-known freelance writer personality Sophie Lizard hosts Pitchfest contests (with a cash prize!) throughout the year. The more practice, the more perfect your pitches will become.
What’s your opinion on how to write article pitches that get the job? Tweet your thoughts at @andco, and we’ll share our favorites!