Do you wish you could build a freelance writing career or business?
Perhaps you already own a freelance writing business, but the chaos of the past year has derailed it and you.
Either way, read on to learn more about a major skill which can help you to build your business quickly.
As a writing teacher, my aim for almost two decades has been to help freelance writers to build their confidence and skills. Although the world has changed since our first creative business ezine, Creative Small Biz, was published in 2003, the fundamentals of getting freelance gigs haven’t changed much at all.
Here’s the biggest change. Today, rather than sending heavy packets of your “about me” materials via postal mail, you approach prospects via email.
That said, if you’d like a lucrative freelance writing career, you need to be aware of the secret professional writers know. What do they know?
Freelance writing: what’s the secret professional writers know?
They know this… The basis of a great freelance writing business is pitching.
A “pitch” is an offering.
Knowing how to pitch your ideas and offerings will make your writing career profitable.
Examples of pitches you can use today
A creative pitch is basically just an offer to do something, for pay.
Here are examples of two pitches you could make today to people who already know you; they’re termed “warm” pitches:
- You send an @ message to someone on Twitter — “need 2 blog posts for your upcoming pre-launch?”
- You write a custom email message to a client offering to write blog posts. Your email outlines ten blog post ideas you’ll write for the recipient’s business. You include the post titles, the categories, and the keywords targeted. You also include a posting schedule, and perhaps an offer to schedule the posts for publication in the business’s WordPress blog.
BIG tip: pitch to WARM prospects
Your warm prospects are those companies and publications which already know who you are.
Avoid “cold” pitching, that is, pitching to anyone who’s completely unaware of you and what you do. If someone (a business or a publication) is completely unaware of you, you need to invest a little time in warming them up.
You can do this in any way you like.
- Get someone to recommend you; ask a current client to recommend your services to friends in his industry.
- Send a letter of introduction (LOI.) In practice, you’ll send several of these over time. Think of your approaches as auditions… And take your time with them. It can take a year or more for a “cold” prospect to warm up, after you’ve made several approaches over several months.
- Approach a cold prospect on social media: retweet them, or comment on a post. Please don’t pitch them at this early stage: remember, you’re introducing yourself.
- Physically call at a business. Leave your card. (I used to visit business parks in large cities to leave my card. Try this simple marketing strategy; it works.)
Warming prospects takes many touchpoints. (Read about touchpoints here.) They need to see your name many times before they respond, because they won’t respond until they need your services.
In business, pitches are often known as “proposals” . There are primarily two kinds of pitches freelancers make: online (email, or other messaging app, or video) and in-person pitches.
Online pitches, and in-person pitches, which should you choose?
In a nutshell…
- An online (email or other) pitch is used for everyday writing services. A business might need someone to do write ups for new product lines, or new products. Online pitching is a regular occurrence. Businesses form a relationship with a freelancer who writes this material. They may ask the freelancer to pitch — to send along some ideas, or the freelancer may take the initiative, and send ideas.
Payments for these kinds of writing services will usually be good, but they’re not a huge slice out of the business’s budget.
- In-person pitches: major stuff only.
Reserve in-person pitches for MAJOR projects only.
Here’s why: time. To coin a cliché, time is money. When you consider preparation time, traveling time, and the time it takes to make your presentation and follow up afterwards, there’s not much left of an eight-hour business day. Depending on your daily income, an in-person pitch costs you upwards of $1,000 in lost income if you don’t win it.
So, you’re $1,000 in the hole before your pitch (if accepted) makes you a cent. If your pitch wasn’t accepted, because the company prefers someone else’s offer, you’ll never get that time or money back.
Tip: if you must pitch in person, ask for your daily rate, up front, to be paid before you start work on the pitch
I started charging for pitches within three years of starting my practice as a freelance copywriter. After I missed out on a couple of major projects for which I’d pitched, I realized that I’d wasted a lot of time… Moreover, I’d lost an entire day’s income.
So I made it my policy not to pitch in person without sending an invoice for my full daily rate; ensuring that it was paid before I prepared the pitch. I encourage you to to do the same: you’re a writer—you’re not a sales person. Your writing time is valuable. Strive to convert as much of your “not writing” time to “writing time” as you can.
Why pitch? Pitching takes you from amateur to highly-paid pro status FAST
When you pitch a service you offer, you save a company time and money. They don’t need additional staff, and they don’t need to pay an agency.
Everyone’s busy. Nine out of ten times, businesses will put off projects which require expertise they don’t have. Or they’ll try to do the projects in-house, and get dismal results. Finally they realize that paying a freelancer is well worth the money.
This means that when you learn how to pitch, companies already expect to pay you well for your expertise. A freelancer can be paid thousands of dollars for a single sentence, in the case of a tagline for a business.
Creating pitches is the major way to develop a highly paid freelance writing career.
Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.