Sell What You Write: A Freelancer’s Guide to a Winning Pitch
Freelance writing is a cutthroat business. It can be unpredictable and merciless if you are depending upon it for a living. On the other hand, it can be quite lucrative if you know what you are doing. If you are a writer then you probably love what you do and going to work isn't really work. However, (and there's always a ‘however' isn't there) you have much more to do with your business than simply write.
If you want to use your writing to put food on the table, you have to sell it as well. There are three factors in selling what you write and actually, selling is the easy part. The other parts to the sale are things that many people don't ever even consider when they pitch an idea or send in their query. Just remember boys and girls, it is the small detail that tells the big story. In this business, you cannot afford to do things half way from the beginning of your project to the end. These areas, and everything in between, are facets of the freelance sale.
Write your Pitch and Check it Twice (or more!)
Sure you pay attention to your writing - most of the time, right? Well, pay attention all of the time - when you send an email, write a query, pitch an idea and, for heaven's sake, when you write a sample!
So many times a writer will take the time to painstakingly write a query and sample then hurry to submit it - without a final edit or spellcheck. What the potential client receives is a mess. Typographical errors, syntax errors, poor sentence structure and incorrect grammar are glaring red flags to a potential client. They all scream, "Don't hire this guy! If he won't even take the time to proof his sample work, what kind of work is he going to do for you?"
It is all about appearance on the page. You have a reputation to build and if you ignore it you will stay right where you are until you decide you are starving and get an office job.
SpellCheck isn't Enough
Better yet, when you are finished with a piece, read it aloud. Edit as you go along then spellcheck. Then, and this is the clincher, edit again. Take your time to carefully construct your pitch, query, sample, and any other material that your potential client will see. Run SpellCheck, then proof it - and proof it again. If you want to get the high paying jobs, submit high paying work. Everyone has to do his or her time with the low paying jobs at first.
Think of is as paid training but write for the job that you want, not the job that you have. Just because you are getting $3 per article doesn't mean that you cannot write as if you are getting $300 per article. If you want to eventually get the $300 article writing gigs, you have to write as if you are worth it. The same goes for your bids, pitches, queries and communication with your potential client. Never, ever skimp on quality.
The Value of Meeting Deadlines and Submitting Quality Work
Deadlines are a biggie in this business. You miss a deadline, your client misses a deadline and it goes on and on; where it stops you may never know. One thing you can know for certain, somewhere someone is unhappy and it will inevitably trickle back to you. The writer is usually at the bottom of the chain so you never know where the domino effect will end when you miss a deadline. But it will end - and not well. This looks bad and can ruin your reputation.
What happens when you get a bad reputation? People don't hire you. When people don't hire you, you do not get paid. So, there is some incentive. Meet your deadlines and give quality work. Communication is key to maintaining a relationship with your client. When they see that you are cooperative, timely, professional and turn out fantastic work, they will send you more work and often better paying work. This gets you out there, you get more experience and you get a great reputation. You might even get a byline or two which could lead to even more work.
It all Hinges on the Pitch
This is the easy part because it involves no self-discipline or motivation, just some writing styles that sell. When you pitch your writing, keep in mind that your client is likely sifting through hundreds of letters and samples just like yours.
Two things: Keep it brief and make it shine.
Your potential client does not want to wade through a dissertation on why he or she should hire you, just give ‘em the high points. Great writer, published, experience, and so on. Two or three well thought out paragraphs should suffice. If you are being asked for topic ideas, toss out a few that are clever and unique. Don't google the topic and copy what has already been done, find a new angle, a new perspective, something no one else is doing. THAT will get you jobs.
Attach a well-written sample and let your work speak for itself. Your pitch should make him or her want to read your sample. Your sample should make them want to adopt you as their own child. OK, well maybe not as their own child, but certainly take you on board as the writer that they cannot do without.
Construction of an Epic Pitch
Try to address things in the ad, posting, or request directly in your pitch. It makes your pitch more personal and less like a form letter. Form letters wind up in the trash, by the way.
Tell them about your experience - briefly. If you have experience that directly relates to the job make sure you include it. What some writers don't realize is that writing is not the only experience that can be used in a pitch. Use your 'real world' experience as well.
For instance, if the project is about parenting and you have raised several children of your own include that information in your pitch. If you have samples and links directly relating to that, include them.
Briefly address how you would attack their project. Describe how you would handle the subject matter, angles you would cover and sources you would cite. You can give some ideas, but be careful because some project owners will take your ideas and not give you the project. Albeit those are few and far between, but it does happen. Keep it brief and don't give away too much of your skill in a pitch, just convince them that you are skilled.
Never, ever mudsling. It looks unprofessional and you look desperate. You should never need to say anything negative about your competition, former clients, anyone - period. Your work should make you far outshine that rascal that did you wrong.
You can sell what you write with a little discipline and a lot of attention to detail. This is just a starting point though. It is a process and you will get better as you go along. Have patience, take your time and make sure that you always turn out an exemplary job no matter what the pay. Always write every article as if you are being paid top dollar - and one day that is exactly what will happen.