I’m just going to say it. If you aren’t willing to learn how to write a pitch, you aren’t going to last long as a freelance writer.
In fact, you probably won’t land a single high-paying gig. And before you know it, you’ll find yourself crawling back to your 9-to-5 and becoming so upset about your work situation that you spend all of your time outside of work binge-drinking yourself into oblivion.
Not a good look (trust me — I’ve been there).
Now, I have a confession to make. When I started freelance writing, my pitches were really bad.
And not just kinda bad. I’m talking “Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement speech” bad here, people.
But I read countless blog posts and tweaked my pitch until it started landing me the clients I wanted.
And eventually, I had so many clients that I wanted to start outsourcing some of my work (specifically, blogging and copywriting work). So, I put a job ad online to see if I could find good freelance writers to help me out.
And, let me tell you… suddenly being on the receiving end of pitches was eye-opening. It really helped me understand the struggle and frustration that editors must face every time they post a job ad.
So today, I’m going to teach you how to write a pitch by teaching you how not to write a pitch.
We’ll go over 10 of the worst pitches I received, I’ll explain why they didn’t work, and then I’ll give you some tips so you can write pitches that’ll land you high-paying clients.
Cool. Let’s get started.
1. The Great Wall of Text
I didn’t even make it through the first paragraph of this snooze fest before I moved on to the next pitch in my inbox. It was basically a long ass wall of text. Mostly full of shit I didn’t care about.
If you’re a freelance writer, sending this type of email just makes you look bad. Seriously.
Remember, your email itself is a sample of your writing, and if it’s not easy to read, you’re not going to get hired.
So, next time you pitch, ditch the Great Wall of Text and break up your content with bulleted lists and white space. And keep it as short as you possibly can. You don’t need to tell your life story – just include information that’s relevant to the person you’re pitching.
2. The copied-and-pasted pitch
It’s painfully obvious when I receive a pitch that has been copied and pasted. The only thing this kind of pitch is good for is showing how many fucks you don’t give about the editor’s needs.
I mean, put yourself in an editor’s shoes for a second. Are you going to respond to a cookie-cutter pitch that could have been sent to anyone?
So, customize every pitch by including:
The editor’s name – You can almost always find this online if you look hard enough. Try Twitter, LinkedIn, or a Google Search if it’s not on the company website.
A specific compliment – This isn’t really necessary, but I’ve found it helps as long as you don’t go overboard and sound like a total suck-up. For example, you could say how you really enjoyed a specific blog post the editor wrote.
A bit about how you can help – It’s so important to communicate why and how you can help the company achieve the results they want. Remember, when they hire a writer, they’re not paying for words – they’re paying for the business results they’ll get from those words.
And be friendly in your pitch too! It’s refreshing to get an email that doesn’t sound like a stuffy business memo.
3. The direction ignorer
When I posted my freelance writing job ad, I included specific instructions that CLEARLY said to email me a couple of writing samples.
And guess what this guy said in his email?
Well, yes. You “would need to provide” writing samples. And you’d know that if you actually took the time to read the job ad (which was super short and easy-to-read, by the way).
My friends, don’t be this guy.
Because if you blatantly ignore an editor’s wishes, they’re going to see that as a red flag. I mean, if you can’t follow the basic instructions outlined in the job ad, how can they expect you to take direction so you can produce the kind of content they need?
They can’t. And they won’t hire you.
So, read every single word of every job ad you respond to. You might find that they’ve put special requirements in the ad, like this:
See how the content at the bottom mentions specific instructions for the subject line and writing samples? I can guarantee you that any writer who doesn’t follow those when pitching this guy isn’t going to get the job.
4. The beggar
No matter how desperate you are for work, don’t resort to begging. It doesn’t work. It just makes you seem unprofessional and more self-serving than client-focused.
Think about it. If YOU were an editor and received a pitch that said this:
“Please give me a chance to show you that I’m a good writer.”
…Wouldn’t you be immediately turned off?
Of course you would. If a writer is asking you to give them a chance, you’re going to think that they’re incapable of producing whatever you’re asking for.
So, if you’ve been approaching pitching this way, stop. And start positioning yourself as a confident writer who is fully capable of delivering what the client needs.
5. The wrong fit
This guy straight-up said that he didn’t have any relevant samples to send me. I was hiring freelance bloggers/copywriters specifically, and he had only worked as a journalist. So, he sent me lots of articles, but nothing relevant to my job posting.
That’s right. No blog posts. No copy. Just journalistic articles.
Obviously, that wasn’t going to work for me. I wanted someone who I could trust to do the job right the first time, or at the very least, someone who could show me that they were capable of writing the content I needed.
