How do you cold pitch as a freelance writer?
If you're thinking about becoming a full-time or semi-professional content producer for the web (or any other industry), then it might be time to learn some new skills.
One of those is cold pitching -- the process of sending out an unsolicited message in order to secure regular work from a company that hasn't asked you yet. There are a few ways you can go when doing so, but we'll show you what works best if you want to get hired fast by big companies without much competition.
In this article, we'll teach you everything you need to know about cold pitches — including who should send them, how they should look, and more importantly, why these techniques matter.
How do freelance writers write cold emails?
The first thing to keep in mind with cold pitches is that you don't have to be super personal. In fact, sometimes less is better. This means that instead of opening up like you would normally, all you really need to say is "Hi," followed by something along the lines of, "I'm interested in working with [company name] because..." Then mention one or two reasons you think you'd be good at their job. It doesn't even necessarily need to be related to their business goals.
For example, let's say that you're currently looking for clients to help create blog posts for a tech startup called Smartbox. You could open up a cold email with something simple like, "Hey guys! I saw your post on Medium today. Love your stuff!" And then add something like, "It looks like you've been hiring outside contractors lately. Would love to chat sometime soon about whether I could fill that role." That way, you leave yourself room to answer questions later if someone does reach out to you.
Another great tip is to make sure not to oversell yourself. Don't talk too highly of yourself or anything else to anyone unless prompted to do so. If you think someone will ask you to expand on your experience, feel free to share that information after getting the gig. But remember, people aren't just going to read through your resume right off the bat. They probably won't care about your title either. So try keeping things short and sweet whenever possible.
Lastly, always include links where applicable. When applying to jobs online, there are often extra fields for URLs and relevant files. Make sure you take advantage of these spaces. People simply may not see the value in responding to your request otherwise.
Now that you understand what makes for a successful cold pitch, here's how to actually craft one.
How do you write a professional cold email?
Next up, it's important to ensure that every part of your email comes across as professionally written. Your grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure should all be top notch. The last thing you want is for someone to throw away your email because it sounds uninspired or amateurish.
With that said, the tone of your email also matters quite a bit. While you shouldn't sound desperate or overly eager, making sure you come off as approachable is key. After all, no one wants to hear from a stranger whose only intention is to sell themselves.
Make sure your email has a strong subject line containing keywords relating to your field. For example, if you were trying to apply for a position in marketing, you might consider using "Marketing Manager" as your subject line.
Finally, avoid being vague in your messages. Instead, stick to facts and figures wherever possible. No one likes reading long paragraphs filled with unnecessary words and phrases. Keep sentences straightforward and concise.
As far as formatting goes, most freelance writers recommend staying true to the style guide of whatever client you're hoping to impress. However, if you're feeling creative and inspired, you can break the rules. Just be mindful that you don't end up confusing the recipient.
Here's an easy rule of thumb to follow: Use bolded text to emphasize certain points, italics for emphasis on specific words, underlined for hyperlinks, and strikethroughs for separating sections.
And that wraps up our list of tips for crafting effective cold pitches. Now it's time to figure out how to deliver yours effectively.
How do beginner freelance writers pitch?
Once you've got the basics down, you can move onto developing your own unique style of cold pitching. We suggest starting out by practicing your pitch regularly until you find one that feels comfortable. Once you settle on a method you like, stick to it.
When delivering your pitch, it's extremely helpful to stay consistent throughout. A lot of times people are turned off by inconsistency. One minute, you might refer to a former employer as "my old boss," while the next you call him a friend. Or maybe you decide to change the names of the company you're contacting. All of which can turn potential customers off pretty easily.
While changing things around midstream isn't a bad idea, it's still crucial to strike a balance between professionalism and relatability. If you're able to pull it off seamlessly, you'll definitely stand out among others.
After picking a strategy, you'll likely have to develop templates based off of the kind of messaging you choose. These typically contain a customized introduction paragraph, a brief summary of your qualifications, contact details, and a reason why you believe they should hire you.
