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Freelance Writing: Making the Perfect Pitch

Part 3 of 4

Now that you’ve done a bit of introspection regarding the type of topics that excite you and have familiarized yourself with magazines and sites that focus on those topics, we can dive deeper into the characteristics that make a strong pitch.

Keep in mind, however, that this is in no way exhaustive and is not a fireproof way to land a gig. It is simply a guide, as pitch requirements may vary between organizations and even among editors within the same organization. Before pitching, be sure to read through the organization's requirements.

Pitch Techniques

Generally, there are two pitch techniques that freelance writers often employ: on-spec pitches and exploratory pitches.

On-spec Pitches are arguably the easiest, though the result may not be as rewarding. Doing an on-spec pitch means that you already have a piece of work written and are looking for a magazine or site to publish it. This can leave your work open to (sometimes extensive) edits -- often without your feedback. In other words, you have less control over the final product.

Exploratory Pitches are what you’ll likely employ most often -- especially as a new writer. You are open here to more rejections, but you have more control over the final product. In an exploratory pitch, you are simply pitching your idea for a potential article, not a completed one. Without a final product for editors to see, it can be a bit more difficult to convince them to pursue your project. That’s where a pitching checklist comes in handy.

Pitching Checklist

Here are our suggestions for your pitching checklist:

Have an introduction.

A simple greeting goes a long way. This truth applies to virtual interactions as much as they do physical ones. Who are you addressing? Where did you hear about the magazine or website’s call to pitch? If there was no call to pitch and you are simply trying your hand, what led you to reach out to that organization specifically?

What do you want to write about?

What idea(s) do you have to contribute? More specifically, what unique angle are you bringing? Instead of writing about, say, the difficulties of getting published, you can write about the difficulties of being self-published. If you can break this down further, your case will be stronger. To put it simply, what makes your work stand out from other works with similar topics?

What perspective are you coming from?

When thinking about perspective, there are three things to think about: your point of view, form, and possible sources for your work.

Point of view refers to your qualifications. While this can mean that you work in or are successful in a certain field or that you are a researcher, it can be even more personal. Perhaps the issue you are writing about is one that you had to go through personally.

Your sources refer to how you will build this article. Is it personal stories? Are you reading through and putting together research and academic sources? Maybe you are conducting the research and preparing data from scratch, or conducting interviews.

Form refers to the format the story will take. Is this a format that is used by the magazine or site? If not, can you make a case for such a format? In a case like this, it may also be worth contemplating just how integral the form is to your article and if you can adjust it to use the form most employed by the magazine or site.

When discussing your idea, be sure to use plain language. Never assume the editor is familiar with insider terminology that may be related to your topic of discussion.

Link to past bodies of works:

If this is not a website open to new writers, or you feel that your professional or personal experiences are not enough to cover this, consider working to build up a portfolio. You can view suggestions to do so here.

Contact information and sign off:

Of course, always sign off with your name and ways to contact you, should the editor be interested in pursuing your work further.

While this may look like a lot of steps, it’s quite short. Be sure to keep your sentences concise and relevant.



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