FREELANCING / SEP. 17, 2014
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How to Create Effective Subject Lines for Freelance Article Pitches

For freelance writers, the big pitch is an essential component when it comes to successfully landing gigs, and ultimately make money. But inciting an editor to even read what you have to say can be incredibly tricky, and that’s where an effective subject line comes in.

For all you writers out there starting out in the sometimes murky freelance world, here are a few do’s and don’ts on creating subject lines for your pitches...

Refrain from Using Capitals

According to many commissioning editors, using caps in the subject not only comes across as unprofessional, it’s also obnoxious.

It’s okay to perhaps put the word ‘PITCH’ in caps to make it easy for an editor to categorise, but when it comes to the subject itself, make sure it is written in the style your title would be. In short, leave the CAPS LOCK alone!

Don’t Call Yourself New...Even if It’s True

When cold-pitching your ideas to a new mag or publication, avoid using the word ‘new’ when referring to yourself at all costs; in fact, the term use ‘freelance’ instead (e.g. Freelance Article Pitch).

Editors do like to use new and fresh writers for their publications, however, not many like to be the first one to take a chance on a newcomer -  so, avoid using the word new in this context and keep it neutral from the subject line onwards.

Try Not to Drop Names

Of course, who you know can play a big part in success across any industry, but in my experience, noting who has recommended you to pitch in an email subject line doesn’t work and comes across as cheap.

By all means, name drop, but weave it into the body of the email, and make it an incredibly small part of the pitch - coming across as a beggar can really put people off giving you the chance you know you deserve.

If the Piece is Time Sensitive, Let the Them Know from the Get Go

If you’ve got a potential interview lined up, or are covering an important event and time is of the essence, make sure you pop it into the subject line, neatly (again, don’t just put URGENT in there, that’s a big no no!).

For instance, if you are covering something during Reading Festival, by placing something clear concise and simple like ‘Foo Fighters Reading Festival Feature Piece’ in the subject line, you are letting the editor know it’s important and has an expiry day. This will help your pitch to get considered in a timely fashion without coming across as forceful or desperate.

Give a Little Teaser if Possible  

Believe it or not, it is acceptable to make a subject line as long as you would a Tweet (but no longer), so why not use it to your advantage?

For instance, for organisational labelling you could start with ‘Pitch’ or ‘Story Pitch’, followed by ‘: North London Youth Football Funding with Quotes from Coaches’. This will not only ensure that the editor will not lose your email, but gives them an insight into the subject and direction of your piece from the outset - this most definitely helps.

In life, there really is not foolproof formula, as at the end of the day, you are dealing with creative humans who each come complete with their very own personality, style and preference. But, by avoiding the above mistakes, being clear, organised and concise, you can really increase your chances of getting commissioned and building good relationships for the future.

Let us know how you get on, or if you have any tips, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Image via Google Creative Commons

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