The pitch itself:
Keep it brief and to the point
So, you've got a brilliant idea and you're keen to write. Great! The first thing is to think of how you'd explain your idea in one or two sentences and that's your headline when pitching.
Often, the people you're pitching to will be on the lookout for great ideas but may be too busy to read a full article. If you can write a couple of lines that grab someone's attention immediately then you're on to a winner.
Having a great headline for a piece is really important, so think about that in advance: what would stand out enough to make you stop scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and click on a link?
When I'm writing pieces for Art UK, I come up with lots of different versions of a headline to try and find the right one, jotting down all of the thoughts that come to mind, even if they seem silly. Use a great headline to get someone to imagine how your piece would look on the page.
Think about who you're pitching to
This bit's really important: think about the organisation you'd like to publish your article. Read their stuff.
What style are the pieces they normally put out – are they serious or more light-hearted? Academic or more casual? What kind of length? Do they use lots of text, or lots of pictures and film? Do they divide their pieces up into categories? What kind of topics do they talk about? What age groups do you think they're aiming at?
At this point it's also worth doing a quick check to make sure they haven't published anything too similar to your idea before.
Doing your research on this bit will mean you can either adapt your idea to fit in with the organisation's tone and their audience, or you can focus in on one or two places to start with that you think are most likely to be interested in your piece.
Give key examples
Now you've got the top line sorted, include some examples to prove that your piece stands up. Imagine you're going to write a piece about the top five strangest self-portraits.
If you include a few strong examples it shows you've done your research and that the piece is good to go if you get the green light.
Make sure you've sorted your research
If you're planning on using certain images in your article, have you made sure you have permission to use them? Are there key bits of video or audio that your piece will fall down without? Taking the time to sort them out in advance again shows that you're serious, you can do research, and you've got a potentially great piece all set to go.
Think about your timing
Think about who your piece is aimed at and when it might be good to publish it: you don't want to be writing about something to do with Wimbledon in the middle of winter!
If you've got a great idea that ties in with a specific event or time of year – for example, you'd like to write something around Halloween – make sure you get the pitch in in plenty of time. Often, organisations will be planning content months in advance and will be well aware of key dates. It's too late to be sending through Halloween-themed ideas on October 25th: but if you send those same ideas through in August, there's time to schedule them.
Also: think about what's happening in the wider world. Is it the day before a general election? Is the Turner Prize about to be announced? Has something huge happened in the news? Hold off until a quieter time – otherwise your piece may just get overlooked.
Sending it in – the practical stuff
Send it to the right place
This might seem obvious, but check with the place you're pitching to – do they give a specific address for sending in pitches? Make sure the email subject is clear and you include all of your contact details in the body of the email – you need to make it easy for them to get in touch with you.
Attach other writing samples, or links to other writing you've done
If you've had pieces published before, make sure to include them as links or as attachments to show off your writing skills. If you have a personal blog or social media account you use to publish yourself then make sure to include that too.
Think about timing – again!
If you send your pitch last thing on a Friday, chances are it'll get overlooked. Send it in first thing in the morning or just after lunch and it stands a better chance of being seen in a busy inbox.
Be polite – and send follow ups
If you don't hear back, it's ok to send a follow-up email: just be polite while you're doing it! Sometimes these things can slip to the bottom of an inbox and a reminder can be useful.
Take a second before hitting 'send'
Make sure you've attached anything you've said you're going to attach, have a final check over for spelling and grammar, and make sure your contact details are easily accessible. And then hit 'send'!
- Images from Giphy