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“Who in the Hell Should I Contact to Get a Copywriting Gig?”

Carol Tice

Key in ignitionIt’s time for another installment of my freelance writers’ mailbag, which is bulging with fresh questions from hungry writers.

Today, I’m answering questions on how to get started marketing your writing — who to contact for copywriting, how to approach pitching an editor, reaching out to prospects on LinkedIn, and that always-touchy subject: pay.

Hi, Carol: I’m freaked.

How to get a freelance writing gig going — that is the question.

I haven’t done much except read about freelance writing, because I got stuck at: WHO IN THE HELL SHOULD I CONTACT about commercial writing?  I honestly have NO idea of where to start cold calling or emailing on prospective clients.–Bruce

Start with the company’s marketing manager, Bruce. Ask them if they assign freelance, or if not who does. Unless you know the business owner personally — then, ask them.

If I have a query that I feel is polished and ready to be seen by editors, is it acceptable to email it to an editor who doesn’t know me and has not given me their contact info directly? For example, I have a query letter right now that I feel really good about, and want to pitch it to Parenting Magazine. I called the magazine and was put through to the editor. I left her a brief voicemail introducing myself and telling her that I have two story ideas that I think would be a great fit at Parenting. I also asked if she was accepting pitches right now and if it would be OK to email her.

I haven’t heard back yet. Is it tacky to get her email from the receptionist in order to send her my query? The last thing I want to do is pester the editor with another phone call. In your opinion, what’s a good protocol for the initial reach-out to an editor?

I understand it will take some time and effort before I master the correct way of approaching people, and also what works for me; but I would like to have a general rule of thumb to go on initially. For example, when contacting people on LinkedIn; is there any certain etiquette or rules to go by? I certainly don’t want to put people off or give myself a negative image.-Marianne

Hate to be the one to break the news, but you’re not getting a response from your magazine editor because you’re asking a rookie question. Editors are too busy to answer basic questions like “Do you use freelancers?” So it’s no surprise she’s not calling you back. And yeah, definitely don’t call her again just to ask if you can pitch her.

This query game is for the brave. You need to just move ahead and send your pitch. And yes, you often won’t have any personal connection to the editor (though it sure helps if you do).

Or be like me and pitch them 2-3 ideas in one letter or email. I love giving editors choices and showing them I’m an idea machine, not just another writer with a big one idea.

I don’t know who you’re planning to reach out to on LinkedIn…personally, I tend to concentrate on people who’ve viewed my profile. Or people I’ve been introduced to or can get introduced to through my network. My pitch to people who’ve viewed my profile:

Subject line: “Were you looking for a freelance writer?”

Body: Hi there – I saw you were checking out my profile here on LinkedIn. Were you looking for writing help? As it happens, I have experience in your industry/topic (explain how/give links-ie I covered hospitality for 7 years previously, or my dad sold life insurance, or I was a legal secretary for years…whatever’s relevant). Let me know if I can help!-Carol

If you’re essentially cold-calling people on LI that you have no connection to, you’ll need to write a compelling letter of introduction much like you would send on email. Analyze their website or other marketing materials or publication, talk about something you saw to show you researched them, discuss the gap you see – no case studies? blog not getting updated? your idea here… Write in the style of their materials. In Freelance Writers Den we’ve got a cache of successful LOIs that got the writer gigs — feel free to come over and check them out.

One problem I have is knowing when to bring up the question of money; I am quite a direct person, and I don’t like wasting time so I like to get this out in the open as soon as possible with any new or potential clients; but I am not sure whether this is something that should be mentioned in a general query, a pitch or after it has become clear that there is an expressed interest from the other side.–Sarah

In the case of publications, they will ordinarily have a usual pay rate for their articles. Be sure to ask them what it is when they make an assignment, and get a contract that spells it out. Definitely don’t ask about money until you’ve got an editor interested in your article idea.

With business clients, I try not to spend more than 30 minutes discussing their project before having a ballpark fee discussion. Start by saying, “OK, sounds like you want 6 pages of web copy. What’s your budget for that?” Or something along those lines.

If they won’t say or can’t because they don’t have any idea of rates, then I throw out a ballpark, “Based on what you’ve said, that sounds like $X-X worth of work to me. That sound about right? Now, if they wanted it all done for $50, we can be done quickly.

–Have you got questions about freelance writing? Feel free to leave them in the comments below. You can also get prompt, detailed answers to all your personal freelance writing questions in Freelance Writers Den, my learning community for freelance writers who want to grow their income. We are currently open to new members, but just for a few more days.