Freelance Writing 101: How to Pitch an Editor

Veteran editor teaches you how to write a pitch that’ll land you more writing work.

You’ve been writing for the past year and are looking to expand your portfolio.

The problem is, very little work is coming your way despite how often you promote yourself on social media and Reddit.

If this is the case, it’s time to start pitching editors so you can build up your freelance writing client list and portfolio.

But you have to know how to pitch an editor.

In this post you’re going to find out what to include in your pitch so that it stands out and gets you work.

With that said, remember that pitching is a numbers game. The more you pitch, the better your chances of landing a writing job.

So after you finish reading this article, start using the index card system I recommend and get to work.

Good to Know

Before you find out how to pitch an editor, know a few things.

Pitch Editors Frequently

Most writers who land steady gigs do two things: they pitch a lot, and they write well-crafted pitches. More about the latter in a bit. But first, pitching a lot.

In 2008 – the year I met my future wife – I approached her a dozen times asking for a date. She turned me down every single time.

Eventually, in 2012 she finally agreed to meet me in Brookdale Park for a morning jog. That week we got together every day for a forenoon run. A year later, we married.

It took four years from me meeting my wife to her actually agreeing to go out with me. Had it not been for my consistent “pitches,” I would’ve never landed the greatest gig of my life.

The same is true about pitching.

You may not land a writing project after your first, tenth, or even hundredth pitch, but eventually you will. And that moment will be one of the most freeing of your young writing career because you’ll realize that finding writing work is possible.

With that in mind, it may help to create a “pitching system.”

When I was starting my writing career, I drew a grid of 50 squares onto an index card and then laminated it.

Each day of the week, from Monday to Friday, I’d send ten pitches, each time drawing a dot in one of the squares with a whiteboard marker. By the end of the week, I had to have a dot in all 50 squares.

Erase. Repeat. That was my system, and it served me well.

Your Pitch Is A Reflection Of Your Writing

When you pitch an editor, your email is the first piece of writing that you’re introducing that editor to, so make it count.

If your email pitch is filled with grammar mistakes, run-on sentences, and fluff, then the editor can only assume your content will be the written the same way.

After you write your pitch, send it to a few friends or family members and ask them to read it over. You can also run your pitch through a program like Grammarly.

Don’t Waste The Editor’s Time

Don’t write to the editor saying that you know he or she is limited on time and so you’re going to make the pitch as brief as possible and then talk about your love for morning tea and how you pass idle time on the weekends by baking cakes for the three cats you recently brought home from a roadside shelter in South Bend, Indiana while on a road trip with your favorite second cousin, Alfred.

Just get to the pitch.

As soon as you type the words, “I don’t want to waste your time but/so/therefore…” you’ve already wasted the editor’s time and he or she probably won’t read the rest of your email.

You’re doing the very opposite of what you hoped for.

On top of that, it makes you sound weak. Be confident in your pitches.

Don’t Ask The Editor To Review Your Other Work

Editors already have enough work on their plates (I’m working on writing this in between three other ongoing projects), and they have no time to review any of your previously published work.

The writer above pitched a few story ideas, which were completely unrelated to our website, and linked to one of his articles posted on another site.

He then wanted to know if I had any feedback for him about that previously written piece.

The last thing you want to do is ask an editor for feedback on an article you wrote for another website.

Now that you know what to keep in mind and what not to do when pitching an editor, let’s move along to the actual pitching process.

Research What The Company Publishes

If you don’t know anything about what the company or online publication in question actually publishes, you have some work to do.

Visit their websites and look at submission guidelines, check out their social media pages or YouTube channels, and ask yourself a few questions.

Do they publish writing course reviews? Features or profiles? Long-form content? Take note of the type of content the company publishes.

By doing this, you’ll be able to craft a personalized and relevant pitch that’ll most likely get read all the way through, which will increase your chances of actually landing a writing project with them.

If I had to estimate, I would say one out of every 50 pitches I get reads as if the writer on the other end actually researched our company.

I currently work in sports media, and we publish content about sports. That includes features, news stories, and lifestyle articles.

