How to Write a Freelance Pitch for Writing

I’m a freelance writer and editor outside of my 9-5. I’ve been doing it for a few years now. I love freelancing because it gives me more opportunity to refine my writing skills. Part of freelancing, unlike a traditional job, is selling yourself over and over again. So I’ve had to construct a cover letter, or freelance pitch, to do so. Generally, I work off of a master template that I have written. It’s short. I kept it that way because I’ve hired freelancers to do work for me before and I didn’t bother to read the long cover letters I received. If you can’t keep it concise, I get the sense that you’re not a very skilled editor (I was looking for an editor for my first novel).

My freelance pitch front loads my credentials to show that I have formal writing education. If you don’t have formal writing education, no problem. Just start with your experience. If you have no experience, get on it. Start a blog and write on it regularly. I’ve landed a good amount of jobs because of my blog. Clients have told me numerous times that they visited my site and read my articles. You don’t have to be a pro blogger or even have many readers. All that matters is that you show consistency and you show that you can write.

After I’ve listed my formal writing education, I jump right into what I do for work. I’m an API technical writer and I highlight this because it shows that I write professionally. I also list my previous experience as a PI: “Previously, I was a private investigator for three firms in California and composed over 500 investigative reports.” I add this because it shows that I have research and analytical skills. It also shows that I handled quite a few cases on my own.

I end with a quick summary of my independent writing achievements: “I’ve also worked as an editorial intern for a news publication, written two fiction books, and maintain a personal blog.” This portion is important because it shows that I write even outside of getting paid! I write because I’m a writer – not always because someone is paying me to write.

Here are some more ideas that can help you pitch yourself for freelancing gigs:

Be picky about who you pitch to.

Just like everything else in life, not every client is a match -whether it’s to your skill level, communication methods, or the terms you will agree to – you’re going to have to be a bit picky going in to avoid burning yourself out. In my experience, I’ve had a lot more success sending cover letters for freelance jobs that I felt a connection to. For me, it’s not about sending out as many pitches as possible, but being selective. I read the tone of the job listing. Does this person seem reasonable in their communication and sense of timelines? Do they understand the value of writing or are they looking for filler that’s anything but Lorem Ipsum?

Tweak your pitch/cover letter master template. 

The whole point of the freelance pitch master template is not to throw it out to every job listing that exists on the Internet. It’s to serve as a starting point so that you’re not drawing a blank every time you go to pitch. You’ll save a lot of time by copy and pasting. Then look back at the job posting. What drew you to it? Are there other experiences and interests you have that are relevant to this job? List those. I once wrote 50,000 words for a French cat care website, and I got hired because I’m French and I’ve extensively volunteered with cats. I landed another job by professing my love for philosophy and art history to a Berkeley professor.

Manage your online presence.

If you don’t have one, start a blog. You will at the very least need a personal website, but a blog is better (for a writer!). Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve landed jobs because of my blog. I just toss in a link to a specific article I want potential clients to read. Write about whatever you want. I write on a wide range of topics including issues with the current workplace norms, my ideas about social media, creativity (we are all innately creative), and my writing process. Just show that writing is not just a job for you.

Honor your creativity.

If you’re obsessed with writing like I am, that incredible creature of creativity nags at you to get to your desk, chair, floor, and scribble or type something. It’s a lifelong relationship and I’m infatuated. And because I love writing, I treat it with respect, because I want the relationship to last. So I nurture my writing. I let her have her time. She wants to write an article about freelancing immediately after getting off of work? You bet I’m going to honor her and sit down and type like a furious court transcriber. She wants to write a cringy poem? Hell yeah, I’ll bring that to life. She wants to take a break and sulk about the wire-bound unpublished novel I stick by my desk? Okay, but not too long, there are many more words to get out of this head.

Your freelance pitch is just an introduction to you, so it’s best not to lean too heavily on it. Add your education, credentials, and any other information relevant to the specific job post, but keep it concise. People want to see the work. They want to see that you know how to write – and well.

I always sign off with my full name (because, Google me please) and my website. I encourage potential clients to see for themselves and not to rely on me saying “yeah I went to college and I’m a technical writer”.

If you’re just starting out (or have neglected to display yourself online as a writer), build yourself up. Create a trail of writing around you. Blog. Take an online course. Practice. Assume that rightful identity of writer.

