I’m sorry to lead you on with the title. This post has nothing to do with Pitch Perfect (movie), instead it’s about how to pitch stories. Get it? Pitch… perfect? Ha, jokes. If you leave now, you’ll lose out on Pop Culture references, freelancing tips and quality bonding time with KUL. Are you that heartless? Kidding. It’s your loss, buddy!
Freelancing is not for the weak. By weak I mean, people that have ‘little’ to ‘what is this shit you speak of’ self-discipline. It’s for people who enjoy taking opportunities into their own hands or for people who aspire to do so. I was part of the latter category. Prior to freelancing — I only did it for a year so obviously, I am an expert at this — I worked full-time for two publications but had no (complete) idea as to what I was doing.
As soon as I graduated college, I rushed into getting a full-time job because I have an Indian mother. She will accept no excuse about being jobless unless my reason involved losing all my limbs or my life. But even then, I can visualise her standing over my grave saying, “She didn’t even work, she has no savings and now her funeral costs me so much, what a brat,” then she’d continue to cry.
Sorry, I am a walking soap opera TV show waiting to go into production. I digress.
When I was a new writer, I didn’t know how to pitch stories. I dreaded it, and almost always labeled myself as uninspiring or lazy because how come I couldn’t do it? Freelancing was a great platform for me to build the skills I lacked and simultaneously create an impenetrable time management system for myself.
Don’t expect jobs/money to find you, honey. Who you think you are? Beyoncé?
Sit down. Check yourself.
Tip #1: Research
Every publication — be it website, print — will accept contributors. Whether they pay or not is a different topic altogether but the bottom-line is, they want you. How do you get their attention? Read through their material — I’m not talking a week or a month’s worth. That’s child’s play! This is freelancing war. You gotta go back 6 months; what have they published, which categories are repeated often. Then ask yourself, what can I bring to the table?
I’m not talking about potential headlines, people. I’m talking actually breaking down the entire story you’d like to write — point form works. Take Refinery29 for example. You want to contribute beauty-related stories to them? Great. What’s going to be different about your story in comparison to the ones they’ve already published? How can you make your story relatable to their audience?
The point of research is to understand the brand more (hashtag duh. If you didn’t know this, go back to school, please). This means observing the title’s writing style — are they fluent in Internet memes or do they appreciate words that you gotta look up? What it lacks — could be that the stories aren’t relatable to you (i.e: SEA titles that have more of a Western presence than they do Asian or beauty products that’d actually suit ethnicities besides Chinese peeps. Ain’t nothing but love for you, Orientals! But I mean, this dark skin ain’t ever gonna be able to use Korean products, son. Beauty titles, get with it).
If the situation above is all too familiar, researching will be a piece of cake.
Tip #2: Details
Don’t send an email to any Editor saying “hey, I really love your magazine/website, and would love to contribute! Sincerely, willmymysterygetyourattention.”
Editors are busy motherfuckers because not only do they have to manage their editorial team, they have to liaise with the sales guys, check on the design team amongst three-thousand other tasks. They ain’t got no time to stroke your good intentions with “that’s awesome! tell me what you’d like to write?” type of response.
Instead, after figuring out what you’d like to contribute, the email you compose should sound a little like this:
Good morning Beyoncé,
My name’s Your Number #1 Fan and I’ve followed your career religiously. Literally. I have a shrine of you in my room. Creeped out? So am I sometimes. I would love to contribute to your blog — I think these ideas (insert potential stories) would be good for these sections (list ‘em down here). If you are interested, please let me know and we can discuss it further.
You Kno You Wanna Hire Me.
Potential stories doesn’t mean sending the entire story to the respected Editor. Don’t do that because some people are unethical and will steal your stories without replying your pitch. Instead briefly mention what it’s about. Like, “I would like to write about makeup products that are suitable for dark skin tones. I could review 5 to 10 products — depending on how many you’d like, and it could go well in your ‘Beauty’ category.”
Tip #3: Always Have It In Writing
Start work once you’ve gotten confirmation that the publication is interested in your story — especially if money is involved. Some places take their sweet time to pay their contributors, so unless you’d like to wait 6 months to be paid, I’d suggest reading the terms and conditions first.
In the event that your story does get picked up but the title gave it to their own writers, don’t be too beaten up by it. The silver lining is that your story was usable but unfortunately, it was given to a dishonest editor. Send your pitch to other places! The more consistent you are with brainstorming ideas, sending them out, the faster you pick up these skills. Plus, if you do become a frequent contributor at certain titles, other places might look you up if they’re interested in your stories.
Yes, all of my tips are based around common sense but common sense is not as common as the phrase will have you believe! There are a lot of people who are unsure or unconfident in themselves to see that it’s actually achievable to do. It’s not rocket science, it just takes a lot of self-discipline.
Here’s hoping these tips help anyone looking to pitch stories in the future! Merry Christmas and happy New Year.
Rathika Sheila can be found attempting to take photos of flatlays here and writing for JUICE Malaysia.