6 Quick Ways to Tweak Your Pitches to Get More Article Writing Jobs

Editor

Frustration stress and writers blockEver had a pitch rejected?

It happens to all freelance writers — we get used to it.

But what about being rejected by the same editor twice? Three times? Four?

How about eight times?

That’s how many times it took me to land one of my target magazines, a craft-brewing trade publication.

Rather than seeing this as a cause for embarrassment, this pitching experience is an example of how creativity and determination can end up landing you a feature article in a dream publication.

It also helped me discover how to write better pitches that get you more article writing jobs.

Here are six tips I learned along the way:

 

1. Research the publication first

This one I actually had down pat. I spent a couple hours scrolling through the last year’s worth of headlines from the craft beer publication’s back issues, to be sure I didn’t duplicate any pitches.

Research is crucial, so you don’t end up wasting your time pitching something they just published a few months ago.

2. Come up with a specific, unique angle…

While preparing for my initial pitch, I noticed news outlets had profiled a few hotels that carried craft beer, so I pitched a trend piece about craft beer in hotel bars.

The editor rejected the pitch for being over-covered in the past year. However, he said he would consider it if I could find a more unique angle.

3. …Or broaden an idea that’s too specific

With another pitch, I focused on a new craft beer technology coming out in a few months. The editor didn’t feel comfortable featuring the technology without knowing more about it.

Sometimes you need to broaden your topic, turning one or a few bits of news or products into a larger-scale feature.

4. Pitch the front of book first

After my first few feature rejections, I started looking for smaller pieces to pitch, such as a craft beer book review. This is the type of article that would run in the front of the magazine, also known as a front of book (FOB) article.

This can be an ideal way to break into a new publication with an editor who is not familiar with your writing.

5. Chalk it up to bad timing

You may have a great idea, but sometimes it’s so perfect that the publication is already working on it. One of my favorite article ideas — craft beer at Disney World — was heading to the presses as I typed.

There’s no way I could have known. It’s disappointing, but at least I knew I was on the right track.

6. Send great clips

Why did this editor give me so many chances? In my initial pitch, I provided some relevant beer industry clips. Besides showing promise with my initial (though rejected) ideas, the editor said he would try to get me in the magazine based on my clips.

The lesson? Share clips whenever possible, even if they’re not the same niche. It’s the polished writing that counts.

Success

Ninth time’s the charm! I finally landed a feature article with the national craft beer magazine’s website, at a flat rate of $350, comparable to many other print magazines I write for.

Thanks to our back-and-forth emails, the editor and I established a solid working relationship. He invited me to write more pitches, and hopes to meet when he travels to a beer event in my hometown.

Plus, knowing how hard I tried to land that feature made seeing my byline that much sweeter.

How do you get your pitches in shape? Tell us in the comments below.

Carolyn Heneghan is a New Orleans-based freelance writer who contributes to national and regional magazines and company blogs in food and drink, travel, technology, business, healthcare and education. Check out her website or follow her on Twitter.

 

35 Comments

  1. Jake Mcspirit

    Hi Carolyn,

    I’ve really been debating pitching some publications because I didn’t want to ‘ruin’ the opportunity to do so again, and I just read up in the comments someone else had a similar issue — this article helped massively with that!

    Thanks a ton.

    • Carolyn Heneghan

      Debate no more, Jake–click Send! As we said in another comment, even if you face a rejection from an editor, most likely he or she will forget your name (and pitch) altogether while moving on to other pitches and day-to-day tasks (of which, editors have many!). Every time you pitch, it’s more than likely a clean slate. And should you have the experience I did with repeatedly pitching the same editor–an editor who continued to welcome said pitches–he or she just might appreciate your tenacity and ability to come up with so many ideas. Keep at it! 🙂

  2. Marlena Bontas

    Researching the publication is the step I used to skip often. After many rejections, I noticed that if the editors see you interested in what they write about, they will consider you.

    Thanks for the advices!

    • Carolyn Heneghan

      I learned the hard way as well, Marlena! Sometimes it takes a little trial and error to learn these aspects of pitching and being a freelance writer. And sometimes you can read another freelancer’s experiences and learn an easier way! 🙂

  3. Carolyn Heneghan

    I was in the same boat, Timothy. My beginnings as a full-time freelancer were packed with gigs from low-balling clients. I thought I was making a pretty decent living, but when I saw the amount of work I had to do for such low rates, I immediately started taking the advice of writing blogs I was reading (including this one!) and sought out better clients and publications. And as soon as I embraced that new strategy and figured out how to perfect my pitches, the new better-paying opportunities came rolling in. I know it can be the same for you too! 🙂 Best of luck with it!

  4. Leslie Jordan Clary

    A great reminder to never give up — something I do way too easily. I’ll usually try more than once, but if I get a couple rejections, I usually move on. Congratulations on your perseverance and getting the assignment!

    • Carolyn Heneghan

      Thanks, Leslie! If I can express any one thing I learned from this experience, it’s never give up. You just never know what can happen on that second, third… ninth… try! 🙂 Keep going for those assignments, and best of luck!

  5. Timothy Torrents

    These are some really solid tips! I’m just starting to learn how to send well-constructed pitches. In the past all my work would come from service marketplaces like Warrior Forum so I didn’t have to do much marketing work. Then I realized that I was missing out on a lot of awesome opportunities because I wasn’t pitching businesses directly. Once I started pitching, and raised my rates to what – at the time – I thought was a lot of cash, to my surprise a few people took the bait, and I have been getting work ever since. But I’m still trying to tap into higher paying markets. Thanks for all the help! If it weren’t for this website I would be waking WAY less than I do now from freelance writing!

    • Carol Tice

      My sense is that the Warrior Forum is the home of a lot of lowball rates — was that your experience, Timothy?

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