Diana Kelly Levey

9 Tips On How to Pitch An Article

A woman typing on a computer

September 4, 2022

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 pitch for an article or how to pitch an article to a magazine, know that 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 when I first started my freelance side hustle. As a staff magazine editor at Prevention magazine, Weight Watchers, and Muscle & Fitness magazines, I’ve also received many pitches from writers. (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 and repeat freelance work with a writer. Other pitches were duds and probably got ignored for a few weeks or turned down. BTW, If you’re curious about freelance writing websites where you can get work, I’ve got you covered.

That’s why I wanted to cover an important aspect of types of freelance writing–like how do you write a pitch–in this blog post and share how to write a pitch for an article.

Here’s how to write a freelance article pitch for an article that will go in a magazine.

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 on how to write a pitch for an article on addressing ‘how do you write a pitch’ will help you write better freelance article pitches so you get paid writing gigs in one of these most profitable freelance writing niches of 2022. (After you press send, you’ll want to start reading over these freelance writing tips that will help you with how to write a good pitch over and over again.)

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

Get to know the magazine sections before submitting a written pitch, 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 pitch email over to an editor. Here’s how much time I spend researching articles for assignments. When it comes to applying skills on how to pitch an article to a website, I recommend freelancers sign up for that publication’s newsletters, follow their social media feeds, and read their website daily or weekly to learn more about the types of topics they are covering, their tone, and the articles they are assigning. It can even be helpful to follow their LinkedIn page. That’s one of my eight LinkedIn tips for freelancers! Gathering all of this info about their audience will give you a leg up on freelance writer competition and help you send the best article pitch.

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Step 2: Come up with an idea for that publication.

When creating great content, the magazine article pitch or website article pitch should align with the client’s core values, be something their ideal audience wants to ‘like’ and share on social, be original and fresh, and could be a thought-provoking piece, like a thought leadership article on LinkedIn or an op-ed or personal essay. Get more tips on creating good content here. Brainstorming great ideas for a client takes time before you work on how to write a pitch email and while you might think you have the perfect article pitch for a magazine and quickly try to write it up and send it over, if you’re thinking about how do you write a pitch, it’s important to do your homework and make sure you’ve researched the publication as well as your pitch so you know it’ll be the right fit before you work on how to write a good pitch.

Step 3: Make sure the publication didn’t cover the idea already.

Sometimes, you have a great idea for a client–but they already covered it! So frustrating! This task on written pitches 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 before you spend much time thinking about how to write an article pitch for this client. (Example: 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

Step 4: Decide the section of the site/magazine where it will live. 

Make sure your written pitch for an article 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. This is an important step when learning how to pitch an article to a website. 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. This is the type of info you need to have before exploring how to write a pitch email for an article at this publication. 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 when writing an article pitch. You can even suggest a potential word count range as well. Here’s an example of how much to charge for a 500-word article.

Step 5: Write a strong email subject line. 

When you’re sending an article pitch, 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 PDF of freelance article pitches 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.

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 a nurse pitching a healthcare topic); or, if you’ve written for similar publications to theirs (name them).

For example, if you were a healthcare writer and had experience writing about immunity and infectious diseases, you would mention that in the pitch and include any relevant clips. These are important components when you are exploring how to write a pitch email.

Explain why you are sending this article pitch right now (a timely study was released, it’s a 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? So make sure the answer to those questions are answered in your pitch as well as why you are the best writer to work on the freelance article assignment.

Remember that print magazines work ahead quite a few months so you should be pitching summer ideas in January and February and think about holiday season article pitches for magazines in the summer. (I’m finding online outlets are planning far in advance these days, too. I turned in a holiday travel article to a client at the end of August.)

If you’re struggling with how to pitch an article to a website, think shorter deadlines and lead times. You could probably pitch Easter-related food ideas in late February or March to a recipes website.

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. 

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.” If we are using the “keto dinners” example from above, a few pitch headlines to suggest might be:

  • X Keto Dinners You Can Make in 5 Minutes or Less
  • No Time to Cook? Make These X No-Cook Keto Dinners Tonight
  • X Ridiculously Simple Keto Dinners Your Family Will Love

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.

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 in their introductory email.

As a freelance writer, my suggestion on how to write a pitch is to include 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 do you write a pitch in my freelance writing course.

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 if you’re thinking about how do you write a 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 and I keep working on how to write a pitch email for an article! The follow up email to an editor of the most important things you can do to have a successful freelance writing business. See 7 freelance article pitches that were rejected.

The most important step a freelancer often forgets to do? Follow up on their freelance article pitch. Check out these practices for following up with editors once you’ve emailed them your pitch.

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