Novice freelance writers and even some who have worked solely for private clients don’t understand the difference between bidding & pitching.
Prospecting Is an Art
Prospecting for high-paying writing projects could be equated to panning for gold. Here are a few nuggets of advice.
Many writers do not know how much to bid on content mill platforms like Upwork, Guru, or Fiverr. Knowing the difference and how to successfully apply these techniques will help you make a significant impact in your freelance writing activities.
Some writers will say, “Oh, I don’t do cold emails or pitches, it’s a waste of time.” Those are probably some of the same people who say, “I don’t bother with content mills or Upwork, it’s a waste of my time.”
Getting out of bed in the morning could be a waste of time some days, but I do it anyway. Just on the off chance something great will happen. Ninety-five percent of what we do as writers has little to do with writing, yet we do it anyway. Bidding & pitching is how we get jobs, but there is so much more to the process.
I wrote an article detailing the things we do as writers that many of us do not consider as part of writing. However, if you don’t do these things, you might as well keep it in a journal because few will see it. It has about 10,000 views; you should read it too. The list of things we do daily is longer than you would think.
Prospecting for Writing Projects Is Bidding & Pitching
No matter how much work I have, I always prospect for two hours a day, five days a week. If I get too busy, I have many writer friends who I can pass some of the work off to get it done, then edit their work to match my voice.
Let’s take a look at bidding for content mills first since that is where many writers get their start. I know I did. No matter how small the payment, it could serve as a sample or part of your portfolio. But be sure to get feedback. Paying clients are typically honest.
Bidding & Pitching Should Be a Natural Part of Selling Yourself to Content Mill Clients
Fiverr, Guru, and Upwork are content mills you bid on projects already assembled by the client. You must sell yourself. So, you need to have a bidding strategy that will help you get work on an online writing platform.
However, just because you have the lowest bid for a project doesn’t mean you will get it. Often, it is the opposite.
Many clients understand writers in third-world countries, who read and write English, can outbid the highly-proficient UK and American writers because the minimum wage in their country is so low. But some of their work is horrendous.
Not to knock writers from any particular country, some do not know what is right or how to use our vernaculars. You should take their overall package as proof of whether they can manage the project or not.
There is a massive difference between the UK and American English, and just using editing software might not get you where you want to be.
I re-wrote articles for a UK solicitor (lawyer or attorney). It was indeed a learning process. Even though I use Word with UK English set as the default on another browser to do his re-writes, it was challenging.
You must fill out a complete profile on each site you bid on, have an up-to-date portfolio there, take their little tests to show your proficiency, and always get feedback and reviews from completed projects.
Do not be afraid to ask for a review. Most expect it because they have done it several times. Always thank them for their feedback and respond to those who give you a negative review; oh yeah, it will happen. Learn from it, don’t be defensive, provide a brief explanation if possible, and move on. Take what happened as a learning tool.
There are thousands of other freelance writers looking for work. Unless you make it a point to prospect, bidding & pitching daily, you will not have enough work to keep busy and make a living wage. Even when you have too much work already, things happen. In May 2020, I lost six high-paying clients. Some came back, some I suspect are gone forever. If I hadn’t been prospecting daily, I might have gone into panic mode.
This article will guide you through how each plays a crucial role in growing your freelance writing. It could help you find the right project in online markets like Upwork, Guru, Fiverr, and others.
Some writers think they are above writing for content mills, or they tried it once or twice and didn’t get the projects they bid on, so they decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
It’s like anything else. What you get out of it is usually equal to the amount of effort you put into it. Well, maybe not equal because you will need to put in a lot of effort, at least initially. This guy has some good ideas.
Upwork Proposal Sample (Proven to Work)*
This is Aleksander Vitkin who had 91,426 views, so he must be doing something right. “Like” or subscribe if you find his video helpful.