Keep in mind that many different industries require varying amounts of research before reaching out. Some types of businesses -- such as law firms -- usually prefer having candidates reply within 24 hours. Other types of companies -- such as restaurants -- tend to respond faster than that.
So it's best to tailor each template according to whichever industry you hope to join. As mentioned earlier, though, consistency is absolutely essential. Otherwise, it becomes harder to pinpoint exactly what separates you from everyone else.
We strongly encourage giving prospects a heads-up if you haven't heard back from someone after X amount of days. Notifying them beforehand lets them know that you're ready to pick up the phone if necessary. On the flip side, however, if someone reaches out to you after waiting longer than 48 hours, you can politely decline without guilt.
Speaking of this topic...
A common mistake made by inexperienced writers is forgetting to address the prospect directly during their cold calls. Simply addressing someone formally, rather than mentioning his or her name, shows disrespect.
Instead, it's beneficial to begin conversations with both parties by saying something similar to, "Good morning/afternoon [name]," or "Hello Mr./Ms. Smith." Doing so helps put everyone at ease.
This leads us to another piece of advice: Be honest with yourself regarding your level of expertise. Unless you truly belong to the upper echelon of talent, don't lie about your credentials. Sure, there may be instances in which you exaggerate your skill set, but never outright state false claims.
Remember, nobody cares about your education, awards, accolades, certificates, etc., unless you happen to be competing against someone with more impressive credentials.
That wraps up our rundown of basic guidelines for cold pitching. Next, we'll discuss how to handle rejection.
How do I pitch myself as a freelancer?
Now that you've learned the essentials behind creating a winning cold pitch, it's time to test your newfound knowledge. Try submitting a sample cold email that includes a personalized intro paragraph, a brief description of your background, a link to your portfolio website, and a reason why you deserve to meet with whomever you're targeting.
See how smoothly you fare. If you're rejected, take notes on what went wrong. From there, tweak your pitch accordingly until you get closer to landing your dream gig.
There's nothing worse than wasting countless hours perfecting your pitch only to face harsh rejections. With persistence and patience, however, you'll eventually succeed.
To recap, here are the main components that comprise a killer cold pitch:
Structure your message well, sticking to proper grammar, punctuation, and sentence flow.
Be consistent with your wording and presentation.
Stay focused on providing interesting content.
Always give prospective employers enough info to evaluate your abilities.
Never lie about your experience or lack thereof. Focus on highlighting your strengths.
Don't forget to include links where appropriate.
Give prospects plenty of notice if you haven't heard back from them after a certain period of time.
Freelance writers are in high demand right now—and there’s more of them than ever before. In fact, the Freelancer Union found that over half (56%) of Americans who want to work from home already have jobs or are looking toward self-employment.
With so many people vying for fewer opportunities, it’s crucial to stand out among the crowd if you're interested in working from home. To help you do just that, we've compiled some tips on how to cold pitch as a freelance writer, whether you’re brand new to this industry or an experienced pro.
If you have what it takes to succeed as a freelance writer, here is everything you need to know about getting started today!
How do freelancers pitch their brands?
Before we jump into exactly what "cold" pitches mean, let's talk a little bit about branding first. If you don't know much about establishing a business identity yet, check out our guide to building your freelance brand. It'll walk you through all the steps necessary to make sure everyone knows who you are. And once you do, read these helpful tips on developing an effective freelance marketing strategy.
When it comes to selling yourself to potential clients, however, most people default to using a personal introduction when they begin cold outreach. This means sending someone directly to your portfolio without any prior communication. But while this might seem like a quick way to connect with companies and receive assignments, it doesn't always lead to long-term success.
Here's why: When you send a client straight to your website, your portfolio becomes the only representation of your talents. So even though you may write amazing copy, design clean websites, etc., if your site isn't up to par, it will show. As such, it's important to establish yourself well ahead of time by creating content that represents not only your skills but also your personality.
