How to Pitch Without the Right Samples

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What’s the first thing that catches your eye when you’re reading an ad for a writing gig?

My eyes always slide to the requirements section, and from there I either feel discouraged (oh, I don’t have samples in this niche) or energized (great, that’s right up my alley, and I can prove it).

Most writers don’t apply if they can’t show that their previous experience matches the job requirements. But Amber did, and she’s here to share the pitch that got her the gig despite her lack of samples in the respective niche. Take it away, Amber!

When you are first trying to break into a niche it can feel like trying to dig a hole into a rock using only ingenuity and a spoon, a plastic spoon.

Everyone wants relevant samples. Most people want published work. Pshh. Who said relevant samples from a published blog are that important anyway? Oh, wait. All the people you want to hire you.

I get it. I’m a new freelance writer too. But don’t give up just yet. If you put together a stellar pitch, you can totally jump over the “relevant samples” gate, no key needed.

I recently landed a pitch for a health and wellness blog without meeting any of those pesky qualifications. Here’s how I did it, and how you can do it too.

1. Follow This Pitching Checklist

The checklist above will teach you everything you know about how to pitch. You have to keep these steps in mind: connect, deliver your pitch and show how it benefits the editor.

Supercharge your pitching game with the free Pitch Tracker tool.

In a perfect world, you would always be able to find out who the editor was and include their names. You don’t need me to tell you this isn’t a perfect world, and you’ve probably guessed that despite my sleuth-ish background in journalism, I couldn’t uncover the editor’s name, so I did my best to connect on the next step.

How to pitch when you don't have the right samples2. Explain Why You’re Qualified

Explain why you are qualified to write on the subject.

Use a personal story and make sure the writing is stellar.

You can’t sell yourself via samples, so this is your chance. If you make your pitch a masterpiece, something good enough to be published in a book of short essays, you just might have a shot.

But that’s not all.

You need to not only write something amazing, but it has to prove to the editor that you understand the field you are pitching in.

Think back to why you are pitching this niche in the first place. Why are you interested in it? What do you have to offer?

In my case, I pitched an article about overcoming postpartum depression without medication.

It’s something I have personal experience with and the perfect springboard to show off my skills. [And, off topic, but I have to include this. For anyone experiencing postpartum depression, I don’t think there’s any shame in meds! I just wanted to avoid them if I could.]

Here’s the first part of the actual pitch I used.

Dear Wellness Nova,

I had just given birth to my third child, a perfect little boy. We had just moved into a new house. My husband started a doctoral program in the field of nurse practitioning.

Everything was perfect. Except, that it wasn’t. I could barely get out of bed in the morning. At night, I was plagued with recurring thoughts of someone breaking in through the window and harming me or my children.

I remember managing to get everyone up and ready to go to the park. It should have been a triumph, but instead, I felt empty, exhausted, and anxious. I sat on the side of the park and cried while my children played.

I had postpartum anxiety and depression and I knew, for the sake of my family, I had to do something about it.

Because my husband is a psychiatric nurse, I also knew that if it was possible, I wanted to avoid traditional medications and all of their accompanying side effects. I gave myself one month. If I couldn’t get better in one month of holistic treatments, I would turn to traditional ones.

Luckily, I didn’t have to turn to traditional treatments. With the help of my husband’s counsel and his experience working with depressed patients, I was able to beat my depression and anxiety. Now, the only thing keeping me up at night is the baby.

I would love to share with your readers an in-depth piece about my battle with postpartum depression, and I believe I can do it in a way that is both nonjudgmental and inspiring.

This was the story part of my pitch. And I was able to show off not only my writing, but also my expertise in the field (in this case personal experience).

3. Provide the Samples You Have

Provide samples and specify what aspect of those samples pertain to the story.

Explain to the editor why the samples you do have are high quality, even if they’re not in the same niche.

Here’s how I did it in the last part of my pitch.

Here is an example of another personal essay I published. I received a lot of positive feedback from my readers that this essay touched and encouraged them, which is exactly why I love to write.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions, or would like more samples, please shoot me an email, and I’ll get right back to you.

