How to Give Your Freelance Marketing Some GAS

Carol Tice

Antique gas pumpEver send a pitch letter to a prospective freelance writing client and not get a peep of response?

I’ve been hearing from a lot of writers about this issue lately.

It seems like writers send a query letter or letter of introduction, don’t get a response, and then go into a depressive funk for six months.

That’s not a way to make a living as a writer. You’ve got to keep pitching.

Also, if you’re never hearing back… if you’re smart, you seek to learn how to do better marketing, improve your odds of getting a response.

My tips for improving your pitch

There is some basic advice I find myself offering repeatedly in these situations, and it goes roughly like this:

“You spend three paragraphs of this letter of introduction talking about yourself — places you’ve written, awards you’ve won, your writer website, your recent college graduation, and so on.

“Then, you ask if they might hire you. Basically, it’s all about you.

“You need to cut that down to a sentence or two, and replace it with more information about how you will solve the client’s problems.

“You seem to be using a template for these queries, where you say pretty much the same thing every time, with just a few minor changes. That’s often not a successful approach. Good pitches require studying your target and then talking to them in their own writing style, about their particular challenges and how you can solve them.

“If you research this prospect and find out what’s missing from their website, and pitch them that precise thing, you will up your odds of getting a response. For instance, read that magazine’s guidelines and see what topic in their mission statement hasn’t been covered much lately, and then develop an article idea about that exact thing.

“Use your research — whether it’s an abandoned blog you noticed, or lack of case studies — to show the prospect you ‘get’ their business or publication and really want to work with them.”

Then the writer redoes their pitch as a customized piece written in that market’s voice, about exactly what the customer needs, and presto!

Next thing I know, they’re writing to let me know they got a response.

The magic of caring

Until now, that was my usual, long-winded explanation of how to angle your marketing pitch to get a client interested enough to pick up the phone or email you.

Last week, at SOBCon in Chicago, I learned a much more concise way of thinking about your marketing that can really put booster rockets on your effort and up your response rate.

Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone summed up how to get marketing results this way:

“You’ve got to give your marketing some GAS. You know — Give A Shit.”

Well, that hits it on the head and takes up a lot less space, doesn’t it?

Most freelance writers’ marketing is all about them. It telegraphs that your main focus is you — you need a gig! Please, please hire me, because I need more income!

The thing is, prospects don’t care about that.

They care about their problems.

Instead, turn that around and present yourself as someone who identifies with their company culture, recognizes their pains, and approaches prepared to help solve them.

Spend most of your time talking about what you noticed about what they’re doing, and where you could help them do better.

And everything will change.

Does it take a little more effort to do that homework so you can show you give a rip about clients? Yes, it does.

But a bit more work to land the client is a better way to spend your time than sailing off queries into space that will never get a response.

Does your marketing show you care? Leave a comment and tell us how you give it GAS.



  1. Olatunji Femi

    Hey Carol,

    The info you’ve provided in here will go a long way in helping mostly newbies a lot except if such people are not practicing what you’ve been preaching. As i can see that you’ve honestly done this with a pure and genuine heart to helping most Freelancer writers succeed big.

    Well i honestly agree with you on not submitting pitches that focuses more on the freelance writers AS what is happening right now, i think that has always been the usual tradition when it comes to submitting pitches. But being innovative like you’ve recommended by changing the traditional norm into focuses more on the clients worries/ problems is a concept that should be welcoming and embraced by all ideally. this will awesomely work wonder with time.

  2. Will Bontrager

    Yes, caring is a key to getting attention. Understanding, too.

    In this short age of electronic friends and followers, I imagine it’s a treat to get a note from a real human being with a focus only on you. It it likely to be a stroke in the writer’s favor.

    (Love the GAS acronym 🙂

  3. Willi Morris

    I really try to avoid saying anything about me in pitches. I figured editors don’t have time to go over my credentials. I get to the pitch and that’s it. KISS so they can GAS? LOL

  4. Rebecca Lee Baisch

    Absolutely true. To paraphrase JFK…Ask not what your customer can do for you, but what you can do for your customer. In my field (nonprofits) they are normally looking for one particular thing…money. It is your job to identify the client’s needs and or market target and then outline how you will help them to fill that need. All the BS about how great you are can be covered in a few sentences such as ” My writing is featured in X and it produced Y results for my client. I would be happy to provide further references (clips, videos, whatever) at your request. If you want to accomplish X, let me help you do that. I have attached a (article pitch or whatever here) to illustrate my ability to deliver (state the desired result here) to your audience.

    • Will Bontrager

      Nice template, Rebecca Lee Baisch!

    • Diane S.

