Every week, I meet writers who are taking their first plunge into freelance marketing. Maybe they’ve grown tired of applying for UpWork gigs they don’t get, scanning Craigslist ads for hours, or of getting $10 a post from a content mill.
To me, this is an exciting moment, when writers realize they’re in business — and running a business means you do proactive marketing. Passively trolling online ads that are each going to get 1,000 responses isn’t your ticket to high earnings.
This is all good, but often, when you first start active marketing, it can be discouraging. Early results may not be stellar. There’s a decent bit to know to win at pitching your writing services.
While some writers make phone calls or do in-person networking, the majority send marketing or pitch emails. For publications, we send queries.
And most of these pitches don’t get results. Why? Here are my top five probable reasons freelance marketing is ineffective, based on my experience reviewing hundreds of pitch letters over the years:
1. You’ve never gotten feedback
Every once in a while, I get a comment from a writer that truly makes me sad. Here is one of them, from a writer who sent 300 letters out, reporting his results:
When you send out that much marketing and don’t hear a peep, you’re doing something wrong. You need feedback to improve, stat.
The forum where we review queries and letters of introduction is one of the busiest — and I’d say most valuable — member perks we offer in Freelance Writers Den. And we rarely see a pitch where your first draft is ready to be sent out.
What’s going wrong? Common problems include:
- It’s not concise — and businesses can write rambling, flabby prose without you.
- The writing isn’t compelling — remember, your pitch letter is a writing audition.
- No solution — it doesn’t propose exactly what you could do to help.
- Lacks a story idea, for pitches to publications.
Try to imagine how busy the editor is that you’re reaching out to, and how many queries they get. Or that exhausted marketing manager.
Your pitch needs to sparkle, stand out from the 100 or so others they’re getting this week, and show clearly that you are the solution to their problem. Most pitches I see, the writer needs to put in a bit more elbow grease to make it effective.
2. You send few pitches
Maybe you have the opposite problem as our writer in point #1. Maybe your pitches are just fine, but you only send a few of them out. I see a lot of comments like this:
“I sent out 10 emails to prospects last month, and only got one response! I’m feeling very discouraged.”
The reality is, 100 pitches in a month is a much better goal. It’s a numbers game here, and you really need to send out a lot of marketing to jumpstart your business.
When you’ve sent 10 pitches, you don’t really have enough data to figure out whether you’re on the right track or not. Put a lot more lines in the water, and up your odds of catching fish!
3. You target the wrong prospects
If you’ve been banging your head against the marketing wall, it may be because you’re not picking good targets.
Instead, you’re pitching mom-and-pop business, or companies in industries that don’t do a lot of marketing.
For instance, I knew a writer with agriculture experience who’d spent years pitching blogging and copywriting services to nurseries and growers. Guess what? She got zero results, because they don’t do that kind of marketing. They do print ads, and the rest is word of mouth.
Take a look at what the companies you’re pitching are doing for marketing now. If they’re not creating a lot of written materials, they’re probably not a good prospect.
In general, most new copywriters pitch businesses that are too small. Freelance writing is a career where truly, bigger is better when it comes to prospects. If you’re shooting blanks on pitches, it’s time to learn how to qualify prospects.
4. It’s dull as dishwater
As someone who’s reviewed hundreds of pitch letters at this point, I can tell you most of them are a snore. They’re dry and boring.
The writing has no snap. In other words, we don’t get a good sense of your personality.
One of the things prospects want to know is who you are and what your writing style is like. Is it the flavor they’re looking for? If you write everything like a dry business letter from the ’80s, your prospects will never find out.
5. You don’t know copywriting
Let’s face it — all pitch letters are basically copywriting. Most of the time, these days, they’re email copywriting.
If you can learn how to write a compelling short email, you can not only promote your writing services more effectively and get more gigs — you can get well-paid to write marketing emails for clients, too.
Studying copywriting is one of the single, best things you can do to become a better freelance marketer, get better clients, and grow your writing income. I don’t know about you, but every marketing email I get from a company, I’m studying it, to see what they do. Every blog newsletter I subscribe to is a chance to study subject lines and see what works.
You’ve taken the plunge into freelance marketing — now, take the time to do marketing right. If you’re not getting results, make the tweaks you need, and get some good gigs. You can learn more about how to send pitches, and write your way to better clients.