Written by Sarah Yoon
In my last article, I explained the benefits of freelance writing; now it’s time to show you how to make these dreams come true! Many writers prefer to ignore the publishing industry’s grinding machinery, but at some point it’s time to wake up and smell the motor oil. Professional writing can’t just be on the wing of a whimsical muse. It’s hard work, but it gets easier over time.
Wherever you see written words, a job position most likely exists. Magazines, newspapers, newsletters, trade journals, web content, business writing and even blogging are all viable options. Before you become a go-to freelancer, you need experience to show that you’re capable, which sometimes means going for the byline rather than the paycheck. And good for you if you can get both! Even though it’s important to be paid for writing, you may need to get your name on a few articles so that future employers can trust your abilities.
If you want to write for magazines, go to the closest bookstore and find a copy of the Writer’s Market. In the ‘consumer magazines’ and ‘trade journals’ sections, you’ll find an overwhelming amount of information about hundreds of magazines: percentage of freelance accepted, amount of pay, contact information, and article angles. Pick up a few magazines from the bookstore rack and see if you can find them in the Writer’s Market. Get familiar with writing styles and target audiences. What are the articles about? Are they short and punchy or long and thorough? Judging by their advertisements, get to know the demographic. Is the magazine aimed at men or women? Young or old? Rich or poor? Understanding these elements helps you pinpoint which magazines to query.
Form Article Ideas
Before you get discouraged and wonder why anyone would care about what you have to say, consider your vacations, your school experience and even gyms that you’ve joined because they had a good deal. Magazines cover every angle of existence—well not quite, but it seems that way sometimes—and there’s bound to be one on education that’ll welcome your experiences. Remember that readers want magazines to be all about them. That’s what sells. Focus on helping students through a tough experience that you’ve gone through or offering tips on how to choose the right university.
If you’re a gardener, look into magazines like The American Gardener (60% freelance), BackHome (80% freelance), or Better Homes & Gardens (10-15% freelance). Since you’ve got a better chance with the first two, see which would like to publish advice on how to make your own raised garden bed on a budget or how to grow a rare type of flower. Remember that you don’t have to be an expert. Tap into connections: the owner of your favorite nursery or your old high school buddy who became a landscaper. Ask if you can interview them for the article and mention in your query that you have experienced resources on tap.
Next in Series: Query it Up – How to Write a Successful Query Letter. If you missed the first article, “How Freelancing will Improve your Writing Career,” hop on over and check it out here.
What magazines are you interested in? Any article ideas brewing?