5 Things to do When You Start Freelancing

When you start freelancing, you may not have robust formal experience and portfolio items. But with dedication and time, you can build up a repertoire of clients and works. Here are the 5 Things to do When You Start Freelancing. Use them as a guideline and tailor them to your own liking. Everyone’s freelancing speciality and client base is different, so remember to stay true to the basic principles of good business. This is namely proper communication and strict adherence to deadlines. Add your own individual principles as you discover them.

1. Publish your own content

You’re not restricted to creating content only under other people’s terms. If you want to build up your own portfolio, don’t be shy about creating content on your own terms and publishing it online. You may have your own blog, Behance account, or public GitHub repository. Think about the type of content that you want to work with, and think about the type of content that best demonstrates your abilities. Use this as a jumping off point to show off your skills online. Remember the poignant advice, show don’t tell. Instead of telling your clients how good you are at what you’re selling, send them a link.

2. Listen selectively to advice

Be the champion of skepticism when you start anything new! Not everything you hear about freelancing will be applicable to you, let alone useful. Seeking out too many avenues of advice may leave you feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. For some, it’s better simply to start and trust your ability to perform well. Don’t go in blind, but also don’t go in thinking you’ll always need internet advice to make a business decision. Be critical of advice that sounds unhelpful, ill conceived, and outright or covertly unethical. As you work more, you’ll gain a better grasp of your freelancing acumen.

Desk Photo by Justin Veenema

3. Foster your passion

Freelancing doesn’t always means having a steady stream of clients and income. During slow times, it’s easy to be discouraged, and even to begin blaming the lack of work on yourself. Forget the negative self talk. You may still have it, but transform that into positive passionate energy. Remind yourself why you love doing what you do. Even when you’re doing a less-than-ideal job for a client, tell yourself that you’re working on your craft. Take pride in even the smallest menial jobs and be thankful that someone wants something that you’re creating!

4. Be an exacting bidder

When you start freelancing, you’re building a foundation that represents your body of work. Yes, you should already be thinking about your body of work. This is the culmination of your efforts over a long period of time. Recognize yourself within the culture of your craft. When you do this, you identify more worth in your work. With this said, be an exacting bidder. Don’t blindly send out proposals for every job that you see. Be discerning and critical of the choices you’re making along the way of establishing yourself as top-notch in your field.

5. There are no mistakes

Missing a deadline is not a mistake; it’s a choice to be disorganized. Miscommunication is not a mistake; it’s a lapse in ability on either or both ends to formulate a clear request or response. Recognize the underlying issue, don’t just chalk it up to making a mistake. Be prepared to take immediate action to change your work process or style of communication. Pinpointing your faults is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself in your professional (and personal) life. And you’re likely to come to the conclusion that your faults traverse both of these arenas!

For more information about freelancing, check out the following blog posts:

5 Things You Need to Know Before Freelancing

5 Freelancing Tips for Avoiding Client Issues

5 Things You Need to Know Before Freelancing

Before freelancing, you’ll want to know a few things. Freelancing is a legitimate job but unlike traditional office jobs, it doesn’t come with training. Some have a mentor or follow strict advice, and others try it out and see what happens. These 5 Things You Need to Know Before Freelancing are going to help you start your business the right way. These tips are good to know whether you’re freelancing as a career or doing it part-time.

1. Freelancing is a business and you need a business permit. 

This is something that’s not really talked about. Freelancing is an actual business. You’ll need a business permit. And you might also need a home occupancy permit depending on where you live. Check with your local city and county to determine exactly what you need. Get the proper documentation before freelancing so you avoid any legal and tax-related issues.

Another useful thing that I did when starting to freelance was taking business classes. Many cities and counties offer free business development courses. Why? Their idea is that fostering small businesses will help the local economy. You can learn some valuable information – for free – by taking these government sponsored courses.

2. Working from home isn’t always ideal.

If you have a noisy neighbor, live on a busy street, or live with roommates, you know that it’s not always ideal to work from home. Don’t worry, you have options. Scope out the local coffee shops and keep a mental list of places you can go to get your work done. I like to find coffee shops that don’t play music too loudly and that are open late.

