How to write a winning pitch in 9 easy steps

7

Min Read

CJ Haughey

Do you know how to write a pitch? You’d be surprised how many freelancers struggle to create winning proposal templates, quotations, or scope of work templates.

Whether it’s a cold email pitch, connecting on LinkedIn, or writing a pitch letter to a major publication, learning how to pitch an article (or anything, really) a is an essential skill all freelancers need to develop.

Read on to discover how to write a pitch effectively, so you can win more clients, and advance your career.

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Why freelancers should use a pitch letter

You may wonder why a marketing pitch is needed for when you’re busy with one-time clients. Why bother?

Here’s the thing:

No writer wants to be stuck on job boards for their entire career. 

Many of the authorities like TechCrunch and Forbes don’t need to look for writers -- you must go to them. But if you’re going to get their attention, you need to learn how to write a good pitch first.

Instead of pitching for peanuts on job boards, you can master the art of the email pitch to new clients to land writing jobs that pay the big bucks. 

When to write a pitch letter

Alison Palmer, the owner of Journohub, asserts that there is great value in the timing of your pitch. By tying your article to a hot topic currently in the news, your pitch will be more enticing to would-be editors.

Palmer explains that your pitch “needs to feel fresh, current, and important it's shared now."

By keeping your ear close to the ground, you can learn how to write a pitch for a job at the perfect time, offering editors the chance to publish an original article that will trend well.

And if you want to take your pitch game one step further, you can sign up for a free trial of Bonsai to see how the powerful proposal feature helps you take your email pitches to the next level.

how-to-write-a-pitch-letter

How to write a pitch in 9 steps

Whether you’re a lifestyle blogger sending an email pitch to new clients, or you’re learning how to write a business pitch for a bigger project, the process is pretty much the same.

Follow the nine steps below to craft an irresistible pitch letter:

1. Don’t undersell yourself

Before you pitch any publication, find out what they pay their writers. Also, when your initial freelance proposal turns into a job, get a freelance contract to protect yourself.

Remember that you’re leaving low-paying job boards and penny-pinching clients behind. When you decide to learn how to write a pitch, you’re making a conscious decision to become a respected professional that gets paid your worth. 

2. Know who you’re pitching

“Dear hiring manager” is not a great start to any pitch. 

By going the extra mile to dig around on LinkedIn or Twitter, you can find the right person (and their email address). Then, you can contact them directly and add a little personalization that will go a long way.

Hal Humphreys from Pursuit magazine explains that “it’s about seeding real relationships. It requires time and calculation. It can even seem a bit creepy at times.”

3. Know your audience

You must tell editors:

  • Why is your article perfect for their audience?
  • How will it engage them?
  • What problem will it solve? 

With that in mind, forget about sending the same pitch to a dozen publications -- each pitch must be tailored to your target. Know the publication, and focus on one category within it to write a pitch that will resonate with the audience. 

4. Engaging subject line

AWeber reports that 47% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone. In a crowded email inbox, your subject line must stand out. If it doesn’t, all the hard work on your pitch goes to waste.

Interestingly though, SEO guru Brian Dean cautions against giving too much away in your subject line. He believes shorter subject lines stir up curiosity. 

5. Start with a hook

Editors are busy people. They get hundreds of pitches each week, so you have to know how to write a pitch that captivates them from the first line or else it’s going in the trash.

Cut to the chase by briefly highlighting your knowledge or relationship with the publication, then dive in with the suggested headline and angle. Make sure it’s benefit-driven, focused on the big takeaway for their readers.

6. Pitch a story (with substance)

Don't be vague. Pitching topics or generic ideas is unlikely to get you anywhere. You must present a genuine story that people will want to read. Frame your story with tension, drama, or mystery to excite editors about the prospect of publishing the piece.

Also, show that you’re serious about the idea by concisely explaining the methodology you will use. Letting editors know you have a plan of action adds substance to your pitch.

7. Brevity is best

While an email pitch can run into several paragraphs, it should never be long-winded. Think of it as an elevator pitch - only say what's needed, and leave them curious for more.

Here are the essential details:

  1. Potential headline - even if it changes before publishing, have a catchy headline now.
  2. The angle - it should be original and unique.
  3. The why - explain why this story needs to be told, and what readers will gain from it.

8. Be relevant

While you should never lead with your bio, make sure to add a little bit about yourself at the end. In any case, they’ll have no trouble researching you online, so your portfolio site and LinkedIn should be polished to impress. 

In any case, you should add links in your pitch to samples of your work - make sure they are relevant and recent. If it's a pitch for an innovative tech company, don't include links to your travel blog from five years ago.

9. Be ready

Pitching is a numbers game. You may write hundreds of pitches before your proposals lead to contracts, but when the big day comes, you should be ready. Don't pitch complex articles or investigative pitches that you can't deliver.

how-to-write-a-pitch-email

Pitch examples (to avoid and emulate)

When you’re learning how to write a pitch, it’s inevitable that’ll you make some mistakes, and churn out some pretty bad pitches. 

Jorden Roper of Creative Revolt outlines some bad examples of pitches that many freelancers early in their career send, including:

  • The wall of text - Huge chunks of text that ramble on will quickly deter readers.
  • The copy-and-pasted pitch - Shows you don’t care by sending generic pitches that don’t address the publication, audience, or categories with any degree of personalization.  
  • The non-writer - Highlights your glaring lack of experience and uncertainty about your ability.

Now, with the guidelines from the previous section, let’s take a look at this pitch from Anna Goldfarb.

how to write a pitch example

This pitch does four things incredibly well:

  1. It explains the idea clearly and concisely.
  2. It demonstrates that Anna knows the publication and the audience.
  3. It shows she has a story and a methodology.
  4. The pitch has links to relevant clips of her work.

By keeping it simple, Anna created a pitch with zero fluff - everything owns its place in the pitch. Unsurprisingly, it got accepted, and Anna has since become a regular New York Times contributor.

Wrapping up

So, now you know how to write a pitch for new freelance clients. 

By taking the time to research brands that you want to write for, you can find the right person, and send the right story at the right time.

With these guidelines, you have a solid blueprint that can elevate your career to new heights.

It’s over to you.

And no matter what publication or client you choose to pitch, Bonsai is here to help along the way with its integrated suite of features such as proposals, contracts, invoicing, time-tracking, and more. See all of them by yourself today - sign up for a free trial!

CJ Haughey
CJ Haughey is a creative copywriter and self-confessed digital marketing nerd. This shaggy-haired Irishman is currently shaking off the last of the travel bug in his adopted home of Colombia. In his spare time he tries to avoid being sick at kickboxing training.

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