How to Cold Pitch Yourself to New B-to-B Clients
Freelance writers are always trying to figure out the best way to pitch their ideas to editors with whom they don’t have an established relationship.
We are constantly questioning ourselves. What day is the best day to pitch? What time is the best to pitch? Which editor is the best one to pitch this idea? How much will the publication pay? Am I good enough? What’s the best way to pitch an idea? Should my voice be formal or casual? We go around in circles and trying to convince people that we’ve never met to believe in us in our ideas.
So how do we do that? The answer to that depends on who you ask. Some editors will say that it’s best to pitch them ideas. Editors are always on the hunt for good ideas.
Generally, that’s true across the board. But if you are getting started in freelance writing, how do you know what ideas the editor will commission? You could start by reviewing the articles written on the topic you want to write about, but even then it may not be totally clear what a publication wants and doesn’t want until you pitch the idea.
So, what happens when you want to write for a publication but don’t have story ideas to pitch right away? If you have prior experience at internships or perhaps within a niche industry, you could sell yourself rather than a specific idea.
Quick caveat: this doesn’t work so well with consumer publications in my experience. Consumer publications have a unique problem of having way too many writer vying for a spot in their prints or digital imprint. However, I find that selling yourself to B-to-B (or trade) publications or content marketing clients can prove to be lucrative. Here’s how I’ve done it:
Determine which beats you want to cover and devise a plan.
What are the industries or topics that you know like the back of your hand or are so interested in that writing about them doesn’t feel like work? Make a list of these beats and then figure out which publications cover those topics. Having it mapped out will ensure that you won’t get overwhelmed by all the possibilities out there. Start by checking resources like the Writer’s Market for lists of publications that may not be on your radar already. Then Google or ask around to find other publications within your niches. I found it helpful to create a spreadsheet of trade publications, the industries they covered, how often they use freelancers and how much each publication pay. You can find data about this in the Writer’s Market as well as websites like Who Pays Writers.
Find your best clips and polish your resume.
Sure, you may not have a defined pitch for a trade publication right away, but you can sell yourself to a trade publication editor by demonstrating your qualifications. Look for your clips and find any stories you’ve written related to their industry, preferably for publications that they might recognize. It doesn’t hurt to update your resume if you have experience related to the trade publications to which you want to contribute.
Write a brief note explaining your qualifications.
Unlike consumer publications that are covering a wide audience, trade publications are speaking to a specific audience seeking higher level insights into what’s happening in their field. If you have experience covering the industry or a related field, write a brief email explaining your previous work and how your experience can help them serve their audience. For example, if you hold a law degree and have some experience writing articles, you could pitch your local bar associations publication or perhaps national law magazines.
As more experienced freelancers will tell you, letters of introduction are a Goldmine for acquiring high-paying clients. In my experience, writing a brief introduction to trade publications has yielded thousands of dollars in recurring work. I have used previous clips for consumer and trade publications to land clients seeking regular contributors. whether you are a writer with a bit of internship experience or a new writer coming from another field, it is possible to break into freelance writing without having a defined pitch. The trick is to sell yourself as a reliable writer who can distill complex ideas to an intelligent audience. With a succinct pitch and a little confidence, you can cover any subject you want.
Have you pitched yourself to trade publications? How did it go? Tell me in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org