This gives you an edge against other candidates because after scouring portfolios, hiring managers often look at social media profiles, LinkedIn profile pages, and other online presences to see which writers fit best within a company culture. Your goal should be to highlight those traits that speak to your strengths and passions while letting potential employers know where else you could contribute.
Cold pitching is meant to bypass traditional methods like networking events and job fairs, instead connecting you directly to businesses. By doing this, you avoid having to wait around until recruiters find you via referrals, which take months sometimes. You also save money since you won't be paying for headhunters' services.
In addition to making excellent connections between companies and talent, cold pitches offer another advantage: They allow you to build relationships outside of your current role. For example, if you're currently employed elsewhere, you can approach one of your previous bosses with a letter outlining why he or she would benefit from bringing you onboard.
It may sound counterintuitive, but being able to say something like, “I was recently laid off from my last position and am still searching for full-time employment...” helps paint you as relatable rather than desperate. Plus, it lets companies know that you aren't simply taking whatever assignment you can get.
As soon as possible, set up automated emails that follow up regularly with relevant links to your latest projects. These will keep track of new developments, updates, and deadlines related to each project, helping you to stay organized. Additionally, consider keeping a digital notebook containing information on every contact attempt. Use Google Docs or Evernote for this purpose, both of which provide ample file space.
Once you have an established network, you will be better equipped to understand how to tailor pitches to different industries. Also, remember that pitching too frequently can come across as annoying or spammy. Instead, aim to reach out to one or two contacts per week. Once you build rapport, ask to meet face-to-face to discuss future collaborations further.
So, yes — you can definitely apply for freelance writing positions without any past professional experience under your belt. However, it's important to put forth effort to learn the ropes beforehand. The following sections contain additional advice based upon your specific situation.
Can I be a freelance writer with no experience?
Yes! Just keep in mind that starting as a novice can require extra patience and persistence compared to others in similar situations. With hard work and dedication, anyone can achieve great things regardless of background.
Below, we list several ways you can break down the process of overcoming lack of industry experience and becoming a successful freelance writer:
1) Identify gaps in your skill set. Before going after freelance work, think back to times you were excited about completing tasks and reflect on areas in which you excelled. Then research online forums, blogs, articles, and books written by experts in those fields. Make notes of ideas, concepts, and topics that interest you, then practice.
2) Build up your portfolio. After identifying what type of freelance writing you'd like to pursue, create a collection of samples that showcase your abilities. Donate copies to local libraries, churches, schools, universities, and community centers. Or try uploading examples to platforms like Behance, Dribble, DeviantArt, Pinterest, and Instagram.
3) Join organizations focused on supporting newcomers. There are tons of groups dedicated to providing resources and support to aspiring professionals. One option is SCORE, a nonprofit organization that offers assistance to small businesses. Another is National Writers Association, whose members include editors, publishers, agents, and publicists.
4) Start applying immediately. While you shouldn't expect to get hired overnight, it's smart to get involved in the industry sooner rather than later. Not waiting too long can result in lost opportunities due to competition.
5) Network. Take part in offline activities designed specifically to promote growth within your field. Examples might include conferences, workshops, clubs, and trade shows. Look for gatherings hosted by associations that cater to your interests. Joining groups like NaNoWriMo is also beneficial since it keeps you motivated during tough moments.
6) Be prepared to adapt. Even if you have been actively pursuing freelance opportunities for years, change is inevitable. That goes double for journalists, novelists, screenwriters, photographers, videographers, bloggers, and others who rely heavily on technology. Stay updated on changes in the market, develop strong transferable skills, and improve your ability to multitask.
7) Learn more. Continuing education is essential for staying competitive in the freelance world. Consider attending college courses, seminars, conferences, or lectures. Alternatively, enroll in online classes provided by reputable institutions like MIT OpenCourseWare.
8) Try side hustles. Side hustling involves finding a second stream of income to supplement your primary source of revenue. Ideas range from offering administrative support to teaching English abroad. Think creatively, and explore options that align with your unique capabilities.
9) Keep a positive attitude. Negative thoughts and feelings tend to bring about negative outcomes. On the contrary, positivity leads to greater success. Always be ready to bounce back from setbacks.
