How I Got 5 Paid Blogging Gigs With One Query Letter

By Anthony Sills

Are you a freelance writer looking to overcome your writing fears and grow your income?

Learning how to develop story ideas and write effective queries can help you earn more from writing. If you take the time to learn these skills, it can boost your self confidence, and your earnings.

How do I know?

A few months ago, I took Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli’s 4-Week Journalism School class, and it really helped me go from idea to article.

In fact, I landed 5 paid blogging gigs with one query letter at $100 a post!

I was feeling stuck

Why did I sign up for J-School? I was doing OK as a freelancer, but I wanted to earn more.

At the time, I only wrote when ‘inspiration’ struck me.

When I had questions, I wasted enormous amounts of time looking for the answer.

I was feeling ‘stuck’ and unsure of how to advance my writing career. I knew enough to know I needed to know more.

Why most freelance writers fail

Recently I read somewhere that most people don’t have any problem coming up with ideas. The problem comes when it’s time to determine if it’s a good idea.

If you wait until you think you have the perfect idea, you won’t develop the habit of constantly coming up with ideas and developing them.

As Carol and Linda say:

“In freelance journalism, story ideas are the coin of the realm. The more story ideas you can come up with, the better your odds are of getting assignments.”

The J-School session on story ideas helped me to develop a list of focused topics. If you want to get better results from your freelance career and make more money, developing the habit of writing ideas down in one of the best steps you can take.

While I was completing the homework exercises for the class, I became aware that a company that does marketing for small businesses had started a new blog aimed at providing useful, actionable small-business advice — and was looking for content.

I knew exactly what this particular market was looking for, and coincidentally I had a list of five story ideas I’d developed in the class. So I decided to contact the editor of the blog with my ideas.

At this point, my story ideas were not much more than a headline and a one-paragraph description of the article.

I pitched all five story ideas in a single email, hoping the editor would like at least one of them.

To my surprise, all five were approved and the editor assigned me all five blog posts!

How I Developed My Story Ideas

I used the techniques in the J-School training to flesh out my ideas, research the stories, and write my first drafts. Here’s how I came up with my story ideas:

  • I’d recently read that 40 percent-50 percent of inbound sales leads are never pursued effectively, so I decided to write a blog post helping small businesses capitalize on more opportunities by developing a follow-up system.
  • It happened to be ‘Mob Week’ on the cable channel AMC and I had watched all of the Godfather movies. This led to my idea to take a light-hearted look at what small business owners can learn from the Godfather Trilogy.
  • Another story idea also came from my reading. A study found that “46 percent of U.S. consumers have cancelled plans to spend with a small business after discovering a poor quality website.” This led to a post on common mistakes business owners make with their websites and how to avoid them.
  • The other story ideas started with (what I thought was) a good headline. I came up with the headline first, then worked to make my story very specific and come up with a good lede (that’s journo-speak for the first sentence). Then I did some research to come up with the quotes and statistics that would make the target audience want to read the stories.

The email that got me 5 assignments

I have omitted some identifying details, but this is essentially what I sent the editor:

Dear [editor's name]:

I’m putting together a few blog posts related to small business I think your readers would be interested in. I’ve included the pitches below.

The Fortune is in the Follow-Up

Do you have a plan for following up with leads and prospects? This 450 – 600 word post will discuss CRM and other strategies for keeping up with leads and prospects.

Do You Make These Mistakes With Your Website?

This 450-600 word post will discuss the top (# TBD) mistakes small business owners make with their websites and how to correct them. Data will be based on interviews, research, and a recent study that discovered “58 percent of consumers have decided to avoid a company in the future as a result of finding a faulty website. Some 68 percent of US users are more critical towards website errors today than they were five years ago.”

The Secret of Multichannel Marketing

This 450 – 600 word post will cover using direct mail, voice broadcasts, video marketing, text messages, etc. to reach customers at multiple touch points. Basically, this will introduce small businesses to the opportunities available using more than one channel to promote their business.

#(TBD) Hot Ecommerce Trends to Watch

Here are # (TBD) trends that are affecting eCommerce merchants and how you can take advantage of them.

(Here I listed five issues.)

See How Easily You Can Change Your Online Reputation

Doing business online can subject your business to the whims of the Internet. An ecommerce merchant with an angry customer can quickly find themselves battling a negative online reputation. What can you do? How can you combat it? This 250-500 word blog post will discuss ways small businesses and entrepreneurs can go about the business of managing online reputation.

