Diana Kelly Levey

How to Write a Pitch for An Article

A woman typing on a computer

November 9, 2020

One of the ways freelancers find freelance writing jobs is that they “pitch” an idea to an editor. When you’re wondering how to write a freelance pitch or how to pitch an article to a magazine, a freelance pitch is basically an idea you send to one editor at a particular publication that you think would be a good fit for their audience.

I’ve been writing freelance pitches to editors and marketing managers for brands since 2006. As a staff magazine editor, I’ve also received many pitches from writers for magazines and online publications I worked for. (Get my guide on how to write email pitches that get sold, with article pitch examples for magazines like Real Simple, SHAPE, Reader’s Digest and more.) 

Some of those pitches I received were great and turned into paid freelance assignments. Others were duds and probably got ignored for a few weeks or turned down. 

That’s why I wanted to cover an important aspect of freelance writing in this blog post.

Here’s how to write a pitch for an article.

Whether you’re a beginner freelance writer and just getting your feet wet with writing pitches, or, you’ve been writing for decades and want to compare your email pitch to another freelance writer’s to see if yours could be improved, this nine-step freelance pitching guide will help you write better freelance pitches so you get paid writing gigs.

How to write a pitch Step 1. Read the magazine, website, or publication you plan to write for. 

Get to know the magazine sections, the types of articles they feature, word counts, and whether they use research, expert interviews, first-person essays, infographics, and more. It’s usually advised to try to read the last three issues of a print magazine before sending your freelance proposal over to an editor. Here’s how much time I spend researching articles for assignments.

How to write a freelance pitch Step 2: Come up with an idea for that publication.

When creating great content, it should align with the client’s core values, be something the ideal audience wants to ‘like’ and share on social, be easy to find (like having a prominent link to a blog on the website), be original and fresh, and it could be a thought-provoking piece, like a thought leadership article on LinkedIn or an op-ed. Get more tips on creating good content here.

How to write a freelance article pitch Step 3: Make sure the publication didn’t cover the idea already.

This task can be tricky because it isn’t always easy to find out if a magazine has covered that specific topic or idea before unless they’ve uploaded all of their articles to their website. Do a site search to see if they have similar articles. (To do a site search on the idea you would type in “keto dinners” site:dianakelly.com if you wanted to see if that topic was on my site before you pitched it.) Learn more about where to find freelance article ideas to pitch here. If you’re a veteran freelancer who’s been pitching for a long time and feel “stuck” when it comes to finding new pitches for an existing client or you just want help brainstorming fresh article ideas, try this freelance writing exercise

How to write an article pitch Step 4: Decide the section of the site/magazine where it will live. 

Make sure your pitch includes the section of the magazine you see the article being published in, or, the section of the website it could be a fit for. For example, you wouldn’t pitch a personal essay for the “front of book” section of the magazine if they don’t have essays there. Or, you could tell the editor something like, “I see this article living in the Health section of your site” if it’s a health pitch. This lets the editor know you’ve familiarized yourself with their outlet and the sections of their website or magazine. You can even suggest a potential word count range as well.

How to write a freelance pitch Step 5: Write a strong email subject line. 

You have to set yourself apart from the publicists who are sending pitches to editors about their clients, new products, upcoming books, and event invites. My downloadable PDF has examples of email subject lines I used that got high open rates. Model your subject lines after the ones I used when pitching editors to get them to respond to your pitch. (Writers wanted: Here’s what magazines pay freelancers.)

You have to set yourself apart from the publicists who are sending pitches to editors about their clients, new products, upcoming books, and event invites. Model your freelance article pitch subject lines after the ones I used when pitching editors to get them to respond to your pitch. (Writers wanted: Here’s what magazines pay freelancers.)

How to write a pitch Step 6: Grab the editor’s attention in the first paragraph.

After addressing the editor, do the following:

  • Give a brief description of who you are (see freelance pitch examples here);
  • Include any writing experience or background knowledge you have that would be applicable for their outlet (i.e. you’re a certified personal trainer pitching this fitness idea, or a fashion stylist pitching a fashion trend); or, you’ve written for similar publications to theirs (name them);
  • Explain why you are sending this article pitch right now (a timely study was released, seasonal idea, an anniversary is coming up that you want to capitalize on, a new book is out, or it could be an evergreen idea). Editors always want to know, Why this, why now?

Some successful freelance writers like to launch right into the pitch and explain their background and experience at the end of the email. Others prefer to write a strong, succinct paragraph in the beginning to grab the editor’s attention. 

How to write a freelance article pitch Step 7: Write a few potential headlines for the article in the body copy.

It’s always a good idea to include a few (two to three) potential headline examples for your article pitch. This helps the editor see how the article will be “packaged.” Chances are, the final article assignment and headline will differ a little bit from your pitch but this shows the editor you know how to succinctly summarize your idea and draw the reader in with a strong headline. Need help writing headlines or want me to look over a pitch? Learn more about my freelance coaching services here.

How to write a pitch Step 8: Describe what will be included in the article.

Not only should you write possible headlines, but you should include potential research studies that support your idea and name some potential sources you would interview for the piece. 

When I was an assigning editor, I usually didn’t need to know exactly who the writer was interviewing for a story, but I wanted to make sure we were on the same page with the type of expert they’d talk to for the piece. I might have included in the pitch, “I’ll interview relationship experts like psychologists or psychiatrists” or, “I’ll reach out to a certified personal trainer for these abs exercises,” or, “I’d like to interview the author of this [specific book that just came out] or someone similar.” That lets the editor know that you don’t think you are the expert (unless you are writing an essay) but that you’ll interview sources to get the best material for the article. Learn more tips on how to write a pitch in my freelance writing course.

How to write a pitch Step 9: Send your finalized pitch out on one of these days.

Whether you’re sending an introductory email pitch to a potential new client, or, you’re sending your best article pitch to an editor, I think that midweek is the best time to send an article pitch. When I was a full-time editor, Mondays were usually spent catching up on work I didn’t finish the week before and chatting with colleagues about their weekends. By Tuesday afternoon, most editors have probably trudged through their Monday to-dos and may have more time to read your pitch email and consider it for their outlet. I think Wednesdays and Thursdays can also be good days to send a freelance article pitch. By Friday, your email might get bypassed for more pressing issues an editor has to address before leaving for the weekend.

Remember, don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back on your pitch. It still happens to me!

Find out if you made one of these freelance pitching mistakes. Check out these practices for following up with editors once you’ve emailed them your pitch.

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