Monday, March 10, 2008

How To Get Started in Freelance Writing

This post is dedicated to my old friend Anaka, a talented writer who wants to put her words to good use!!!!

As a published writer for small and local magazines, I've been asked the same question over and over again. "How did you get them to publish your pieces?"

Sometimes, all it took was a simple letter stating my ideas. Other times, it took actually writing real articles without the hopes of getting paid nor published. The most important thing is to keep writing and to keep collecting your writing samples. Keep the passion burning, baby!

In any case, Anaka, these are some tips to get a byline in a magazine:

  1. READ, READ, READ the local newspapers and small magazines in your area for at least a few weeks. You’ll need to get familiar with their story angles, and possibly get to know the writing of the regular reporters/writers who have particular beats.
  2. Jot down a list of topics that you, as a reader for a particular publication, would want to read. Make sure that your ideas are relevant to the focus of each publication. For example, you wouldn’t want to write about ski resorts in Colorado for Texas Monthly magazine, which is why it is so important for you to read and become familiar with each publication’s story angles and beats.
  3. Develop your ideas by coming up with unique/specific themes. Local magazines like seasonal things and events related to their communities, so make sure you develop a “nose for news.” Keep your eyes and ears open for any newsworthy event around the area and know your target. Who are you writing for? How does it benefit the community? Remember your 5 W’s and H (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How)
  4. Write a QUERY LETTER proposing your ideas to the magazine editors. A well-written query letter helps proves to an editor that you are qualified to write the piece. Then look at the masthead of each publication and find the name of the editor-in-chief. His/her contact information should be listed. Send in your letter which includes your ideas and proposal and your contact information.
  5. Write WHAT YOU KNOW – All writers know this. Our best writing pieces come from our expertise in particular topics. You have more of a chance getting published if you write for a trade magazine. For example, teachers can write for education magazines, a musician can review local bands, etc.
  6. Prepare to get rejected. You are lucky if you even get a response, so a rejection is better than nothing. Many editors would probably say, “We already did a story like this.” Keep trying and maintain relationships with them. You can also offer to be their freelancer if they need any particular assignments covered. Even though your ideas may have been rejected, they may still need a writer to cover a particular assignment. Gladly accept and learn from the experience!

Good luck and happy writing!



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