Bidding & Pitching Online Writing Projects with Upwork, Fiverr, & others
First, let’s take a look at one of the most misunderstood or fuzzy areas of bidding: Quoting a price. Most novice writers and even some who have been in the business for years have no idea about what to charge. Some are still using the rate they started with ten or more years ago.
This article by Editorial Freelancers Association is one of the most comprehensive lists I have found anywhere. You don’t have to use their prices. It is just the average of responders, but it’s an excellent place to start.
If most of your samples or your portfolio shows work in a specific area, it makes it easier for a client to select you. The client rarely selects anyone because you provide the lowest price or have many excellent samples. You must sell yourself on the project parameters provided. The client must be able to see how they can profit most from choosing you.
It will help if you find a niche you are confident with before bidding & pitching. For me, writing for traffic and personal injury lawyers is my “Holy grail.” I know more about California traffic law than many traffic attorneys, though I can write about most subjects I can research.
If most of your samples or your portfolio shows work in a certain area, it makes it easier for a client to select you. The client rarely selects anyone because you provide the lowest price, or you have a number of excellent samples. You must sell yourself based on the project parameters provided. The client must be able to see how they can profit most from choosing you.
Pitching an Idea to an Online Magazine
Pitching is when you have an idea that matches what your target online magazine typically covers. You can send your “pitch” to several online magazines and give them a price.
There are hundreds of articles online about “pitching” to online magazines. Here’s one from Masterclass.com that I found helpful. Many believe it’s as simple as writing an email to the online magazine and saying, “Hey, I have this idea about an article, and I was wondering if you would like to have first crack at it.”
Unfortunately, unless you have collaborated with the editor on several projects, it is usually not that easy.
Your price could be a flat rate for the article, like $400 or $500. It could be a price per word, such as $.50 or $1.00 per word. Alternatively, you could suggest a price per hour to complete the article or a series of articles.
The Difference Between Bidding & Pitching
Remember, the difference between bidding and pitching. A bid is for a project or writing job already defined. A pitch is an idea about an article that you would like to write for an online magazine. The client knows what they need, but they need a writer to fulfill their vision.
It might be as simple as writing a 300 to 500-word SEO article for their website. They may or may not already have the keywords, or they might not care about keywords. However, if they ask for keywords but don’t give them to you, you have to charge more for the research.
Many online magazines are slowly realizing that it’s the total package that gives them a higher Page-Rank than the keyword alone. Keywords, long-tail keyword phrases, synonyms, and related words are just as essential as the keyword.
Typically, there are between 30 and 50 related words about any topic Google and other search engines look to figure out your website’s niche (area of interest), and how it should rank for relevance to that topic.
A proposal explains to the client how you will meet their request. You briefly explain your skills and abilities. Include samples of your writing or your portfolio.
I stopped giving writing samples when I found many of my samples were being published on websites. I provide a link to my Contently portfolio. Each article published there is linked to a protected website.
Many people are unaware they can easily foil webpage scrapers by setting their page so that no one can copy and paste their content. When they attempt to right-click and copy, it won’t work, so they move on to easier prey. I use WP Content Copy Protection & No Right Click, though there are others.
Now, back to the bidding.
Suppose the project requests a price for one article of 1000 words, but the client implies further work (most say it could lead to a long-term relationship, it is up to you whether you believe them). Your proposal explains your bid is for the 1000 word article. If they need ten articles, you could give them a lower price per article.
Many novice writers wonder how to quote a price. How do you come up with a reasonable price for your writing? Do you charge the same per word regardless of the subject? Some do. I do not. If it is something within my niche, I might charge a lower price because I won’t have to do as much research.
It would help if you looked at each bid separately. How much research is required? I figure I need $50 per hour to make about $35 after I pay my expenses. Don’t forget; as a freelance writer, you have to pay for everything an employer would provide for you and more. Medical insurance, income tax, office supplies, website hosting, and a variety of other expenses. Use the Editorial Freelancers Association list as a starting point.
What Is a Pitch?
A pitch is where you present an idea or article to an editor. Research and formulate the concept before making your pitch. You should know the audience of the newspaper, offline or online magazine you will pitch to as well as the story itself.
