I’ve been a freelance writer for several years.
While it sounds romantic and mysterious it’s actually a lot of work and sometimes for not a lot of pay.
A freelance writer must be self-motivated and focused.
New and fresh ideas always need to be explored, pitched via query, followed up, and hopefully contracted to be written.
Here are FIVE things to keep in mind when pitching.
- To WHOM are you pitching?
Do your homework and make yourself familiar with the publication.
Are you pitching to the right magazine/e-zine? If the magazine is about horses don’t pitch a story about kittens and puppies.
Exercise your common sense.
Know what they’ve printed for the last two years.
Did they just do a series on what you’re proposing?
Make sure you read or at least scan back copy.
If you don’t it’ll be evident you didn’t do your homework.
- WHO is your intended audience?
This is all part of your homework too and an important one to consider.
If you’re pitching to a Christian publication for example, then the content must be faith-oriented and appropriate.
If you’re pitching for teens then it must be age and genre appropriate.
If it’s for young children then don’t use twenty dollar words as I call them. Actually, it doesn’t matter who you’re writing for the language and vocabulary used shouldn’t require a dictionary—that is not only insulting to the reader but makes you look like you’re trying too hard.
Most publications want a comfortable conversational tone suitable for the intended audience.
Make sure you avoid cliche and dated slang.
- WHAT is your unique angle or spin on whatever it is you’re pitching?
HOW is it different? WHAT makes it fresh? WHY are you the one to write it? Are you an expert or have special connections to the subject? Answering these questions are very important as they can set you apart from other freelancers.
If you’re coming in with something new and exciting then say so.
And don’t forget the editorial calendar that is at least six months in the future. So at Easter, you should be pitching Christmas and at Thanksgiving, you should be looking at summer-time stories.
- DID YOU check the submission guidelines. Again, this is part of your job and an important one to complete. Almost every publication has a page dedicated to letting writers know what is needed, how and when to submit, and what to expect—from pay rates, to responses, to kill fees.
By studying the guidelines you’re already a step ahead of those that overlooked this step. It will show professionalism when you write up your query referring back to their guidelines and current needs.
- KNOW (OR LEARN) how to write a query letter. This is your introduction to an editor. Your idea needs to fit into one tight well-written sentence. Watch your spelling, facts, don’t use poor grammar, or tell them that you’re the next super-star writer. I’m sure they’ve heard it all and they can see through the crap and you don’t need it.
A query letter is one page maximum (yes, even for you), it needs to be addressed properly to the right person (call if in doubt), no fancy fonts or pictures, use Times New Roman 12 font, and always have a “call to action”. In a query letter it’ll be something like “I can be reached at any time to discuss this further…” or “I’d be happy to forward clips of my articles…” or “I appreciate your time and am looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience…” Something along those lines. Keep it professional and personal at the same time.
Man oh, man. Sorry this ended up being so long.
I meant to write five simple points to consider for pitching freelance articles but it really is something that has to be taken seriously and there’s a lot to share. I’ll be back with more.
Good luck in all your writing ventures…now go check the guidelines.
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