Best,

Anthony Sills

I’m sure my pitch wasn’t the greatest one this editor ever received, but I found out later that I’d sent my story ideas right before the blog editors had a meeting to discuss what posts they’d be publishing soon.

Now, I’m constantly on the lookout for ideas I can develop and markets to pitch.

Anthony Sills is a freelance copywriter/blogger in New Jersey. He writes about business and marketing. Learn more at his website, Professional Pen.

  1. Terri H says:

    I love the simplicity of your email. It really proves that we don’t have to over think the email and pitch as much as we think we do. I was also impressed that you sent in 5 blog posts in one email pitch. I’ve always been a big fan of sending multiple pitches in an email, but I’ve always stopped at 3 for fear that I would be overloading the email with any more than that. However, seeing how concise your 5-pitch email was, I may need to rethink my original 3-pitch email format.
    Terri H recently posted..5 Types of People You’ll Encounter on Your Way to the Top

    • Terri H says:

      By the way, I tried clicking on the link for the “Professional Pen” and got an error message.
      Terri H recently posted..5 Types of People You’ll Encounter on Your Way to the Top

    • Carol Tice says:

      I do usually keep it to three, but not if I have a ton of ideas I think are a great fit…think my record is sending 11 different ideas in one email! But I do think that DID overwhelm the editor. 3-5 is probably plenty. But big fan of multipitch — as you can see it can sometimes really pay off big.

      And even if all those don’t get assigned, you’ve shown you have a lot of ideas. Editors really value writers who are big story generators.

      • Chelsea says:

        Thanks for the advice on how many ideas to send. This was an incredibly timely post for me. I just had a brain-storming session yesterday for a few different publications, and came up with 14 ideas for one publication alone! I’m in the middle of writing out all 14 titles/pitch paragraphs, but I might break them up into multiple messages to send over time.

        In your opinion, how long should I wait in between sending these messages?

        • Anthony says:

          Chelsea,
          Perhaps Carol could give a better answer but I’d agree you should break them up into multiple messages to send over time. I would not want to overwhelm the editor or risk that one of your great ideas gets overlooked. BTW, 14 ideas for one publication? You just motivated me to brainstorm some more story ideas!

        • Carol Tice says:

          Yeah, I wouldn’t send them all at once.

          You might consider sending some to various publications so you can send them all out there now.

          There’s no rule of thumb on when to pitch again…would sort of depend on the reponse your first pitch gets. Some editors don’t dig multi-pitch, so if sending 3 ideas gets no response, you might try fully fleshing out just one.

    • Anthony says:

      Terri,
      Thank you! I tend to obsess about contacting editors and worry about everything from the wording to the length of my pitch. This experience taught me not to overthink. When you get down to it, editors are people just like us. They’re always looking for great content and I think our pitch should show that we can help them solve that problem.I think I will keep sending multiple pitches in the hopes it will increase the amount of work I get!

  2. Marisa says:

    This is a great, informative post. One thing that I appreciate so much about Linda and Carol is that they offer their advice and help at a variety of price points, allowing even the greenest freelancers to get real help. From the free newsletter and blog posts on this site to the discounts on classes ordered without personal mentoring (the audit versions, which are so affordable), they are my top freelance gurus.

    Without naming names, I’m not a huge fan of professionals who want to share their “no-fail” methods for hundreds of dollars a session. If I was successful enough to afford that, I wouldn’t be looking for advice! Not to mention, do they want to force people who are already struggling to scrape and sacrifice just to afford their words of wisdom to get ahead? Or do they want to help people?

    Anyway, this post is just another example of real help and information, and it didn’t cost me a thing.

    • Marisa says:

      I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against anyone charging money to share their information, stories of success or help, what I’m against is a pricing strategy that doesn’t make sense. You claim to want to help those who are having problems with their business get ahead, and then charge prices they can’t afford, belying your stated purpose. That kind of marketing strategy, I feel, is an insult to my intelligence as well as my wallet.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, I sell nothing as “no fail” because if you don’t IMPLEMENT the advice, you will fail. A year from now, you’ll be in the same place in your writing career.Also, every writer is different in their experience and what they want to do.

      I do have one-on-one mentoring…but I’m always looking for ways to make training more affordable. Which is why J-School is now $97 instead of $297. We’re loving the response to that (subscribers, stay tuned for an email on the price experiment results!).

      And I do love having some of my advice always being free, here on the blog.