10) Keep learning. A continuous commitment to improving oneself makes all the difference in the end. Continue growing professionally year after year by exploring new avenues, reading publications, watching movies, listening to music, and trying new foods.
11) Embrace diversity. No matter your profession, experience level, gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, height, weight, disability, nationality, or anything else, embrace your uniqueness. Diversity opens doors to new ideas, perspectives, and partnerships.
12) Follow trends. Social media has changed the game for millions of us. Nowadays, knowing what's trending allows you to capitalize on hot niches and identify opportunities early.
13) Invest wisely. Although finances play an integral role in the freelance life, spend carefully. Paying too much attention to financial matters can discourage creativity and stifle motivation. Remember to allocate enough budget for essentials like housing costs, utilities, health insurance, taxes, and transportation.
14) Leverage free tools. Learning software programs, apps, devices, sites, and other gadgets exist to enhance productivity. Take advantage of freebies offered by big names in tech, finance, healthcare, retail, entertainment, publishing, accounting, and beyond.
15) Hire mentors. Having a mentor can ease the transition by sharing knowledge, expertise, and guidance. Ask colleagues and former teachers for recommendations regarding whom to seek out. Some reliable sources include professors, family friends, coaches, authors, and leaders in your chosen industry.
16) Set goals. Setting goals provides structure and direction. It encourages you to focus on particular issues and objectives, thus leading to tangible results. Write down milestones, plan action items, and assign accountability responsibilities to ensure progress toward meeting targets.
17) Get feedback. Receiving constructive criticism from trusted peers will boost confidence and motivate you to grow. Share your ideas, opinions, experiences, and successes with others whenever possible. Feedback can prove invaluable when used correctly.
18) Create a detailed daily schedule. Daily routines are important for maintaining order and momentum. Without a structured routine, it's easy to lose steam and feel overwhelmed. Establish a simple system for dividing your day into manageable chunks. Break larger tasks into smaller ones, dedicate certain periods for researching, crafting, editing, submitting, responding to inquiries, and so on.
19) Document processes.
The best way to get started in the world of freelance writing is with cold pitches — cold meaning that they're not based on any kind of pre-existing relationship or contact between yourself and the company you're trying to reach out to.
Cold pitches are often used by people who want to break into industries like publishing, film production, technology, marketing communications, digital media, etc., but aren't known to those companies at all. They're also useful if you'd rather work for an agency than directly for a client. If you have some knowledge of what a particular industry is looking for, you can offer it up without being rejected outright.
"There may be times when someone will ask me about my background and expertise before deciding whether or not they would need my services," says Sara Kugler, founder of The Muse Career Center. "But most organizations won’t."
So, here's how to go through this process successfully without getting shot down immediately. And remember, cold pitches are only one part of building rapport. Once you've established a connection with potential clients, you'll want to keep them interested enough so that they don't say "no" right away.
First things first: Make sure you know exactly which type of freelance gig you're after. This might sound obvious, but there are many ways to approach a cold pitch. You could focus solely on copywriting, for example, or you could include other areas such as social media strategy. It really depends on where you fall within the spectrum of available jobs.
If you haven't already picked out a niche area of interest, consider doing so now. Then narrow down the types of projects you would enjoy working on the most. For instance, if you love to write about health and wellness topics, you could target publications that cover these subjects specifically, while remaining open to general assignments related to fitness and nutrition. In addition, you should think about what skills you possess and what you hope to learn from each assignment. Can you teach others something new or improve upon existing skill sets? Or maybe you just want more opportunities to sharpen your own craft? Whatever the case, jot down anything and everything that comes to mind. That list will help you come up with ideas later.
Once you feel confident in your abilities, take your chosen field and turn it into a question: What needs does [insert industry] fill? Asking questions like this helps you identify gaps in coverage, and allows you to see what kinds of content gets shared widely online (and why). Look for trends and patterns instead of staying focused on broad categories.
Now that you have a better idea of what your interests are, let's move onto the next step!
