Here are a few tips that will ensure a more enticing pitch.
Things to keep in mind before you pitch
There are a few checks that are always worthwhile before you pitch your story ideas:
- Make sure a similar video hasn’t been done before.
- Try to say what the story is about in one sentence and have a good sense about the best way to show that focus visually.
- Propose the idea to colleagues or friends first. Are they intrigued or surprised? If not, perhaps you should look for another angle. If so, you may have a great story on your hands.
Choosing a Headline
The headline may change once you start producing your story, but writing one in your pitch helps you focus on your target audience. What elements make your story stand out? You can choose to make your title more like a news story headline or similar to a feature documentary film title. Either way, you need to be confident that your final video will back it up.
- Example 1: “Indonesia’s Youngest Fashion Designer Overcomes Hearing Disability” (more like a news headline)
- Example 2: “The Life of a Coca Leaf” (more like a movie title)
Writing the Summary
Write one or two sentences that summarize why your story is surprising and interesting for a broad audience (this is sometimes referred to as a nut graph or focus statement). Please include a short description of the main character and why you’re focusing on him/her, a verb that best describes the universal theme of the story, and any conflict the protagonist faces. The summary should clearly define the “scope”, or range of topics or concepts you will cover in the story. You should be confident that you can show the scope visually, either through footage or interviews.
- Example 1: “Ten-year-old Rafi Ridwan (character) overcame (verb/universal theme) being born deaf (conflict) and channels his visual creativity to become one of Indonesia's youngest fashion designers (the surprise). He’s also an adorable kid who doesn’t stop smiling.”
- Example 2: “While the world focuses on international peace talks between the Colombian government and narcotics-financed rebel groups, we will focus on how entrenched the cocaine industry is in a remote villages inside the Colombian jungle. The focus will be on the people intimately involved in the cultivation and processing of the coca leaf.”
Describing Your Characters
Here, you should focus on what you plan to film your character doing. For a great video, it’s imperative to have elements that move and make noise. What visuals are most important to show the story you’re trying to tell? These visuals should also back up the story's main points highlighted in your summary.
- Example 1: “We will show Rafi drawing colorful clothing designs at his home with his mother, who we will also interview. He doesn’t speak very well, but we will show him communicating with his mother. We’ll shoot him at his own fashion show and capture images of the models, who are all children with disabilities.”
- Example 2: “We will take the viewer on an adventure: first we will see a young boy picking coca with his hand, then we will document a man who pours household chemicals on the leaf and grinds it into cocaine paste with his hand, then we will finish with the young boy selling his harvest to the shopkeeper.
Be realistic with your pitches. Don't promise access to something that is highly improbable. Make the phone calls, meet the characters and construct a plan before you submit your idea. This will lead to a better pitch, and maybe, a different and more interesting story.
When pitching, how long should I give a client to reply to my pitch?
This is a common question and often depends on your business approach. The good news is we have built a system that automatically notifies clients multiple times when they haven’t responded to a pitch. After multiple notifications, we automatically decline the pitch within 2 weeks. The time period was picked because it gives clients enough time to discuss pitches with their team and at least reply with an update or ask the freelancer for more time (we also built a group update tool to make responses to multiple pitches easier). That said, if the pitch is urgent, or if the freelancer is working under a time constraint, we recommend putting a note at the top of the pitch that a reply is needed by a certain date to continue the work.
Freelancers can follow up with an email after a week or so, checking on the publisher’s time frame. This will send the publisher another notification and may make them take a second look at the pitch.
What if the pitch is time sensitive and I need an answer soon?
Freelancers should put information on their timeline very clearly at the top of the pitch. Freelancers can send a follow-up email to the client letting them know about the time constraint and ask if they are interested in moving forward.
What about if I’ve already done a story, can I pitch a similar story to a different outlet?
