Today marks the final day in the 90-day pitch challenge I started alongside the launch of my official licensed business, PurpleInkPen, on May 1st. The challenge came from Gina Horkey and her site Horkey Handbook. You may remember Gina from my Expert Roundup post a little while back. The idea of the challenge (which you can find here) is simply to write up a pitch template or two and start looking for work: whether it be on job boards or through a cold pitch (politely approaching a client you think may want your services even if they haven’t got a job post listed). Gina suggested sending out ten pitches every weekday for ninety days.
At the end of my ninety days, I’m ecstatic over the results. This month, my income broke into the four-figure mark for the first time! I now have multiple recurring, long-term clients I love working with who are actually paying me professional rates. Sort of makes me wonder why I putzed around for nearly a year only working one job at a time. When I launched PurpleInkPen, I upped my prices from (decent) beginner rates to professional ones. I sadly had to let one long-time client go because he couldn’t match my new rates. So, starting off I was down a client and nervous beyond belief, but that only made me throw myself into Gina’s challenge harder, and it definitely paid off.
Here’s a month-to-month breakdown of how it went.
I came out swinging in May, scouring job boards for posted gigs and Twitter for cold pitch prospects (next week I plan to outline how I successfully used Twitter to land clients). I was also reading two books on traditional freelance writing at the time (see what I learned from them here and here), so I looked for magazines to pitch articles to, as well. In addition, I was taking a course to become a certified professional book editor.
Needless to say, I worked my butt off. For the first two weeks or so, I held to the ten-pitch-a-day idea hard. However, since I wasn’t just cold pitching, I was running into applications (not to mention the course work for my certification) that slowed my progress, and for the rest of May I made my rule five pitches minimum and ten maximum. I slowed down because some job applications made me fill out paragraphs and link to past work, and just needed a whole lot of adjustment to my already customizable templates, even though I ended up creating about ten of them for all sorts of common scenarios I was running into. I highly recommend having multiple templates and creating more as you go. I had three specialties I was pitching (book editing, ghostwriting, and web content proofing), and I had a cold pitch template and a cover letter template for each. I then added extra tweaks to them as I went. For instance, I had a book editing cold pitch template for people who were editors as well as writers; the approach was slightly different.
Gina’s challenge isn’t just to pitch, though. Part of it is to follow up on each pitch as well. So, I pitched during the day and followed up at night. I had templates for follow ups, too. I kept track of everything in a journal. I wrote down who I’d pitched/which jobs I’d applied for, when I had sent the pitch/application, what the client needed, and the contact method I’d used (sometimes I had to contact clients through a blog contact form instead of email, or even Twitter direct message when I found no other alternative). Then, I kept track of who I had followed up with, who had said no, and who had said they didn’t need me just yet but would hold my information for the future.
I also pitched a feature article to a magazine and wrote an essay that I submitted for inclusion in an anthology.
I didn’t record any yes’s! I started to panic. I was working from about 9 to 6, hunting down clients, outlining possible guest posts, writing up articles, blogging, following up, and just generally emailing like a madwoman … and nothing.
Third day of June, I landed my first client: a very talented literary fiction author by the name of Anne Leigh Parrish who needed proofreading services for a short story collection she was thinking of publishing and the first fifty pages of a novel she wanted to send to a literary agent she was already in touch with.
It happened so fast that I was in shock. Even though I’d had plenty of other clients before, this was a new triumph. Anne became PurpleInkPen’s first client, and I really couldn’t have asked for a better one. I got paid a professional rate to read some truly wonderful stories. That’s living the dream, right there.
I kept pitching while I worked for Anne, but I only did five a day. Even though I slowed down my pitching, my work load increased. Other clients I’d pitched in May started responding to my follow ups. I landed two long term ghostwriting jobs that I’m still working to this day. For the first, I write simple reviews on various products: anti-aging creams, pet products, and even the occasional testosterone booster (based on web research without actually testing it myself, obviously). The second is an expert on substance abuse recovery who has hired me to help him write a book for parents of children who are addicted to drugs. It’s a very interesting subject, and the client is one of those super enthusiastic people who leave you feeling like you’re down to run a marathon every time you finish up a conversation with them.
After those two clients came on board, even though I kept aiming for five pitches a day, I really didn’t have time to send out more than three.
In July, my work for Anne was wrapping up, but my two ghostwriting clients amped up the workload. Instead of ten reviews a week, I started doing fifteen to twenty. The substance abuse expert asked me to copy edit his blog posts in addition to writing the book.
My pitching has become sporadic at best this month. I’m tired at the end of the day (mentally, not physically … I sit at a desk), but it’s a good tired. I really don’t feel guilty about neglecting my pitches simply because I cannot take on anymore work. Why? Well, pitches I sent in MAY are still paying off. A company who put me on their backup list of authors has hired me to write a nonfiction book for teens. I have authors who are finishing up books planning to use me as their copy editor when they’re done. I have people contacting me through my LinkedIn page because of comments I’ve posted in writers’ forums.
If I were to keep pitching at a steady pace, I feel it would be unfair to the potential clients I was pitching, especially if I was responding to job boards. People on job boards need the work done now, often with strict deadlines, and I wouldn’t be able to provide it if they picked me. However, I do plan to keep doing cold pitches when I get time every now and then. A cold pitch can put me on a client’s radar before they actually need me. After one of my current jobs is done, I’ll pick it back up more regularly because I’ll actually have a time slot available.
Gina, if you happen to read this, thank you! This challenge paired perfectly with the next step in my career, and it gave me a structure around which to succeed. This challenge is the reason I’ve broken the four-figure barrier.
If you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer or if you’re already a freelancer and want something to boost you to new heights, I strongly suggest you try out this challenge. If you can actually manage to send out ten pitches every day of the challenge and handle the inflow of client work you’re bound to get, you’re a superhuman and I want to know how you did it.
I also strongly suggest you check out Gina’s Free Freelance Writing Kickstarter Course or her full course, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success if you’re a beginner. She’ll help you start your career the right way.
If you have no idea how to write a pitch, Gina can help you there, too. Here’s a link to her Ultimate Pitching Template. I definitely saw a boost in initial responses (aka getting a response without having to follow up) when I melded my first pitch templates with tips from hers.
Tomorrow is the first of August. New month, new opportunity. If you’re a freelancer or you want to be, start the challenge and get pitching! It really does make a difference.