Still, I get pitches like these…

Researching the company, however, will only get you halfway there. You also have to find out who you’re pitching.

Find Out Who You’re Pitching

Before sending your pitch, find out the editor’s name. You’re more likely to capture the attention of editors if they read an email addressed to them.

Your first choice should be to look on the company website’s contact or about page. But if it’s not listed there, you have a few other choices:

  • Google
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

Sometimes you’ll be able to find the name of the editor but you can’t locate his or her email address. If this is the case, you can try using this email verification tool by Hunter or this one by Anymail Finder (account required).

They both offer paid services, but if you only have to check one or two emails, you can probably use their free feature.

When searching for email addresses, remember that most companies use a few standard formats, so if you found the editor’s name, plug it into the tool using one of the formats below and see what comes back.

  • wallybucks@companyname.com
  • wally.bucks@companyname.com
  • w.bucks@companyname.com

Once you verify which email address is correct, then you can write your pitch to the editor.

If you can find out the name of the editor and write to him or her, you’ll have the editor’s attention for a few more seconds.

But in order to keep the editor’s attention, the first sentence of your email must deliver, and the next section will show you how to do that.

Half-Ass Pitches Vs. Well-Written Pitches (Examples)

It’s easy for me to sit here and write about what you should and shouldn’t include in your email pitch, but it’s better for me to show you an example of a pitch that is poorly put together and a well-written pitch that lands writing gigs.

First, a half-ass pitch:

Let’s go through the email and find out why it will most likely never land that freelance writer a gig.

  1. It’s not addressed to the editor. Okay, she manages to address it to the company, but the more personalized the email, the better. It shows you did your research.
  2. The first sentence is about her and not what she could do for the editor.
  3. She mentions that she’s browsing for “new sites” and found us. Always make the email specific to the company your pitching to.

Now let’s look at a well-written pitch and see why it’s so good.

  1. The writer addresses me.
  2. He tells me right away the name of the article he read on our website, showing me that he did his research.
  3. The freelance writer adds a personalized comment about that article, showing he is indeed a human being and not some bot spamming inboxes.
  4. He offers three ideas that I have to admit are very close to what we’d publish on our website. But even if they weren’t, he takes the time to brainstorm a few headlines.
  5. The writer leaves a link to one of his articles.
  6. He finds out where I had once traveled to, and in his post script leaves a comment saying he went to a nearby location, mentioning something about the place that only a person who did indeed go there would know about.

How could I not respond to that kind of email?

Subject Lines

I may be in the minority here, but I never read subject lines.

When I check my email app, I go right down the line, opening and scanning each email one at a time. If the opening sentence catches my attention, I continue reading. If not, I delete the email and move on.

With that said, the safest bet is to include something about pitches in your subject line should the editor read it.

If you were pitching a travel editor, for example, you could say something like this in your subject line:

Loved Your Article + Bali Story Pitches

Adding a short personalized note (like Loved Your Article) in your subject line will definitely grab an editor’s attention.

As you can see so far, pitching a story to editors takes work – which takes us to my next point.

Practice Your Pitch Writing Skills

In 2007 I took my first trip to Thailand to study Muay Thai, and after the first day I noticed that the fighters at the camps practiced very simple techniques hundreds of times per day, thousands of times per week, until they mastered the move.

Writing pitches and pitching editors works the same way.

You’re going to have to practice writing pitches and pitching editors every day. Dedicate about 30 minutes of your morning to pitches.

You’ll find that after a week or two, you will ingrain the routine and be able to streamline your pitching efforts.

If you don’t know where or how to start pitching story ideas to editors, sign up for a website like Pitchwhiz. You may not get responses in the beginning, but you’ll be gaining experience and resilience.

With that, you need to be resilient as a freelance writer. You may only get one answer out of a hundred pitches, and that could be damaging to the ego.

But now that you know how to pitch an editor, you should feel more comfortable doing so.

Just a head’s up. I’ve added a few affiliate links to this post. If you use any of the services or buy any of the products I recommend, I may get a small commission. This helps me cover the cost of running the website and comes at no extra charge to you.