Practical help for hungry writers -- 700 useful posts for freelance writers looking to break in, move up, and earn more. Blogs mission is to help freelance writers make more money. To help writers find better-paying markets and avoid crazy-low rates. Writers of the world unite!
Maybe you’ve got your sights set on getting published in a glossy consumer magazine with millions of readers.
You read every issue. You study the headlines, writing style, and topics. And you think about story ideas for your dream magazine…a lot.
That’s a start. But how do you turn your story ideas into an assignment with a contract, your byline in a popular magazine, and a check in the mail?
One freelance writer took the challenge to get published in AARP: The Magazine…a highly-competitive niche magazine that pays $1/word.
At first she didn’t see a clear path to break in. But with a little effort, she discovered a strategy to write for magazines that really works, whether you’re just starting out or a pro.
Want to steal her idea to break into your dream pub? Here’s what you need to know:
Meet freelance writer Willi Morris
Willi Morris wasn’t always nabbing major magazine assignments. But she is now. She’s been writing for a living for more than a decade as an editorial assistant, journalist, and freelancer.
When she set her sights on writing for AARP: The Magazine, she decided nothing was going to stop her from landing an assignment. If you want to write for magazines,” says Willi, “here’s the secret. Be persistent.”
We caught up with Willi Morris on a recent Freelance Writers Den podcast to learn more about how she landed that dream assignment and what it’s like to write for magazines.
Q: How did you get into magazine writing?
A: I’ve been writing off and on since I was in college. I got my degree in journalism, and I was a journalist for a few years. I left the industry about 10 years ago, because I new it was on a decline.
Then about six years ago, I moved to Alabama, and kind of fell back into writing with regional magazine. The editor’s encouragement really helped me do more freelancing. And Carol’s blog was a constant source of motivation to keep going.”
Q: What type of magazine writing do you like the most?
A: I enjoy doing feature profiles, because I love interviewing people. It’s interesting getting to know them. Right now, I’m trying to move towards doing more long-form content like case studies, which takes interviewing skills.
Q: What made you decide to pitch AARP?
A: Well, you know, Wikipedia was my friend one day. So I decide, “Hey, let’s check out magazine circulation by numbers.” And I was kind of surprised that it was AARP. I realized it has a huge audience. I had no idea how I was going to be able to break into the magazine. But it kind of became a goal of mine for several years.
Q: What was your first step to breaking into AARP?
A: When I checked up on an editor I worked with from a couple years ago, I realized she was working for AARP. So I sent her an InMail: “You’re working for AARP now. That sounds cool. What are you doing?” And that’s pretty much how it started. It feels like a fluke, but reaching out to her like that was really more intentional.
I only interacted with her a couple of times over a few months. And very randomly, I got a voicemail saying: “Hi, this is so-and-so from AARP. I want to talk to you about what we’re working on next.” I was aghast. I had no idea she even remembered that I emailed her.”
Q: What kind of story ideas did you pitch AARP?
A: I emailed her a lot of traditional pitches after that, like how to be a leader of black millennials, mental health topics, social media. Very reported assignments.
And then she came to me about doing personal essays for women of color between 35 to 45 years old.
It’s a a good lesson that what you pitch might not be what you actually write, but can still turn into an assignment.
Q: What do you think about accountability partners for writers?
A: My accountability partner, Ayelet Weisz, used to be a Den member and moderator. I don’t think I would have gotten the AARP gig without her. I wouldn’t have spend so as much time on LinkedIn marketing, but that’s what she was pushing me to do.
Without that, I probably wouldn’t have noticed that the editor I worked with in 2013 had moved magazines. It was really because of her encouragement that I was able to get the assignment.
Q: If you want to write for magazines like AARP, what advice can you give other freelancers?
A: Persistence is everything. Even if you feel like you’re being a little bit annoying by following up on a pitch, you
probably aren’t. Just be really brief: “Hey, I wanted to see what you’re up to.” Be brief, kind, and persistent. That means a lot to editors.”
If you’re afraid to send a pitch, do it anyways. I’ve been doing this for a really long time, and you never stop being scared. It’s part of the process.
