OK, so straight up…some folks out here are terrible at approaching editors. I say this with the most love possible because I think it’s holding a lot of us back from getting the work, even the careers we want.
Full disclosure — pitching isn’t something I consider myself great, or even good at. The only thing I think I’ve got going for me is a background in blogging and knowing what it’s like to have too many inboxes that won’t let me breathe.
That understanding though has gotten me a long way in keeping in the good graces of editors and content managers, to the point where a couple have given me completely free reign to write without going through the pitching process.
To be clear…when I say “terrible,” I don’t mean just skipping point 5 on someone’s contributor guidelines or sending an email to the wrong address…no…I mean flat out missing the entire point of the pitching process, and that? Is a big problem.
If you don’t really “get” what you’re walking into, then all the tips in the world (like the ones here and here) are going to fall flat. That’s why I want to go over a few of the basics before the basics to give you the best chance of getting your ideas accepted (and of course, eventually paid for.)
There’s a person on the other end of that account.
Automation is coming fast for everybody’s job, but last time I checked, the pitching process was still heavily dominated by actual humans.
That means that what you send over in an email (or reply or DM) will be going to an actual human. That human’s probably also very busy, and already sorting through a bunch of other submissions. That means your pitch that would require them to answer unnecessary questions, hunt for your portfolio, and put in effort to do things that you should be covering as a writer? It’s probably not even going to get far enough along to get rejected. (This includes doing things like telling them to “contact me” at any point in time. Take responsibility for initiating, and continuing communication.)
Before you send a pitch, ask yourself, “how can I make the person on the other side of this message’s life easier?”
No one needs your story.
This is a hard one to accept, but it’s true.
That publication or website you want to be featured on? They’ll be just fine without your ideas. Don’t let that fact stop you from trying (it’s true for most jobs anyway), just know that you’ll have to give them a reason to consider your work.
A great way to do that? Look at their mission statement or about page. Read up on some other articles and look at the problems they address. Target your pitch in a similar way so that even if they don’t need to work with you, they want to work with you.
People want to make it easy for you.
Most publications and platforms want you to pitch well. That’s why they offer “pitching,” or “contributor,” or “submission guidelines” – the more standardized the submissions are, the easier things are for them, but also for you as a writer.
Think about it. If they don’t tell you up front, you could be left guessing at things like article length, topic, tone, when they’re accepting pitches, even the type of content they’re interested in publishing.
Take advantage when you can find guidelines. This usually means spending some time in a search engine if you can’t easily find them on the platform’s website.)
It’s not the lottery.
You’re not trying to get lucky here.
Editors and content managers accept submissions for a reason, and you want to align your pitch as closely with that reason as possible.
It’s actually kinda similar to the interview process. You want to put your best foot forward and show people that you can be an asset to their publication. This, again, means finding out what they need and providing it to them, and not making them do more work by asking for information they’ve already posted somewhere (so do your homework before pitching.)
Relationships work best.
Any editor or content manager I’m remotely looking to work with? I follow them either on Twitter or LinkedIn. They tend to be an active group and very helpful in getting their wants and needs out there. Sparking up natural conversations is even a good way to build a rapport and get a feel for their personalities (info that lets you know whether you even want to work with them in the first place.)
Remember that if you want to be a freelance writer, your relationships really matter, so start early and invest the time and attention it takes to build them.
Keep in mind that pitching is a skill and it’s one you develop over time. Different publications and platforms have different preferences, and after a while, you’ll learn how to adjust your ideas and presentation to get the best results possible. None of that though, will happen until you start practicing, so give it a shot! The worst that can happen is that you get rejected, which is just more valuable information for your freelance career. Good luck!
P.S. Do you pitch well or often? Feel free to leave your tips below…editors too. If you’ve got any advice for people who are looking to improve their pitching, drop it in the comments!