When it comes to freelance writing, perhaps the most important skill you need to have is the ability to pitch. It’s also a skill that’s not often taught.
So, what is a pitch? It’s basically a super-condensed version of an article concept that you send to an editor in the hopes of getting it picked up. As opposed to submitting poetry — wherein you send a completed draft to an editor for consideration — a pitch is crafted before the finished article.
Your job as a writer, when pitching, is to get your idea across quickly and effectively. Editors are busy; they don’t have time to read entire articles all the time. Sending a compelling pitch is a surefire way to get more work, find more clients, and advance your career.
And as I mentioned, the art of pitching was never really taught to me. Even though I studied writing extensively while at university, I had no idea how to pitch. I knew how to write effectively, edit thoroughly, and proofread my work. But pitching was a whole other ballgame.
When it came time to pitch stories to editors, I mostly learned by doing. I did some simple Googling about “how to write a pitch,” but I was basically taking a shot in the dark. And thankfully, it worked! I got my article picked up, and as the months (even years) went on, I got better and better at pitching.
Here are the most basic elements of a pitch:
Element 1: The title
The first thing you’ll include is a proposed title. This needs to be interesting, because if the editor isn’t pulled in, they might stop reading right there. Your title needs to be eye-catching enough to draw the reader in, but not so “clickbaity” that you go overboard.
Take your time when drafting a title: aim to capture the essence of this article concept in the most compelling way possible.
In terms of formatting, I like to include my pitch in the body of an email with the title bolded and in quotation marks — like this: “How to Write a Pitch for the First Time.”
Element 2: The body/concept
In this next portion, you’ll get into the meat and potatoes of your idea. Here, you’ll spend about 3-5 sentences explaining your concept in depth. You can include things like:
Items in a proposed listicle
A summary of your concept as a whole
The important thing here is to not get too verbose. You should never send a page-long pitch (unless, for some reason, that’s what the editor has specifically requested). Your pitch needs to be snappy and quick to read.
The idea is not to send what is basically an entire article — rather, you’re trying to describe your concept to an editor so that they want to hire you to flesh it out into that full-length article.
Another important aspect of pitching is making sure your email lands in the correct inbox. Do your research to find the exact email address used by that publication for submissions. Find the name of the editor, and address your email specifically to them.
You should also ideally only send 1-3 pitches at a time. Again, you’re not trying to bombard the editor with tons of words and concepts — your pitch(es) need to be breezy and fast.
And the most important part of writing in general? If you get rejected, just try again — either at the same publication, or a different one. Don’t expect all of your pitches to land.
As with submitting completed pieces of writing for publication, it’s truly a numbers game. You can’t linger on a single rejection for too long. Just try to learn from it, and move forward.
There you have it — my simple guide on writing a pitch. I hope you learned something, and that you’re able to put this info to good use! Get out there and try your best.
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