      Well said and written, Rebecca. I’m just starting out, so have a couple of basic beginners’ questions that I hope you’ll answer. What did you say when you didn’t have those bona-fides? And how did you learn what the results for the clients were as a result of something you wrote? What kinds of measurements did you settle on, and how did you get the information/data from your client? Thanks again for your laying out how one might present the information. I took notes.

    • Carol Tice

      Right on, Rebecca!

  5. Kevin Carlton

    This is how I look upon it: It’s all about who is doing the favour for whom.

    If you talk about yourself too much in a pitch or prospecting letter then it looks like you’re the one asking for the favour. And you should know by now that the response to this isn’t gonna be good.

    Instead, what you wanna do is politely look like the favour is on you. That is, you understand and care about the prospect’s problems and that you happen to be the person who can offer a solution.

    • Rebecca Klempner

      That’s such a good way of putting it and probably a good way to deal with people you want to do cooperate with you, in general (children, students…).

  6. Angie

    Love the acronym!

    And this advice applies to just about every part of freelancing. Marketing? Needs GAS. Research? Needs GAS. Writing, editing, helping the client share the finished product? All need GAS. If you’re just in it for the paycheck, and it shows, then you’re just creating even more marketing work for yourself when clients inevitably turn you down for future projects.

  7. Lisa Baker

    This is awesome. It’s exactly like that post you wrote a while ago about the bio line in queries. Professional writers don’t need a long bio — the pitch speaks for itself. This is totally what I’m doing wrong, and I’m changing it today! I was thinking of LOIs as, well, letters of introduction. And when you introduce yourself, you talk about yourself. But I’m going to stop writing LOIs and write pitches to prospects instead. I bet that will be a LOT more effective!

    • Carol Tice

      I think when prospects get a pitch written in their own language, where it sounds like them, and you’ve noticed what they need to be successful, they are blown away, every time. It really cures that no-response syndrome. They HAVE to say something to you.

      Why? Because you cared, and that makes them care enough to reach out, even if it’s to say, no.

  8. Anita

    Good reminder. It always pays to do our homework.
    Sometimes I have the opposite problem: I try to get as much background information as can so I sound like I know what I’m talking about – but it never seems like enough and the letter never makes it out the door.

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, that’s not good. It goes from GAS to just a procrastination tool… 😉

  9. Francesca StaAna

    Give A Shit = GAS. — Love it!

    When I first started cold emailing potential clients, I sent “braggy” pitches that were all about me and things that I did, thinking that it would impress people. Needless to say I didn’t get very far doing that.

    But once I realized that I needed to make my pitches more about them, their customers, and/or their readers… presto! I got results. 🙂

  10. Prudence Shank

    This is so true. I think a lot of time we freelancers look for the easy way out. We get so worked up about marketing that we just want to get the damn emails out the door and get on with what we really want to do. So we crank out the form letters, check queries and LOIs off our daily task list, and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

    I think this concept speaks to another hang up a lot of freelancers have. If you take yourself out of the pitch and make it about the client, rejection seems a little less horrifying. If you make it about your services and how you can help the client, you remove that whole, “I think I’m awesome! Please, oh please, I hope you like me too” thing that happens to us. And rejection then becomes “Oh, ok, now’s not the right time for them to use my services.” Far less damaging to the ego.

    • Carol Tice

      Great point, Prudence!

  11. Holly Bowne

    Right on, Prudence!!

    With LOI’s I do talk about my experience that’s relevant to the particular company I’m introducing myself to, but I always try to start my letter out by making it all about them. Complimenting them on a new award, commenting on something written about them in a recent article or press release, etc. Then I segue real smooth into something like, “Soooo, I noticed you do THIS, THAT and THE OTHER THING for your customers. Would you like some freelance writing assistance completing all that stuff.” (Except much classier sounding, of course.)

  12. Anthony

    …present yourself as someone who identifies with their company culture, recognizes their pains, and approaches prepared to help solve them.

    Spend most of your time talking about what you noticed about what they’re doing, and where you could help them do better.

    And everything will change.>> These lines gave me INSIGHT like no other. I don’t like to flatter you Carol, but so far, your marketing tips are the simplest BUT the most effective ways I have tried.

    You deserve Praises!

    • Carol Tice

      Well, this one is really a tip from Sonia Simone. I loved getting to meet her in person at SOBCon, and always love her Copyblogger posts — she has a great way of cutting to the heart of the matter.

  13. Anthony

    …and just to emphasize that fact–I’m reminded of a quote from John Maxwell: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.

    It’s not an exaggeration Carol–I learn from your posts.


  14. Mike

    Such great advice and a great reminder. We often want to talk about all our achievements, and forget what the purpose of writing for others is. Something all the great copywriters past and present have said over and over again, it’s about solving problems for the customer. Talk in that way, and they will listen.

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