4 Pitch Templates for Freelance Writers

by Robyn Roste

Although pitching isn’t the only way freelancers find paid work, it’s an important skill to master.

As much as I’ve tried to avoid it over the years, pitching in some way, shape or form is a large component of my freelance business and something I need to continually practice and improve at.

Industry lingo

Pitches, also called queries, are used most-often in journalism and refer to specific story ideas for an individual publication. The freelancer crafts a pitch, which includes a headline, a brief outline and the scope or source ideas if necessary. If the freelancer is unknown to the editor, the pitch also includes samples related to the beat they’re pitching or the writer’s experience.

However, for business writing, copywriting, content marketing and other types of freelance writing, letters of inquiry are more common. This is because writers in these situations are pitching themselves and what they can do for the company, organization or trade magazine on a freelance basis. Rather than sending one-off story ideas, these freelancers look to build relationships with editors and marketing managers as they tend to assign work rather than accept story pitches.

Regardless of whether it’s a journalism story or a copywriting gig, pitching your story or yourself is both an art and a science mixed with a bit of good timing.

What makes a good pitch?

There are many answers to this question and every editor has a different preferred style. This is why it’s good to research the outlet ahead of time, understand their audience or market and what they cover.

It also helps if you can think of a few creative angles to make yourself stand out, have something in common with the editor and have a tight pitch.

In 2018 I sat in a session called “Getting Work With the CBC” where Tanya Springer from CBC Podcasts outlined a simple formula for both vetting story ideas and crafting pitches: someone doing something for a compelling reason.

Although better-suited to journalism pitches, this method stuck with me for a few reasons.

  • First, it ensures the story has stakes. The character needs to have a problem not easily solvable
  • Second, it considers the audience—the reader needs to care or they won’t stick around. So the story needs to be captivating
  • Third, it guarantees action. Whether it’s physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, whatever, there needs to be movement. What’s the thing the person is doing? What action propels the story forward?

I’ve also heard this pitch-vetting process called the “so what” test. Imagine pitching your story idea to an editor. If the editor responds with, “So what? Who cares?” would you be able to answer? If not, go back to the idea and work on it some more. If you can explain why this story matters, you might have a pitch.

How do you pitch?

Many publications have submission guidelines or “how to pitch us” Google Docs available online. Read these. Do what they say. These publications are telling you what to do and how they want to receive queries.

Here are a few examples of these types of guidelines:

Many editors often take to Twitter to call for pitches, which can be an easy way to vault past the general inbox and slush pile. When you see these submission opportunities, make sure to read the thread as editors often post stories they like and want to see more of, as well as links to their submission guidelines and instructions on their preferred communication methods.

Pay attention, follow the guidelines and pitch a great story.

Pitch templates

There are many ways to craft a query, but here are a few templates to get you started.

If the publication offers guidelines then follow those down to the email subject line. If there are no subject-line instructions then something like, PITCH: [HEADLINE] is perfect.

Template #1—When you’re responding to a call for pitches

Hello!

I saw your call for pitches on Twitter and have a story I think will be a good fit. Let me know if this resonates.

[HEADLINE]—[description of idea in less than 50 words outlining SOMEONE doing SOMETHING for a COMPELLING REASON and how you’ll execute the story, listing source ideas if necessary.]

Here’s a bit about me. I’m a [BEAT] writer based in [CITY]. I’ve contributed to [RELEVANT PUBLICATION], [RELEVANT PUBLICATION] and [RELEVANT PUBLICATION] to name a few. You can see additional writing clips on my website [include link].

Thanks for considering!

Template #2—When it’s a cold pitch

Hi [EDITOR NAME],

I’m [CITY]-based writer and have a story idea about [BEAT] I think will be a good fit for [PUBLICATION].

[HEADLINE]

[Description of idea in less than 50 words outlining SOMEONE doing SOMETHING for a COMPELLING REASON and how you’ll execute the story, listing source ideas if necessary.]

I have previous bylines in [RELEVANT PUBLICATION], [RELEVANT PUBLICATION] and [RELEVANT PUBLICATION], which you can view in my portfolio [include link].

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

[NAME]

Template #3—When you don’t have clips but you have experience

Hi!

My name is [NAME] and I’m a writer based in [CITY]. I have a story idea about [BEAT] I’d like to pitch for [PUBLICATION].

[HEADLINE]—[description of idea in less than 50 words outlining SOMEONE doing SOMETHING for a COMPELLING REASON and how you’ll execute the story, listing source ideas if necessary.]

I have [NUMBER] years’ experience in [RELEVANT FIELD] and have [ANY OTHER RELATED EXPERIENCE].

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

[NAME]

Template #4—Letter of Inquiry (LOI)

Hi [NAME],

Does your [TYPE OF ORGANIZATION] use freelance writers?

I am a(n) [INDUSTRY] writer specializing in [BEAT(S)]. My clients include [RELEVANT NAME], [RELEVANT NAME] and [RELEVANT NAME].

You can view samples of my work on my website [include link] and see what my [EDITORS/CLIENTS] have said about working with me on my LinkedIn profile [include link]. Here is a link to a recent piece I wrote on [RELEVANT TOPIC].

Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you!

Pitching is for the long haul

Even when you do everything right, many pitches go unanswered. Try not to take it as a personal rejection. After a few days, follow up and see if your nudge prompts a reply. If not, move on to your next pitch. Editors reject queries for many reasons, including a lack of budget, a backlog, they’re already working on a similar story or they’re too busy.

Think about pitching as a tool for building relationships. The more you pitch—and the better the pitches are—the more likely an editor is going to notice you. It may take a few tries before you land a gig but the important thing is you keep trying.

Robyn Roste is a freelance writer in Abbotsford BC. Her blog is listed in The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2020 by The Write Life.

Looking for more pitching advice? Sign up for our July 7 webinar, Pitching for Success — Sell That Story, and learn from journalist and author Sandra Phinney. 

Posted on July 1, 2020 at 10:50 am by editor · · Tagged with: ,

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