How do I introduce myself as a freelancer?
One thing that makes cold pitches tricky is that you never actually meet anyone face-to-face. So, it's important to ensure that your introduction includes details that make you easy to find. Your bio should contain information regarding your education level, current job status, professional affiliations, specialties, languages spoken, relevant credentials, and personal website address.
Including links to sample writing samples, portfolio sites, blogs, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn profiles, podcasts, and/or YouTube channels demonstrates dedication to quality and professionalism. Also, try to avoid using generic words like "writer" because it doesn't demonstrate specialized knowledge specific to the field. Instead, choose descriptive terms such as "health journalist" or "technology reporter".
Next, you should add additional pertinent information regarding your availability, including hours worked per week, average rate, desired length of engagement, geographical location, and preferred method of communication (email works well). You should also state that you're willing to travel, depending on the nature of the project. Lastly, always mention prior successes whenever possible, especially when applying for highly competitive positions.
You can also attach a brief summary of your qualifications, outlining your educational background, previous experiences, and notable accomplishments. Most importantly, however, stick to facts and figures — numbers speak volumes, even over email.
When sending your intro via email, remember that long emails tend to get overlooked. Try breaking up large blocks of text so that your reader has a chance to absorb the entire message.
How do I cold pitch as a freelancer?
While cold pitching sounds scary, it shouldn't deter you from pursuing your dream of becoming a full-time freelance writer. Many successful writers were once considered outsiders, too. But persistence paid off and eventually landed them their first big breaks.
To maximize your chances, tailor your outreach efforts toward publishers who share your interests and passions. Think of it like finding your local chapter of Toastmasters. Search for groups whose memberships match yours. Join discussions and become familiar with the editorial calendar for upcoming issues. Attend meetings and network with editors until you gain access to coveted contributors' spots.
It's crucial to strike up authentic relationships. While you may be tempted to send unsolicited proposals, it's generally frowned upon unless you've been introduced by someone whom you trust implicitly. Don't forget that journalists, editors, bloggers, and TV producers spend countless hours every day reading stories pitched by strangers.
Also, realize that everyone else involved in the publication's decision making processes was likely sent similar requests. Unless you truly stand out among the crowd, your chances of landing a contributor spot are slim.
And yes, sometimes rejection hurts. However, don't dwell on it indefinitely. Remember that you are simply taking steps towards achieving your goals. After all, there are plenty of talented professionals who didn't give up and became household names.
Lastly, be patient. Not all editors respond to queries within 24 hours. Be aware that certain publications require longer lead times due to staffing constraints.
After waiting several days without hearing back from a publisher, follow up personally with a note expressing regret about missing its deadline. Reiterate your desire to contribute and reiterate your willingness to provide free editing services in exchange for future consideration. Offer to stay in touch with prospective employers via phone calls, texts, or emails throughout the duration of your contract.
Can I call myself a freelancer?
Yes. There are two main reasons why you probably wouldn't hear back from a magazine editor or producer if you apply to join his team. One reason is that he isn't hiring anymore. Another possibility is that he received dozens of applications from equally qualified candidates.
However, calling yourself a freelancer still carries weight. A title conveys legitimacy and increases chances of success. Consider signing contracts under the name "John Doe Writer", reserving your real identity until you've built credibility.
For example, John Smith might be a novice copywriter who wants to pursue freelance writing as a hobby. He can begin referring himself as a freelancer only after establishing regular contributions to major outlets. Alternatively, Jane Blonde writes for her own blog. She can claim the title of self-employed author without ever mentioning her employer.
As mentioned earlier, though, starting as a freelancer means sacrificing income. You should set aside money for expenses incurred during the early stages of your business. These costs typically include taxes, insurance plans, equipment, and liability protection. Some agencies charge fees upfront to offset administrative responsibilities associated with running a business.
Freelancers must also contend with market fluctuations. Depending on the seasonality of your profession, you may notice fluctuating rates and earnings. To mitigate this risk, establish a steady source of revenue and build savings before launching your enterprise.