Preparing and pitching for editorial and commercial work

In order to progress your career and be published in your chosen magazines or work for your chosen brands, here are some top tips on how to prepare for and make the most of a pitch.

Preparation is everything

Before you send an email approaching a client, there are things you can do to make sure that you’re presenting yourself to the them – and the most relevant person there – in the best way possible.

Dolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2003 advertising campaign, photographed by Steven Meisel.

Edit your portfolio

When recommending yourself for work, your portfolio should be a good representation of the creative you are and the values you have. Make sure your portfolio showcases imagery with a similar aesthetic and shots that highlight consistency in the kind of teams you work with so that the client can envisage what you and your work are about, and whether or not that’s a good fit for them.

Research the client

By being aware of who works at the magazine or brand as well as who their collaborators you’re giving yourself a better chance of contacting the right person and therefore forming a better relationship with them. At a magazine, the fashion director of a title might not immediately get back to your email, for example, whereas a bookings editor or photography editor is more likely to be interested in your message.

Research the person

Knowing who you’re writing to is imperative, as it helps you to gauge the tone of your message. What’s the mood of their work – dark and moody or colourful and poppy? – and how do they come across on social media? How senior are they? Check whether they are out of the country or busy with work before sending your email. By researching this beforehand, you can adapt your initial outreach to be more formal or casual, for example, accordingly.

Be concise in your approach

You want to make sure your approach stands out from the crowd – without being gimmicky. Tips for sending a good message include: being succinct and quick to get to the point, as well as making sure that images are attached to the body of the email and are small files (so that they load instantly).

Follow up

There are no hard and fast rules about following up on an unanswered email, but there are ways to follow up without becoming a nuisance. People are busy, so there is no harm following up once or twice in the following weeks, just to ensure that your initial message hasn’t been forgotten about. If you still don’t hear after that, then leave it for a month or so before trying again. You don’t want to be remembered as being over-eager.


Whether you’re pitching to work with a title in the future, or you already have a story – at concept stage or a finished shoot – it’s important to make the most of the opportunity. The same goes when introducing yourself to a new, commercial client: you need to stand out in order for them to commission you. Your interaction with them could be an email conversation or an in-person meeting, but either way there are certain dos and don’t when pitching to new contacts.

‘Text Talk’ shot by Nick Knight for Garage magazine, Fall 2012.

Know what you want from them

When messaging the a potential client, make sure you’re clear with them. If it’s a magazine, are you looking to publish a single story with them or do you want to be kept in mind for future work with them? For a commercial client, are you pitching for regular work with them or for digital-specific, social-specific or campaign-specific jobs? Tailor your approach accordingly.

Reference their projects

Was it a particular story, campaign or theme of an issue that inspired you to email them? If so, tell them! By talking to them – where appropriate – about the work they’ve done and why you like it, it will show the client that you’ve done your research and help them to better understand why you’d be a good fit for them, specifically.

Be prompt and on time

If they do arrange a meeting with you following on from your email conversation, then ensure that you’re there on time (or even a little earlier) as this will be the first indicator of your work ethic. Be calm, take your book and a laptop or tablet with pre-loaded links to your portfolio or work. Make it as easy as possible for them to see why they should commission you.

Keep it short

It’s true for emails and it’s true for meetings. The person might only have 15 minutes available to talk with you, so make sure that you get to the point so that they have all the relevant information and details that they need to know about you. Don’t leave thinking ‘I wish I’d mentioned this’.

Follow up

After the meeting, don’t forget to send a courtesy thank you, and then follow up in a few days for feedback (if they haven’t already got back to you). Even if they don’t want to work with you right now, scope out whether it would be appropriate to contact them again for the next monthly/quarterly/biannual issue or relevant campaign.

Be gracious

Clients will usually offer you feedback on your work. Remember to be gracious and not defensive in accepting their advice.

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