Be a writer, not a waiter
If you’ve been sitting on a solid idea for a magazine article, for days, weeks, months, or maybe even years, what are you waiting for. Write that query letter. Send it off. Repeat the process until you’ve landed an assignment. And keep going until you get a “yes” from your dream pub. Be a writer, not a waiter. That’s the secret to freelance success.
Want to write for magazines? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.
Are solopreneurs good clients for freelance writing jobs?
If you’re shaking your head (no), I get it. There’s no shortage of one-person business owners out there who are barely scraping by.
Is the person selling widgets to their family and friends a good source for freelance writing jobs, referrals, or a potential client that will pay professional rates. Probably not.
Then there’s the solopreneur who says they’re starting their business on a shoestring…in their parent’s basement…with no money. Not a good prospect for freelance writing jobs either.
But that doesn’t mean you should cross solopreneurs off your potential client list.
Solopreneurs can be great clients. I earned about $15,000 last year writing for solopreneurs, which represents about one-fifth of my total income.
In fact, the right soloprenuer client can be a dream to work with, compared to a larger company with a staff of employees, bigger budget for freelance work, and bureaucracy that slows everything down.
So what’s the secret sauce to finding solopreneur clients that will pay you pro rates for freelance writing jobs? Here’s what you need to know:
Work with soloprenuers to get freelance writing jobs
When it comes to finding good clients, we often talk about targeting companies with at least 50 employees. With the exception of well-funded but small start-ups, I personally only market to medium-to-large companies.
However, solopreneurs can be good for your freelance writing business.
Why? In my experience, the right solopreneur is:
Prepared to pay professional rates
Easier to work with than most companies
Prompt about paying on time
Understands how client relationships work
In other words, the right solopreneur will treat you as a valued professional and as a peer who has the skills to help him or her expand their business.
3 reasons soloprenuers are better clients than big companies
Before diving in to how to spot a good solopreneuer client, let me discuss some of the ways working with solopreneurs can be easier than working for larger companies.
1. No payment B.S.
It seems like I have some kind of payment issue with almost every client. It almost never malicious, and often the person hiring me wants to pay me promptly.
However, my contact is not in charge of accounts payable. Sometimes he or she doesn’t know what the company’s payment policies are, if they process invoices on a certain date each month, what payment platform they use for contractors, etc.
Delays are usually about miscommunications between the person who hires me, any other people who need to “approve’ my invoice,” and the individual who is actually in charge of making the payment.
This is a non-issue with solopreneurs. The person who hires you is also the person writing the checks. My solopreneur clients are my promptest payers. And if there’s an issue, solopreneurs don’t have to “get back to you,” about what’s wrong and spend hours of their time tracking down the right person to hassle.
When a payment is delayed, I’d rather hear, “Oops! Sorry, I forgot to schedule the payment. I’ll take care of that now,” than “Let me get back to you after I figure out who in accounts payable is responsible.”
2. Gang edits
Some writers stipulate in their contracts that all feedback has to come through one individual. Otherwise, you can find yourself opening up a draft to find four or five people have made comments you’re expected to address—and they contradict each other.
Solopreneurs do not have office politics playing out in your writing assignments. You only need to make one person happy. This dynamic makes working with solopreneurs more fun, as well as a lot faster. And faster=higher hourly rate.
3. No turnover risk
Editor churn does offer the possibility of doubling your clients. But it can also be a big pain, especially if it happens mid-project.
If your client is a solopreneur, you know that as long as you’re writing for this company, you’ll be dealing with the same person. That means you won’t have to deal with changing procedures, changing expectations about voice/tone or internal power struggles.
Even though there are clearly benefits to working with solopreneurs, there’s a reason Carol and others recommend against it. Many, perhaps most, solopreneurs are not willing to pay professional rates.
But high-quality solopreneurs do exist, and they are easy to spot. Here’s what they look like:
Their time is valuable
There are plenty of people in high-earning professions who are solopreneurs:
Freelance software engineers
These people earn enough to be able to afford professional rates. It also makes sense financially for them to pay someone else to write for them. If they could make $300 per hour in their practice, paying $200 for a blog post is entirely reasonable.