Thanks,

Amber Mae

Freelance Writer

Amber Mae Writes

4. Always Follow Up

Keep your pitches organized so you don’t forget to follow up. If you haven’t heard back within a week or two, send out another email. In my case, I heard back within a couple of days, but I had the follow-up email ready just in case.

Here is an example of another follow-up email that I sent:

Last week, I applied for the freelance writing position you advertised through Indeed.com, and I wanted to find out what your decision timeline is.

I feel that my passion for healthcare and writing, combined with my degree in Communications with an emphasis in healthcare marketing, makes me a perfect fit for your company.

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

This follow-up was connected to another pitch on a subject I didn’t have samples for. I was selected for the job. I filled out a W9. I did two pre-training phone calls. I arranged for babysitting, and then the day I was supposed to do my first official paid training I was sent an email that they no longer required my services… two hours after the training was supposed to start… and no one would answer their phones.

It was stinky. I’m learning that crazy things happen with freelancing, but since I almost got the job I’m considering it a follow-up well done!

You know, the only reason my glass would ever be empty is because I just drank a bunch of delicious lemonade. So… I’m good.

This approach probably won’t work with some of the more competitive offerings, but it’s a great way to GET samples in the niche you want to break into. Plus, all the connecting and writing makes it a lot more fun than your run of the mill pitch.

It’s like a puzzle that can only be solved by you, the greatest writer to ever pitch a pitch!

There’s nothing like a little bit of confident self-talk to boost your pitching momentum, right?

Bonus points if you notice the newbie mistake I made with this pitch. Go look, I left something important out.

I’ll wait.

Did you see it? Yeah. I forgot to include rates and ended up settling for a low one because I was too chicken to ask for more. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that jazz.

So, good luck and don’t let “relevant samples” stop you. Get out there and pitch anyway, using whatever samples you’ve got!

Have you ever pitched when you didn’t have the right samples? Tell us how it went in the comments section.

Amber Mae _ WriterI am a wife, mother to three beautiful kids, a blogger, and a freelance writer. I love all things creative, and I would spend nearly every moment of my existence outside if I could. You can find me at my professional portfolio www.ambermaewrites.com or my inspirational blog www.ambermaybe.com

8 thoughts on “How to Pitch Without the Right Samples”

  1. Great post Gina. The more I learn about pitching, the better I feel about it. I feel more comfortable about trying to do this. Thanks Gina. Thanks Amber Mae.

  2. My insides ached with you when I read about the job that stood you up after you hired a sitter and got totally ready. I used to get stood up by coaching clients, and, as a mother of two little ones, my resolve and my optimism were sufficiently smashed. Great post. Definitely will share.

  3. Thanks for sharing. This was very informative and encouraging. I’m still completely new to freelancing, but I really want to start making a regular income with it as soon as possible, and pitching by far seems to be the hardest part. Although I have great confidence in my writing skills, I have little formal experience to back it up, and it seems like almost every client wants relevant experience in the form of years and/or published work.

    In addition to following your advice here, would you (or anyone else who reads this) also recommend focusing initially on posting for websites that are always taking writers, such as HubPages, Scary Mommy, etc.? That way, I might have links of published works to provide. The only other option that comes to my mind is finishing up my website and sharing my best university essays on it.

    I know that it takes work and time to become a successful freelancer, but I’m just trying to find the quickest route possible.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Ashley. Samples are important getting started – I would shoot for getting 2-3 solid samples in any of the niches you’re looking to break into. And a combination on your own site and others (whether they’re paid or unpaid) would be great and show you a well-rounded portfolio. I cover this (and much more) in detail in the freelance writing course. You can take the free (shorter) version here if you haven’t enrolled already.

  4. Nice advice. The pitch is just as important as the samples, with the right effort.

    We can never have samples for every single opportunity, so telling the story behind an article you can produce makes great sense.

    I now enjoy pitching almost as much as regular writing……it’s like fishing, but I’m better at fishing via email than on the lake.

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