And he didn’t.
The takeaway here is to tailor your writing samples to every job you apply for. If they want blog posts about marketing, send examples of blog posts you’ve written about marketing. If they want B2B website copy, send B2B website copy samples. You get the picture.
That being said, you don’t have to confine yourself to your niche 100% of the time. If you really want a writing gig that involves a topic you haven’t written about much in the past, go for it – just send your best work over and show that you’re passionate about the topic.
(I’ve done this several times, and it does work on occasion, although you’ve got a much better chance of scoring a gig if it’s within your niche.)
6. The moneymaker
This guy straight up said that he was mostly interested in writing for me because he wanted to earn some money.
I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money writing. Duh. But that doesn’t mean you should say that to potential clients when you’re writing a pitch.
Because it makes the email more about you than it is about them. In this particular email that I received, the writer didn’t say one single thing about how he was a good fit for my writing needs, even though I provided plenty of info about what I was looking for.
So, next time you write a pitch, talk about how you’re going to benefit the client – not how the new writing job is going to benefit you.
7. The gender bender
This guy called me “sir” multiple times in his pitch.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – that’s kind of a silly thing to be upset about.
But the gender mix-up itself isn’t what irritated me. It was the fact that he didn’t do enough research on me or my business to know that I am, in fact, female.
The lesson here is that you should research a company and find out who their editor is every time you pitch, if possible. Then, use the editor’s first name in the subject line and the email, and tailor your message to their needs.
8. The uncertain one
No editor wants to see this in a freelance writer’s pitch:
“I think I might be able to write the kind of content you need.”
If you’re going to say something like that, you might as well not waste your time pitching. If you truly can’t deliver what the client wants, you have two main options. Either learn how to deliver what they need before you pitch, or don’t pitch at all
If you can deliver but have a confidence problem holding you back, well… welcome to the club! Tons of writers struggle to confidently pitch, but don’t worry – it is a skill that you can learn. And leaving out phrases like “I think I might be able to…” is a great start.
If you have a well-defined niche, you shouldn’t run into this problem too much because you’ll spend most of your time going after writing gigs that align with the niche you specialize in. And that’s exactly what you should be doing.
9. The non-writer
This writer literally started her email by saying “I have not previously worked as a professional writer.”
A pitch like that will land in my “trash” folder faster than an email from a Nigerian prince letting me know that I’ve inherited billions of dollars.
Every. Single. Time.
Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s 100% okay to pitch if you don’t have any experience working as a writer. But that shouldn’t be the first piece information that you volunteer when you’re writing a pitch.
Talk about what you can do instead – even if you’ve never taken on one single freelance writing project before. Read over the client’s job ad or requirements one more time, and see if there’s something you can mention about how your specific skill set makes you a great pick for the job.
Because companies want to hire writers who know what the fuck they’re doing. And if you flat-out say you’re not a writer, the last thing they’ll think is that you know what you’re doing.
10. The Jargonator
This dude’s email was littered with a barf-worthy amount of meaningless business jargon and pretentious language. I had to take a second look to make sure it wasn’t written by my last boss (who used words like “leverage” and “synergy” every chance he got… BARF).
The problem with jargon-filled pitches?
They say a lot without actually saying anything important.
Writing a good pitch is kind of like writing a good resume. You don’t just say that you’re “creative” and “resourceful” – you show that you’re creative and resourceful by giving examples and letting your work speak for itself.
Instead of using jargon and adjectives to try to impress the editor (who is probably ready to tear her eyes out because of the awful pitches she’s seen by the time she reaches yours), talk about the results your content has achieved when you’re writing a pitch. For example, you could say:
My latest blog post got shared 10K times on social media, and [name of influencer] even retweeted it.
The conversion copy I wrote for my last client resulted in a 57% increase in sales.
I recently wrote an eBook for a client that became their most shared piece of collateral and helped them get 50 new leads in a week.
Obviously, these are just made up numbers. But you get what I mean.
When you talk about the results you’ve generated for clients this way, you no longer need to include overused adjectives like “creative” and “resourceful” in your pitch. The results you share will indicate those things and make the potential client a lot more confident in your abilities.
So, I guess that pretty much covers it.
I probably sound kind of harsh in my critiques of these pitches, but that’s not my intention at all – I just want you to know about the mistakes I’ve seen freelance writers make when pitching so you can avoid them.
And hey, if you’ve made several of these mistakes already, don’t beat yourself up. I’ve done it too (TONS of times), and so has just about every other writer. Gotta start somewhere, right?
The important thing is that you learn from your fuck-ups so you can improve your pitches and start winning more freelance writing clients in the future.
Need help with that?
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