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Writing

A Guide to Pitching Articles: 7 Tips for Freelance Writers

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 11, 2020 • 4 min read

If you’re self-employed, you’re probably no stranger to freelance work. Whether you’re a blogger, copywriter, or journalist, one of the most common ways for freelance writers to get work is by suggesting new articles to different publications in a process called “pitching.” Below are some freelance writing tips to help you master the pitching process.

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What Does It Mean to Pitch an Article?

Pitching an article is the process by which freelance writers reach out to magazine editors with ideas for stories before they’ve written the completed piece. These articles can range from news stories to nonfiction essays to guest posts on a blog.

Most pitching is done through email: A writer emails an editor with a brief description of the article idea, usually including what format it will be in, a possible title, any news sources they plan to use, and their contact information. Then the editor responds to the article pitch, letting the writer know whether or not their publication is interested. The pitch essentially serves as the cover letter to introduce the editor to writer and their article idea.

Why Do Freelance Writers Need to Pitch Articles?

If you’re looking to be a successful freelance writer and work from home, you’ll need to pitch articles if you want any writing gigs. You could be the most thorough reporter in America, but if you cannot craft a good pitch email to win an editor’s interest, you may not get many publishing opportunities, no matter how strong your research or writing is.

Many publications don’t have the budget to keep writers on full-time, so instead, they employ freelancing writers to write for them part-time. While some publications will reach out to freelancers to ask for specific articles, most publications will instead wait for freelance content writers to come to them and pitch story ideas.

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7 Pitching Tips for Freelance Writers

Whether you’re a freelance journalist running a freelance writing business out of your home, or you’re still looking for your first freelance writing job, here are a few key things to keep in mind throughout the process:

  1. Be focused and brief. Editors are busy people, and they aren’t willing to spend a long time trying to figure out exactly what your writing pitch is about. You need to let them know what they’re getting right at the top. Include your story topic in the subject line, and keep your article description short and to-the-point.
  2. Grab the editor’s attention. Your pitch should sound interesting—if your hook piques the editor’s interest, they know it will pique their audience’s interest, too. For instance, if you’re pitching to a cooking magazine that tends to publish personal essays, an email titled “Pitch: Tomato Soup” isn’t going to be as exciting as one titled “Pitch: How Tomato Soup Saved My Marriage.”
  3. Target your pitches carefully. Do your research; magazines and journals usually have very specific audiences that they’re trying to reach. The topic of the article you’re pitching should be relevant to the publication’s target audience and within their style guide—and if it’s not immediately obvious, explain (briefly) why their readership would want to read the article. For instance, if you’d like to write a story on climate change but you’re pitching to a culinary magazine, think about the different angles you could pitch—for instance, the level of impact that the production of certain foods has on the planet. Also, make sure you follow a publication’s submission guidelines when you approach an editor with article ideas.
  4. Think about what you’re a specialist in. Today’s media world values specialization. If you have specialized know-how in a particular discipline (such as medicine, music, or technology), lean into it. The best stories you pitch will likely tap into your personal experience and specific knowledge base.
  5. Showcase your writing skills. If you’ve never written for the publication before, your email pitch is the first exposure the editor will have to your writing style. Make sure that you don’t dash it off too quickly—keep it clear, focused, and interesting. Proofreading also goes a long way to make sure the pitch is free of typos. Feel free to include links to a few published writing samples to further showcase your skills.
  6. Be respectful and build relationships. Your connection to editors is often the key to getting pitches accepted—if you think you have the perfect story for Rolling Stone but you don’t know anyone there, and you do know the editor-in-chief at Pitchfork, you’ll have a much better shot with the latter. If you don’t know anyone at a publication, study their masthead and article bylines to learn who’s working there, then address your pitch to one of them directly, using the right editor’s name. Even if your pitch isn’t accepted, pitching an idea to a magazine is still a way to begin a relationship with the magazine staff—be polite in any follow-ups and accept rejection with grace rather than letting it ruin your day.
  7. After a few weeks, follow up. An editor is a human being just like you are, and they may fall behind on work. If you haven’t received a reply to your pitch letter within two weeks, write a short, polite follow-up email asking if they’ve had a chance to review your work. If you still don’t get a response, try placing a phone call (although most editors prefer email). Sometimes you won’t get a reply, but if you’re confident that you have a good story to tell, move on to other outlets.

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