The Renegade Writer

You Ask, I Answer: How Many Queries Do I Need to Send Out Per Week?

By Linda Formichelli

During a Freelance Writers Den free teleseminar I hosted a few weeks ago, one caller asked: How many queries do I need to send out each week?

This has got to be one of the top questions I get from writers. Everyone wants to know: How many pitches do I have to do to guarantee a cushy income and stellar freelancing career? They’re waiting to hear that magic number that will skyrocket their success.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Two points I’d like to make about that:

1. The number of queries you need to send out depends on your success rate — and that will change over time.

So if you get one acceptance for every four pitches, you know how many queries you need to send out to get 10 assignments per month: 40. But if you’re having more or less success, those numbers will be different.

Also, as you get further into your career and start developing methods that work for you, you’ll find your hit rate increases so you can send out fewer queries every week.

For example, I’ve been doing this full-time for almost 16 years now — and I rarely send out queries, because at this stage in my career I’m in many editors’ “stables,” meaning they call me when they need help with an assignment.

But at the beginning of my career? That brings me to point number two:

2. However much time you have, that’s how much you need to be marketing.

When I made the leap to full-time freelancing in 1997, I had a few assignments already — and the rest of the time I had, I was pitching.

I was probably researching, writing, and sending queries and sales letters for copywriting around 30 hours per week.

Slowly, my freelancing business built up to the point where I was pitching less and less. This is where you want to be, because doing all the work of nonstop pitching is not the most efficient way to bring in money. Working on paying assignments is. You need to market to sell your work, but it’s basically unpaid — it’s the actual writing that earns cash.

By the way, the same thing goes for Letters of Introduction, LinkedIn marketing, Twitter marketing, cold calls, or whatever form of marketing works for you: Especially when you’re starting out, the more the better. There is no maximum — just go for as much as you can in the time you have, because this business is all about volume. The more you get out there, the more chances you have to succeed.

How about you…have you ever calculated how many queries you need to send to fill your assignment calendar? Let us know in the comments below!

Mar 28, 2013 Advice, Marketing, Query letters, You Ask, We Answer

16 Responses

  1. It changes month-to-month and assignment to assignment. Some months, just about every query I send hits the mark; others, I have more misses than hits.

    I try to send out a couple every day, be it a pitch, a submission, or an LOI, and I’m constantly hunting down new-to-me markets and seeing if and how I can fit.

  2. Cheryl Rhodes says:

    Many years ago I read an article and the writer said her goal was to earn $100/day and daily she’d send out queries to magazines that paid at least that much for an article or sometimes multiple queries that added up to $100 in assignments. I thought that sounded reasonable and gave it a try but didn’t make it a week. My goal is to send out at least one query and LOI/day. Some days are more than that. It depends on whether I’m working on assignments or if I have free time in which case I am marketing.

    • Yes, you have to find a path that works for YOU. And I never understood the thing about aiming for a certain dollar amount per day. Do you mean you land assignments that day, finish them, or get the checks? It’s so hard to space out your income perfectly like that when you’re a freelancer.

  3. Kayleen says:

    Working full-time and writing part-time leaves me little time to query. Over the past several years I’ve developed 10-13 markets where I sell regularly– newsletter, books, mags, newspapers. I’m also developing my speaking persona. Now that 2 of my editors have told me they’re no longer using freelance, I’m on the search for more markets. I’m scrounging thrift shops, libraries, bookstores for mags of all kinds — commercial, trade, organizational– for possibles.

    • Good for you for developing steady clients! That’s a great idea for everyone — it definitely takes a while to develop those relationships but it’s worth it. I hope you find some new markets to replace the ones that were lost!

  4. Susan says:

    I don’t query and pitch that much anymore, but it took me years to get to that point. Letters of introduction work best for me at the moment. I prefer to identify a publisher with a group of publications, like custom content magazines, that have the potential to offer multiple assignments. Right now I work with a publisher that assigns me work across 3 magazines. I’d love to hunt down two more clients like that to up my consistent writing work.

  5. Lisa Evans says:

    It’s not really about how many queries, but how much the assignment will pay. If your markets are only paying $100 per article, you’ll need to send out a lot more queries than if the markets are paying $1000 or more per article.

  6. Tyrhone says:

    I have a real hard time with the constant queries. I love to write, but not so much to beg to write, even though I know it is a necessity.

  7. Dave says:

    I suggest going to a literary conference. I listened to a presentation from a literary agent, and she was amazing. Then I was able to sit with her for 10 minutes and pitch my book. She liked it and now she is my agent. I wasn’t successful with query letters, but maybe a face to face pitch could help some people.

  8. Julie Bates says:

    Articles like this make me realize how vital it is to look at writing as a business and take the steps necessary to develop it. You’re providing me with the tools I need for sucess – Thanks!

    bty I have probably learned more about writing queries and marketing in the few weeks I’ve subscribed to Renegade Writer than I have in any writing class I’ve taken – ever.

    Julie

  9. Yitzhak says:

    As a relatively new member of the freelance writing crowd, I can already foresee that the number of queries I send out will drop in the coming months for one simple reason: repeat clients. 60% of my clients have asked me to write more than one project, and if I can maintain this ratio, I’ll have enough work just from previous clients! The way I see it, I’ll have to work extremely hard during the first several months to build up my client base, but from that point going forward I should have a reliable amount of work coming to *me.*

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