If you need a more permanent fix, you can look into some of the local co-working spaces. These are more prominent in larger cities and offer you the ability to rent rooms or buy time. Down the line, know that you can rent an office. And if you live in a home or apartment with an extra room, you can convert it into an office and actually charge your business rent! Talk to a tax advisor or do more research to find out more about this.

office photo by Vadim Sherbakov

3. You’ll be paying taxes, so keep records.

Since you’re running a business, you’ll be paying city/county taxes (as applicable), state, and federal taxes. Keep thorough records of business expenses that you’re making. I opt for a simple Google spreadsheet, but use what you feel is most comfortable and extensive. For this portion, you’ll need to do some research in regards to what you can deduct.

Ensure that you have a clear and ethical idea of what you can and cannot record when it comes to your business expenses. For example, you will not be able to write off expenses made prior to obtaining your business license. Starting a new business is exciting and some people can think they need much more than they have, but start conservatively and build from there. You’ll notice that many of the success stories you’ve heard start with a description of that individual’s economic and spacial limitations. Be that story.

4. Don’t be put off by advice about how hard it is.

You’ll see it all over the web. You’ll hear things like “if you’re not organized, don’t even think about freelancing.” Don’t feed into that negativity by believing that you can’t freelance if you have a track record of being disorganized. Sure, there are some who have more discipline than others. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn discipline, or that you can’t start to be organized. Don’t undermine yourself before freelancing if it’s really what you want to do.

Humans have the incredible capacity to learn new skills. And if you want to freelance, it may just be the perfect opportunity for you to pick up some good habits. It’s far better to go for it and try than to remain in your comfort zone. You’re not on this earth to just fit into a mold of descriptors given to you by other people. If you want to be organized, learn. If you want to be disciplined, learn.

office photo by NVSBL Media

5. You don’t need to know everything or be an expert.

Everyone starts somewhere. When you’re freelancing, you’re bound to have to learn a lot in a small amount of time. It’s a perfect chance for you to exponentially expand your skill set. When you look at your competitors, you may notice that they use words like “expert” and “prolific.” Don’t be intimidated by it. Remember that they’re nobody censoring who or what an expert really is.

You don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) say you’re an expert. That is, unless you can really substantiate the claim. There are other ways of selling yourself without being so outright and blatant. Doing solid work and being trustworthy is far more valuable than telling anyone who will listen that you’re the top-dog, even if you are. Trust that your expertise will reflect through your willingness to learn and through your output.

5 Freelancer Tips for Avoiding Client Issues

As a freelancer, you do a lot – run your own business, hustle to get clients, prioritize your time – all while keeping clients happy and work top-notch. Here are the 5 Freelancer Tips for Avoiding Client Issues. Remember these and your days will run smoother, and you’ll avoid that dreaded drama.

1. Don’t undercharge, even if you don’t have a lot of experience.

You’re setting up shop, but that doesn’t mean you have to work for a fraction of your worth. You know your skill level, charge accordingly. If you undercharge, you’re both undervaluing your work and potentially turning off clients who associate those higher fees with quality and experience. You may not want to take every job, especially when you’re starting out. But this could actually do you a disservice.

2. Check the reviews your potential clients leave for others.

These often say more about the client than do their own reviews. If you see that a client is consistently leaving poor ratings and not giving constructive feedback, run. They may have gotten a little too trigger happy with the small amount of power they have. Alternatively, they may not be choosing the right freelancer from the get-go. They may be looking for cheap price and quality, and then realizing they can’t have both.

3. Don’t always be available at the drop of a hat.

That is, unless you’re a personal assistant. If you’re always there, you may end up doing more work than you bargained for. As a freelancer, you’re hired to complete a service. Look out for clients who have you schedule, coordinate calls, and plan meetings. They are likely misunderstanding that just because you are freelancing doesn’t mean you’re desperate for money (even if you are).

freelance workspace photo by Damian Patkowski

4. Don’t do the work before you get the job.

This one might seen obvious, but it’s tough to spot at times. Sometimes, clients will ask you to provide them with an outline, or ask you your process for completing a task. I have found that in all of these situations, the client is not actually looking to hire right away, but to glean information on how they should go about completing a task. Also, don’t do “test” tasks unless they are paid, or take minimal amounts of time.

5. Go with your gut and don’t be afraid to fire clients!

Freelancing is all about working with the right clients. They are the ones you want to help grow, and have a long-standing relationship with. The wrong clients will demand a lot and pay you little. The wrong clients are also the ones who are going to give you poor feedback. If something’s off or they’re asking for something out of scope too often, don’t be afraid to fire them!