As a rule of thumb transparency and honesty is always the best way to go. If a freelancer has completed a story before, they should show the client the story that they’ve done previously to give them an idea of how a new approach might look. Some clients may see it as unethical if a story is pitched that a freelancer completed for another client without telling them, especially if it was for one of their competitors. But other clients, especially if the previous client is not a competitor, may see the original story as a “proof of concept” and be more confident in a new version created for them.
Should I pitch the same idea to multiple clients?
This depends on the story, the client, and the uniqueness of the idea. We recommend freelancers pitch to clients one by one. Once a client makes an offer, freelancers should accept the first offer sent to them.
So if it’s more of a news client or a story that isn’t so unique it’s perfectly fine to pitch to multiple outlets?
If a freelancer is willing to do the story for either client, and they let the client know that they are also pitching this to other outlets, this shouldn’t ruffle too many feathers (transparency is key here). A freelancer is more likely to win a pitch if they’ve done their research and followed these guidelines for pitching. If research hasn’t been on a client and the pitch isn’t tailored to their specific request, the pitch will likely be unsuccessful. We do not recommend copy and pasting a pitch to multiple clients.
How do I know a client isn’t just fishing for ideas to produce themselves?
On Storyhunter, we do our best to prevent this by not allowing clients to pitch if they don’t have an approved budget to commission the freelancers who send ideas, and we also edit briefs so that clients are more transparent about how they plan on using the ideas (and how they plan on hiring the freelancers if they like the pitch).
Pitches can take a lot of time and effort. Can’t I just charge for that, or ask for a scouting fee?
This is a big challenge for independent content creators. It’s very tough to balance the time, energy and money spent on building out pitches, with the uncertainty of winning the pitch. This is a challenge for production companies, advertising agencies and any company who responds to creative briefs. There’s no right or wrong answer. If a freelancer feels they are the best person to produce the story, there may be a case made for the client to work with that freelancer to develop the idea. We recommend freelancers communicate to the client that they’re interested in working with them, but proposal development will take time and effort. Letting the client know upfront allows the freelancer to gage interest and see if a client would be open to paying the freelancer to develop the idea.
Still, how do I know that a client I pitch to won’t take the story and do it themselves?
This is always the risk with pitching, on or off Storyhunter. The best way to prevent this is when pitching would be for the freelancer to make a case for why they are best fit to produce the story. We recommend freelancers mention what particular knowledge or access they have to an important character. Making the client aware of these details helps strengthen a pitch.
What if I just want to sell an idea to a client and not execute on it?
Freelancers can offer this option to a client. This is not currently a frequented need for our existing client base. Our clients request that the freelancers who have access to their posting have the experience to help produce the idea. For them, the value of the pitch system lies not only in the idea, but in the execution as well.
I wrote a pitch for a particular subject and the client declined my idea. And then I saw on the internet that that same client produced my story with someone else! How do I prove it?
We recommend freelancers make an objective assessment of how likely it is that some other person at their company or some other freelancer also pitched the idea. The easiest way to do this would be through a google search of the topic and subject. If multiple publications have written articles or created videos about this story, there will not be a very strong case that the idea was unique. If a freelancer’s take on a pitch included access to characters that other freelancers couldn’t have had access to, there may be a case to make.
I’ve done all that, and I do want to make a complaint. What do I do?
To file a complaint, email firstname.lastname@example.org with all the information. We will reach out to the client and help mediate the situation. Trust within the community is the backbone of Storyhunter; we expect respect from all parties.
I’ve applied and pitched and haven’t gotten a job yet. What should I do?
Sorry to hear that. Here are some resources that help freelancers with successful pitching:
- How to create your Storyhunter profile
- Dos and Don'ts for Pitching
- Masterclass for Freelance Writers
- Business Insiders Tips For Pitching: The Rough Cut
- Advice from Storyhunter producer Carlos Beltran
- How To Get a Feature Pitch Accepted
- MasterClass on Video Pitching
- Tips from Storyhunter Co-Founder Jaron Gilinsky
- Guide To Negotiating Video Production Rates