Mastering the Pitch

Updated: Apr 6, 2020



Mastering the Pitch

I'm a firm believer that anyone can be a writer. Why? Because EVERYONE has a story to tell. That being said, not everyone is built to be a freelance writer. It takes commitment, dedication and a willingness to hustle for every check. Every look.

Anytime you sidestep an opportunity, any rock you don't look under, is one less chance to get paid. 

Like most things do, it takes work to be a freelance writer. While it's not rocket science, it's also more than just stringing a few sentence, or paragraphs, together.

For most freelancers, it all starts with "The Pitch." It's what you use to "sell" your story to a given blog or website. Having a well thought out - and researched - subject is key, which means you need a compelling subject.

Ironically, while the pitch is probably the shortest thing you'll write during the process, it can also be the hardest. Here are four things I've found helpful with trying to 'Master the Pitch.'

1. Versatility

As cliche as it sounds, the phrase "Jack of all trades, master of none" really does fit for freelancers. A good freelancer should be well-versed in many subjects - but she/he should also be ESPECIALLY good at one. This is helpful to ensure that you don't accidentally put yourself into a box. For example, you might be a music lover, so you submit a piece to Complex. But if you're also passionate about politics, submitting to say The Washington Post or TeenVogue might also be worth looking into. 

Knowing your niche can also help if you're trying to become a regular contributor, or a staff writer, at certain publications. If that's not your goal, consider ways to write about subjects that you enjoy for perhaps a personal blog or even an organization in need of your writing skills. At the end of the day, it's all useful in building a great writing resume. 

2. Research, Research, Research

Before you submit anything, anywhere, you should ALWAYS do some type of research. Say you want to pitch to a popular site like #BlkCreatives, Peruse their blog and take a look at articles they've previously posted. Can you introduce something new to them? If they have articles about entrepreneurship, can you provide a fresh perspective? Ask yourself these questions while putting your pitch together. 

An especially important key is knowing WHO to submit to. For many brands, there's a specific editor or submission email. While taking a shot in the dark does indeed work sometimes, learning who to send your story to can ensure that it actually gets seen versus dumped into already flowing inboxes. You don't want to be the person that emails a pitch to a brand's marketing director by mistake because you failed to do the work. 

3. The Pitch Itself

The pitch is going to be what gets you in the door. Anytime you consider submitting something somewhere, keep in mind that submission editors likely receives hundreds, if not thousands, of emails on any given day. They need something that catches the eye quickly or that they think their readers will enjoy. This is where that "fresh perspective" that I mentioned earlier comes in, because continuously reading about Donald Trump's tweets can get old and stale. 

A standard pitch is usually no more than roughly 1-2 paragraphs long. If you are emailing a pitch, you can typically open with a brief introduction of yourself and perhaps your previous writing credits. The middle is the pitch itself, while the ending can be a formal closing, thanking them for their time. 

Every writer comes up with pitches differently. Some freelancers prefer to pitch first and write the article later. For me, I've found that it's easier to pitch what you're writing about AFTER it's already been written. I like this approach because if an editor reaches out to you about being interested in your pitch, you already have the article ready to send. 

This method doesn't work for every publication though. Some editors prefer to give an outline or topic up-front to ensure that what you write aligns with how they want the story to flow. 

4. Keep Moving

Don't stop at just one pitch every blue moon, especially if freelancing is something you'd like to do for a living. Set a minimum weekly goal for pitches, then commit to writing something at least once per week - even if it's just for leisure. We used to share our stories for free via sites like Wordpress, MySpace and even Xanga, (yes I'm showing my age.) But now, sites like Medium are compensating people for their personal stories too. So even if you aren't sending work elsewhere, Medium is yet another option for your work to be noticed, at the very least. 

You also need to stay connected. You might consider following a social media page, or joining a newsletter for writers that keeps you abreast of writing or submission opportunities, as @write_jobs does on Twitter by constantly sharing opportunities. Following editors of certain publications via Social Media can also be helpful, as sometimes they'll share details about upcoming gigs. BUT, remember to do it the right way: inquire about where to send an email (or verify if that information is in their bio), but definitely don't just swan dive into a strangers inbox either. 

Written by YB Media Editor-in-Chief, Bradford Howard.

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