The live in an expensive area
People in New York City and San Francisco are used to paying their dog walkers, hair stylists and accountants pro rates.
My personal experience is that the best solopreneurs live and work in parts of the world that are expensive.
That means the rates for their own services are likely higher than in lower-cost areas and they consider high-dollar fees for services a part of doing business… or a fact of life.
They invest in their business
If you talk to a solopreneur prospect, it’s pretty easy to see how much he or she is investing in the business.
For example: One of my solopreneur clients started our conversation by mentioning that she was working with an SEO expert. She wanted a writer to help her implement this consultant’s recommendations.
Ding! The fact that she was already working with a paid professional to help build her business was a good sign.
A solopreneur who mentions building his or her own website using a free WordPress template? Not a good sign.
Write for soloprenuers + larger companies
To be entirely honest, I don’t market to solopreneurs. But I do follow up on referrals and inbound leads related to writing for solopreneurs, if it smells right.
And I don’t hesitate to ask my solopreneur clients for referrals if any of their colleagues need writing.
Maintaining some solopreneur clients helps me keep a diversified client portfolio. My solopreneur clients have also generally been long-term clients, so having a couple on board provides some income stability.
The secret sauce: Don’t market exclusively to solopreneurs. But don’t immediately discount a referral or inbound lead from a solopreneur, either. The right solopreneur client can be a great source for freelance writing jobs to boost your income.
Do you write for solopreneurs? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Emily Omier is a freelance content marketing writer. Her solopreneur clients include mental health counselors and personal finance experts.
Did you know only 12 percent of adults in the U.S. can pass a basic health literacy test, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Part of the problem is the complexity and jargon of health information. But it doesn’t have to be that way, says the American Medical Writers Association.
If you want to develop your freelance career as a medical writer and improve content and communication for patients, consumers, and healthcare providers, check out this niche organization.
Founded in: 1940
Annual membership: $195 Includes: Member directory, free training, job board, discounts on conferences and events
Last year the American Society of Journalists and Authors celebrated it’s 70th year as an organization that was created to represent independent journalists and non-fiction writers.
Fun fact: It didn’t start out by that name. It was originally called the New York Society of Magazine Writers. The primary purpose back then? It gave writers a way to compare pay rates at consumer magazines, says Executive Director of the American Society of Journalists and Authors Alexandra Owens.
Founded in: 1948
Annual membership: $235+ Includes: Networking, job leads, professional development, mentorship opportunities, emergency fund program for writers, discounts on conferences and training
Florida-based writer Dennis Taylor launched the American Society of Professional Copywriters after a 40-year career in advertising, public relations and journalism writing to help writers develop copywriting skills. “Membership is about the cost of one specialty coffee per month for the year, but is sure to kick-start your occupation more than the caffeine would,” says Taylor.
Founded in: 2017
Annual membership: $29.99 Includes: Mastermind group, monthly copywriting tips newsletter, awards program, discounts on coaching, certification
If you’re a published author, have a book contract, or want to write a book, but need help navigating the publishing world, Authors Guild is your writer organization. “Our mission is to support working writers,” says Authors Guild President James Gleick. “We advocate for the rights of writers by supporting free speech, fair contracts, and copyright. We create community and we fight for a living wage.”
Founded in: 1912
Annual membership: $135 Includes: Publishing industry news, workshops, marketing and social media training for book promotions, writer website tools, and discounted liability insurance for media professionals
Here’s a sobering fact. In the United States, about 16 percent of high school students drop out before graduation, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Why is that? And what can be done about it in the classroom or by elected officials to change that? It’s the kind of education-related issues journalists have been writing about and reporting on for years. Do you write about education on a local, regional or national level?
“We want to strengthen the community of education writers and improve the quality of education coverage to better inform the public,” says Education Writers Association President Greg Toppo.
Founded: 70 years ago
Annual membership: $50 Includes: Education listserv to share ideas and sources, monthly webinars, database of education experts, resources for writing about education issues, discounts on seminars and workshops
Did you know an estimated 57 million people in the United States are independent contractors? That’s a lot of people, and many of those are creative types like writers, journalists, and designers. Want to connect with other freelancers, collaborate on projects, or check out affordable health insurance options? The Freelancers Union can help you with all three of those things.
