Freelancing Writing: How to Approach Magazines, Websites and Newspapers With Your Ideas
So, you've decided that you've got what it takes to become a freelance writer and have that all-important killer idea that you want to pitch to a magazine, newspaper or website. Before you jump in and risk blowing your chances of landing a commission by not knowing the ropes, take your time to understand the techniques that you should be following when you approach editors with your article ideas.
Don't Write an Article and Then Try to Find a Home For It
It's generally considered "amateur" to write the article in advance and then send it to an editor. There are several problems with this approach:
- As you can imagine, editors are busy people and are unlikely to have the time to read through a full article to decide whether they like your writing style and whether it's a good fit for their publication.
- You might be a fantastic writer but chances are, your writing style doesn't fit the publication that you're approaching without some major tweaking so it's going to take a lot of work to basically write a different article for each publication that you're trying to target.
- Unless it's a highly unique angle, your idea has probably already been covered by the publication, in which case they won't be looking to cover it again for some time. If this is the case, you've wasted a huge amount of your time by putting together an article that may have no chance of being published.
- In some cases, an editor might like your basic idea but want to tweak it slightly to take a slightly different angle to what has been suggested. If you've already written the article, there's no scope to do this and the editor will likely just reject the idea instead of coming back to you and asking for adjustments.
Putting Together a "Pitch"
Instead of writing up an article and then trying to find a publication that will accept it, save yourself time and effort by "pitching" your idea(s) to editors. In a nutshell, this involves concisely putting together a brief overview of the article that you'd like to write. Aim to get your point across in a couple of paragraphs - one for summing up the basic gist of the article and the other for outlining your relevant writing experience (for example, any similar publications that you've written for or any articles that you've done in the same area) to show your credentials.
How Much Information Should You Give In a Pitch?
This is often a matter of personal preference but I don't tend to go into too many details about how I envisage the article looking if it's commissioned. In the early days, I would name experts that I planned to use in the piece (getting the go-ahead from the expert(s) in question before sending the pitch to make sure that it was feasible) and lining up case studies if relevant. Not only was this very time-consuming for something that may never be commissioned, but it also left the door open for the publication(s) to create the piece in-house, bypassing me altogether. This has only happened once in my freelance writing career but that was enough to convince me that it's better to play your cards close to your chest until you've got a commission.