    • Anthony says:

      Marissa,
      I think you bring up some really great points. What I love is that Carol and Linda sincerely want other writers to ‘make it’ just like they have. They don’t have a problem sharing pointers or tips to help you advance your career. The most important thing is to put the advice to good use. I took about 30 minutes to send out an email to all my clients about my upcoming fee increase right after reading Carol’s recent post. Sure enough, none of the clients blinked an eye. I thought they would balk but one called and thanked me for giving her a heads up.

  3. Anita says:

    Informative post.
    You know, the information about how potential customers have cancelled plans to spend with a small business after discovering a poor quality website could be excellent information to share with small business owners who are considering – or not even considering – a website overhaul.
    Anita recently posted..here and now vs. some day

  4. Caylie Price says:

    Hi Anthony,
    You mentioned you omitted part of your query letter (which is fair enough) but can I ask: do you include pricing information or wait for a positive responsive and then negotiate?
    Thanks,
    Caylie
    Caylie Price recently posted..Position Your Brand Melbourne Cup Style

    • Anthony says:

      Hi Caylie,
      In this case, I already knew the rate that this market paid for blog posts before I pitched them. I think with a lot of online and even print markets it is pretty easy to find out what they typically pay. I think if I was uncomfortable with the ‘going rate’ I would probably try to negotiate.

  5. Tina B says:

    Nice article, I also appreciated the simplicity of the article. You also
    gave examples which I found helpful.

  6. Thank you Carol and Linda for the opportunity to expand strategies for how business is done.

  7. I think the most important thing you highlighted in your story, kind of, is that your example showed editor name, not admin or not webmaster. I hate when I get that on guest blogging request, and I bet publishers hate getting mad because they know it’s a standard letter is being sent out to thousands. That little bit of personal touch can definitely help people get one step closer to a goal.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..Content Curation Faux Pas

    • Carol Tice says:

      Oh yeah — you want to stay out of that “dear Editor” slush pile. I mean, if you can’t take the time to look at the masthead, how much time will you put into making sure your story is well-sourced? It’s a big turnoff.

    • Anthony says:

      Thanks Mitch. I try to find out as much as I can about the publication as well as the editor I’m contacting. I do think busy people are more prone to give you a fair shake when you show that you’re serious and not going to waste their time. Spending a few minutes doing web research (or even making a phone call) so that I can personalize my pitch and tailor it to the market is a no-brainer!

  8. Kathleen says:

    Anthony,

    Unless it was in some of the edited parts, it looks like you weren’t planning to interview an expert for all of the posts.

    I’m curious if that’s true and the editor approved the post without an expert to quote.

    Thanks!
    Kathleen

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t know if Anthony will see this at this point, but these were just outlines. Not sure but he might have been writing off his own knowledge here…I’ve done a ton of posts like that, where I just know enough to write it, and might link to relevant Internet sources and statistics that back up what I’m saying.

    • Anthony says:

      Kathleen,
      The blog editor informed me that “light research” was sufficient for these blog posts so it wasn’t necessary to conduct interviews. These five posts were centered around data related to the topic. I did link to the information (Inc magazine in once case) so readers would know I didn’t just make everything up. I think in situations where you already have a source, or have done the interview it would be best to include that fact in your pitch. Like Carol said, in some cases where you have knowledge of the subject, interviews may not be necessary.

  9. Thanks to both of you. That’s great. I’ve been blogging since 2006, and I haven’t interviewed people because I was writing on my area of expertise. But, I did often shoot a link to an authority to back up what I was saying. So, that puts me right in my comfort zone for at least those things where I don’t really need an interview.

    Thanks again!

    • Anthony says:

      Kathleen,
      FYI: I used to get really nervous when interviews were involved but the more people I interviewed the easier it got. I don’t know that I got any better at it, but everyone I’ve interviewed has been nice and extremely helpful. Once I realized that interview subjects want writers to get a great interview and write a great story (with them in it!) I stopped getting nervous.

    • Carol Tice says:

      What’s wrong with doing an interview? Interviews are fun! Meet new people. I find so many writers seem to have a paralytic fear of talking to people. They’re just people — they don’t bite, and it’s actually fun to get learn new stuff, I feel.

      Stay tuned for a Q&A with a fascinating author coming up on this blog in the next few weeks, as it happens.

      • Actually, I have a lot of experience interviewing. As a consultant, I spend at least half my life conducting interviews. Or, so it seemed, anyway.

        But, I can write something that is within my area of expertise with no problem. I wondered if an outside expert was necessary for everything.

        From your answers, I understand that it isn’t, and that makes more sense to me than getting lots of experts for a simple blog post that you could write in your sleep. :-)

  1. There are no trackbacks for this post yet.

Leave a Reply


2 × = ten

CommentLuv badge