Finding writing work online is not that hard. You can find thousands of people who offer to pay you less than a penny a word to write articles, blog posts, and other material. By working approximately 9,700 hours a day, you can eke out an almost-decent living.
Of course, if the idea of writing for less than a penny a word or the idea of working ALL THE TIME doesn’t appeal to you, you can still find plenty of writing work — but you have to go about it a little bit differently.
One strategy you can use to find freelance writing clients is to send pitch letters directly to the clients you want to work with.
What Exactly Is A Pitch Letter?
A pitch letter is when you write to a potential client and pitch your services as a writer. You can do this in an actual letter that you send in the mail with a stamp, or via email.
A pitch letter needs to accomplish several things:
- describe your service
- get clients interested in what you do
- convince prospective clients that they need your service
- provide information that makes it simple for clients to hire you
In a nutshell, when you pitch a client, you’re sending a personalized message that says, “I can solve this problem for you.” That’s it. No problem, right?
Yeah, okay, writing a pitch letter is a little bit intimidating. But it’s absolutely worth the effort you’ll put into it.
Why Should You Write a Pitch Letter?
You should write a pitch letter if you enjoy things like eating regularly, living in a home with electricity and running water, and having money available to buy other things, ranging from iPhones to masking tape.
Seriously, pitch letters get you work. They also let you direct the conversation — you’re the professional, you set your rates, you set your terms, you are not competing against the entire Internet full of writers applying for an advertised job. You’re CREATING the job that you want and explaining why you’re the PERFECT person to do it.
One of the first things students learn in Writing for Money is how to establish smart habits that make it easy to send pitch letters out regularly — daily, or at minimum a few times a week.
When you get in the habit of sending out pitches regularly, you take a LOT of the pressure off. If you have one pitch out in the world, you’re hanging all your hopes and dreams on one single hook. You’re checking and re-checking your email frantically, and if you don’t get an answer, or if you get a rejection, you’re crushed.
On the other hand, if you send out pitches daily, you have plenty of irons in the fire. Some people respond and ask for more information. Some people hire you. Some people never reply — and you keep pitching.
You keep sending your stuff out there. You show up and put in the work. Consistency is THE KEY to building a successful, sustainable business.
If you’ve sent out pitch letters every day for the past two months and you haven’t had a single reply, then you have a clear sign that something is wrong with your pitch.
Now you have information you can use — you can tweak your pitch, refine it, and send out the new version.
The Best (And Worst) Way to Start Your Pitch Letter
The most important thing to remember when you write and send a pitch letter is that you’re showing up uninvited and out of the blue, so you have nanoseconds to interest potential clients in what you have to say before they toss your letter in the trash.
That’s why you absolutely need to start your pitch with something that really speaks to the potential client. This part of your pitch needs to be personalized and specific.
For example, Your website doesn’t have any information on this super important thing that people in your industry need to know.
Or: The user manual for your WidgetMaster 3000 is confusing. On page 3, you say this, and on page 7, you say the opposite.
If I’m a business owner and someone is pointing out problems with my business, I’m going to keep reading, so you must open your pitch letter with something that will immediately capture your potential client’s interest.
Never, but NEVER start your pitch letter with, “Hi, I’m a freelance writer and….”
Seriously, think about it. Your phone rings. You answer. The person on the other end says, “Hi, Abbi, this is John from SuperAwesomeCompany. How are you?”
Maybe you’re nicer than I am, but I’ve already hung up, because it’s obvious to me that this is a sales call, and I’m not interested.
Do not start off your pitch letter by introducing yourself as a freelance writer. Your letter will end up in the trash.
Start your pitch off right to capture your prospective client’s attention. And then what?
What Information Should I Include in My Pitch Letter?
You’ve seen that it’s important to start by catching your potential client’s attention. But what do you do once you have it? Well, you have to make it impossible for clients to ignore their problems. Most modern businesses understand the importance of having an online presence — but they don’t have time to fill it with content.
So you catch the client’s attention with your opening statement: Your website doesn’t have any information on this super important thing that people in your industry need to know.
And now you drive the point home:
The blog at YourCompetitor.com is updated daily. Posts on these 17 topics have over 40 comments each. Several of those posts also have additional content readers can download, and WidgetCompetitor also offers a free email course on how to determine if widgets are right for you.
YIKES! Now Ms. Client is painfully aware that her competition is CRUSHING her, and NOW you can present your awesome solution for her business.
Keep the focus on the client and her needs — like this:
Would you be interested in regular, engaging content on these 5 or 6 highly targeted topics that relate to widgets and clearly show that I’ve looked closely at your website and your specific focus on widgets?
Oh, hey! A specific, targeted solution! NOW you can give a bit of information about why YOU’RE the right person to do the job. For example:
I’ve written about widgets for the last X years. This post on WidgetWorld.com has 97 comments. Here are links to some other samples, not necessarily about widgets, but that show I know how to write in an engaging, conversational style that’s appropriate for a blog.
See how that works?
Your pitch needs to focus on the benefits clients get. The greater your perceived value, the more you are worth to clients. In plain English, you can charge more money.
Here’s another example.
Dear Ms. Client:
The user manual for your WidgetMaster 3000 is confusing. On page 3, you say this, and on page 7, you say the opposite.
Do you need help creating user-friendly manuals that will reduce help center and support calls, and make your customers feel they can trust your brand and your products?
I’d suggest rewriting this manual entirely. Here’s a quick example of what I mean:
[Screenshots of A FEW LINES of original and proposed rewritten text.]
If you’re interested in exploring this, please be in touch! I have several other ideas for improving your user guides and manuals.
Thanks so much!
By choosing your niche and targeting people in one area, you’ll build up your own expertise in that area, and you’ll get to know the nuances of that industry as well.
For example, you’ll know instinctively that widget owners use certain language when talking about themselves, and using certain other terms immediately marks you as an outsider. You’ll know that the industry standard is this program, rather than that one. And all of that together will help build your credibility and help you land higher-paying jobs.
What Shouldn’t Be In Your Pitch?
Just as important as what you DO put in your pitch is what you DON’T put in it.
Remember, this is a professional pitch designed to sell you as a professional writer. This means that you should not include any of the following:
- Information about your love of writing. Does your dentist talk to you about his love of teeth? No. Does your mechanic tell you about the cars he rebuilt as a teen? No. So save your stories for your cocktail parties.
- Information about your education. Clients do NOT care about where you went to school. They care about making more money for their businesses. Your degree from Harvard or your local community college does NOTHING for them. Really.
- Information about your (lack of) experience. DO NOT TELL POTENTIAL CLIENTS, “I just started working as a freelance writer.” You DON’T need to pretend you’ve been in business for years, but give yourself a chance! Show great samples, talk about how you can help potential clients, and leave the rest alone.
- Information about you and your life in general. This isn’t a letter to a friend. It’s a business letter to a potential client. So cute stories about your kids aren’t appropriate. YOU know this, but you’d be surprised at how many OTHER people don’t.
Like so much of the work you do as a freelance writer, your pitch letter should not be about you. It should be about your clients: the problems they face, what they need, and how you can help.