The Art of Fishing (A.K.A How to Pitch)

By Emma Challoner-Miles

I find being a freelance writer akin to typical British weather – very unpredictable. In an ideal world I would be bombarded with requests for copy and content from enthusiastic clients. I could then cherry pick the interesting, well-paid jobs and throw the rest to my fellow freelance writers with a jaunty cry of “help yourselves, there’s plenty for everyone.” However, the reality is somewhat different. My working week can be busy and eclectic, featuring a mix of heavy word-counts, tight deadlines, and strange topics…. but there are quiet periods too.

I am fortunate to have a built up a bank of (relatively) loyal clients over the past couple of years. Some return regularly to request work, others pop up sporadically (usually waving an urgent brief and demanding a fast turnaround). If I’m lucky I might get a new client wander my way by word of mouth or twist of fate. I always do my best to accommodate – after all, who can afford to turn down work? When things do turn quiet, I have a choice – I can put my feet up and take it easy or I can go fishing for new work.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi“If you don’t ask, you don’t get it,” but when it comes to securing new work from clients, merely asking just won’t cut it. Sometimes you have to get out your rod, fix a juicy worm on the end, and set your sights on a decent catch.  

Getting a Platform Gig

Much of my work currently comes via a well-known freelance platform. Fishing for work via this platform is fairly straightforward, I browse the jobs on offer and I submit an application. This usually consists of a covering letter and samples of previous work. I’m well aware there are a plethora of other writers (fishers) dangling their worms too, so I make sure my bait is juicier by reading the job description carefully and ensuring my application is professional, concise and relevant.

Where possible, I lead with the client’s name, I feel this gives my application a personal touch. I also talk about my experience in relation to the job requirements e.g. if the project involves crafting blog posts on men’s sexual health, I cite my ability and recent experience on writing about the topic. I also attach a successful submission on erectile dysfunction or another topic in that field.

The key is to ensure you make it easy for your potential client to see that you would be the perfect writer for their piece. You might be asked to provide a sample assignment or you could offer to carry out a trial write to ascertain your suitability (check if the client is willing to pay for this before you send a 1000-word freebie)!

Getting a Publication Gig

Let’s move away from platform pitching and onto pitching to a publication. You can search for a particular publication or editor, and check out the website for details of the submission guidelines (what the publication expects from its authors). From here you can formulate an idea and figure out what story you are trying to pitch.

It’s not enough to simply state your idea e.g. I know a thing or two about Border Collies and I would like to write about the importance of training and dog agility.

You need to expand your initial idea into a meaty story that will benefit the reader e.g. Is Your Border Collie Bored? You can leave your Border Collie to its own devices all day every day, but don’t be surprised if your return home to destruction and disarray. This highly intelligent breed requires stimulation via training and exercise.

Of course, the editor isn’t going to necessarily take your personal opinions as fact (unless you happen to be a dog psychiatrist)! However, you can bolster your pitch by indicating you will be including the views and opinions of experts. The editor will appreciate that you have a clear plan and intend to write the piece with authority. He or she will welcome an expert’s view, woven into an enticing story that will engage the reader and solve a problem – in this case, why is my Border Collie ripping up my sofa when I’m out?

Your pitch doesn’t have to resemble war and peace, but if you’re communicating with a new client it’s worth telling them a little bit about you too. Include a brief bio outlining who you are and what you have to offer (add relevant links so the busy editor can easily check out your past work).

Go Fish!

Confidence is key when you’re pitching, as is patience (isn’t that what fishing is all about)? You might not catch a bite straight away, but by following a few simple rules you should soon hook a nice juicy writing job.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s