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. 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.

  2. 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.


  3. 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.

  4. 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.)

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