Pitching is the most rudimentary skill in the freelancer’s tool chest. When I started out in this game I didn’t quite know what I was doing, and it took me a lot of trial and error to figure out what works. Perhaps I can spare you some agony by sharing some of what I have learned about sending pitches to maximum effect. Hopefully these few tips can shine a light into the dark tunnel of your journey.
1. Know your markets!
Don’t even think about pitching anything to anyone unless you’ve read at least one issue of their publication. How can you expect to know what they publish if you don’t do your homework first? If not, you’re just throwing darts in the dark; even if you hit the mark you’re incredibly lucky. Go to the library, the websites, the newsstands, and start readin’!
2. Target the editor
I have found that general inboxes are generally useless. This means anything like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. These general boxes are often flooded with thousands of emails a day at some publications, so your precious pitch gets lost beneath an insurmountable pile. Some magazines are really good at responding, but the majority of them aren’t. Find out who the editor is and get their email. If you can’t find it, call in and ask for them.
3. Follow up
Since your pitches most often do not get a response, you almost certainly will need to do a follow up to get a final answer. Sometimes even the follow ups go unanswered, but you need to be persistent if you want to get anywhere in this business. I prefer to wait a week after the initial contact to send a follow up email or call. A lot of the time they appreciate a professional and courteous call. Just don’t explode when they reject you.
4. Watch your tone
The tone of the pitch you send should be the tone of the magazine you’re sending it to. You of course want to preserve your amazing voice, but at the same time keep in mind their style. I would not write a pitch to Vice Magazine the same way I write a pitch to Canadian Business. Totally different worlds call for totally different tones.
I hope these small tidbits have been of service to you. It took me well over a year to get my pitching game in shape. With any luck this will make your own pitches sharper, more exact, and more fruitful.