You’re just wasting your and the editor’s time if you’re pitching the wrong story to a medium where it doesn’t fit. Your idea has to be of interest to the audience of the medium you are pitching to and fulfill a need for an editor.
Even if you’re familiar with an online magazine, don’t just jot down an idea and shoot it to the editor.
Let the editor see these three essential pieces to the story:
- Who is involved? Who are the stakeholders?
- Why does it matter?
- What’s at stake?
Why it is crucial to the readers of the periodical is the essential element. What value does your story bring to the editor’s readers?
You have to make the editor or other approving authority want to read your story, so there has to be some level of drama in the pitch. Your writing skills are as vital in the pitch, or maybe more so than in the story.
“Show off” your writing ability while bidding & pitching. I do not mean you should use million-dollar words (you should almost never do that) but show your creative process. Most website content should be eighth-grade reading level.
Make the editor ask, what’s going to happen next?
It is best to sell yourself and your abilities. What do you offer that other writers cannot provide? A pitch should be creative and short to stimulate interest. You don’t want to bore the editor with details. Your pitch should provide a small picture of your idea.
A Pitch Could Be Unsolicited
Writing an online magazine pitch can be solicited or unsolicited. Some writers are afraid to send a cold email. What do you have to lose? However, you do want to present an idea for an article or series of articles that have not been broached before.
Three of my best and longest-tenured clients are traffic and personal injury lawyers. Although I write guest blogs or ghost blogs for them, I can craft my cold emails to other lawyers to say what I do for my clients and show them how I can increase traffic to their website with local SEO and, thus, their income.
I make it a point to do 20 new cold emails each week. Four per day. It’s usually only a matter of tweaking the names and specifics.
Here are some high-paying magazines sources you can pitch to who accept unsolicited pitches from freelance writers. This list includes both online and offline magazines. Pitching to either could get you long-term work.
I pitched an idea to a major online magazine about how much it costs to replace a roof. Before you know it, I was doing a weekly How Much Does It Cost to… I did everything from roofs to siding to decks, pergolas, landscaping, pavers, and more. I was making $800 a week for one article. You can too. Since I ghostwrote those articles, I cannot divulge the name. That would be unethical, but it is a very recognizable home improvement online magazine. You never know where a well-versed pitch will lead.
How Freelancing Job Sites Work
Several sites offer opportunities for freelancers. Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, Guru, Craig’s List, and People Per Hour are just a few. Businesses worldwide post jobs on these sites. With each site, you register, complete a profile, and bid on projects or jobs.
Choose one site, get to know their platform and its rules, bid on projects there for a while before starting on another. I typically only use Upwork and Guru. Sites like Upwork help you set up your freelance writing profile and give you support.
Although they take a percentage of your pay, Guru, Upwork, Fiverr, and other job sites provide payment protection through their site. This guarantee is beneficial when you start. If you bid on and win a big project and don’t get paid, it could be “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” when you’re starting out.
Plus, always get a portion upfront when you’re not working with one of these sites. Many seasoned freelancers insist on 50 percent. However, you can get 25 percent, then another 25 at a certain point along the way, and the rest when you deliver the finished project.
Get more ideas about bidding and pitching in my blog.
When you need guest posts for your blog, contact me to get just what you need at an affordable price.
Closing Thoughts about Bidding & Pitching
Be sure to complete your profile and keep your portfolio up to date on Upwork, Guru, and others. Then, prospect every day. Never stop bidding & pitching to online magazines for high-paying jobs. If you aren’t looking, stories will pass you by.
Pitch solicited or unsolicited ideas and proposals 20 times per week. You might only strike gold on one or two a year, but that one hit could be your motherload.
Stephen “Top” Dalton is a retired US Army First Sergeant with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a Certified US English Chicago Manual of Style Editor. Medium Top Writer in Travel, Fiction, Transportation, VR, NFL, Design, Creativity, and Short Story.