Founded in: 1995 Annual membership: Free Includes: Discounted health, medical, and other insurance plans, network of freelance professionals, resources for independent journalists, writers, designers, and more
Just starting out or been a full-time freelancer for some time? The Freelance Writers Den, created by Carol Tice, can connect you with other writers, get feedback on pitches, and ultimately move up and earn more. Notice an opening to join The Den? Cease the day. The doors to join this established writing community are only open a few times a year.
Founded in: 2011 Monthly membership: $25 Includes: Bootcamps, podcasts, and resources about the business and craft of freelance writing, pitch reviews by professional writers and editors, job board, coaching, and more
Is content marketing hot? Take a stroll across the Interwebs, and you’ll see every brand and business from small mom-and-pop shops to billion-dollar corporations tapping into content marketing to get more likes, shares, follows, subscribers, and customers in a variety of different ways. The secret: great content combined with smart marketing. If that’s your style of writing, check out what the MCMA has to offer.
“We’re devoted to helping our members achieve excellence and success in media and content marketing through education and networking opportunities,” says MCMA President Jeff Hartford.
Founded in: 1970 Annual membership: $75 Includes: Networking with content marketing professionals, continuing education, industry trend updates, discounts on industry events, and more
One of the most popular features for freelancers that the National Association of Independent Writers & Editors (NAIWE) offers is a plug-and-play website builder. But you’ll also find resources to help you develop your skills, along with proven systems you can adopt to earn more as a writer. Fun fact: Carol Tice is the resident content marketing expert for NAIWE (which she recommends and affiliate sells).
Founded in: 2007 Annual membership: $99 Includes: Writer website builder, networking opportunities, training materials, webinars, and discounts on products and services
When romaine lettuce started making people sick because of e. coli contamination earlier this year, public health officials ordered the leafy-greens be pulled from the shelf. Thank a science writer for learning about it before you munched on this mistake. Or maybe you covered this for us.
What followed the initial outbreak was a long list of stories, graphics, videos, and tutorials designed to help people understand the risk factors of e. coli, and the science behind what happens if you are exposed to this bacteria. That’s just one example of the intersection of journalism and science writing the National Association of Science Writing is proud to be part of.
Founded in: 1934 Annual membership: $88 Includes: Access to a network of 2,300-plus science writers and editors, job leads, free access to scientific journals, monthly newsletter, and discounts on travel and training
What’s the difference between the National Writers Union and other writer organizations? It’s the only labor union that exists for freelance writers. And it’s primary objectives, make sure you get paid fair wages, navigate bad-client issues, provide contract advice to prevent you from getting burned, and protect your rights and your work.
Founded in: 1981 Annual membership: $12.50 to $400, based on annual income Includes: Press pass, discounts on health and medical insurance, contract advice, free legal counsel for writing-related issues, webinars, workshops, and more
General interest magazines may be nearly dead and gone, but that hasn’t slowed the popularity of outdoor magazines, niche blogs, reality shows, and sales for outdoor gear an equipment companies. In fact, a recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Report shows the outdoor industry generates an estimated $887 billion in spending annually.
And that means there’s ample opportunity to succeed writing about camping, backpacking, kayaking, hunting, mountain climbing, wilderness survival, and much more. Do you write about the outdoors? This is where you’ll find writers and editors in your niche, and connect with potential clients, and sharpen your skills as an outdoors writer.
Founded in: 1927 Annual membership: $150 Includes: Job leads, monthly newsletter and tips about outdoor writing and industry trends, grants for continuing education, client-dispute resolution services, annual conferences, and discounts on products and services
You write for a client that’s just received an infusion of investor funding, launched a new product, recruited a heavy hitter to take over as CEO, announced an acquisition, or achieved a milestone. How do you get the word out? A PR campaign with press releases, interviews, digital marketing.
Every step of the way requires great writing. Or maybe you’re a journalist or freelance writer who knows the smell of a story from one whiff of a press release. If you’re on either side of the fence, the Public Relations Society of America may be your writer organization.
Founded in: 1947 Annual membership: $115 to $295, based on experience Includes: Free training and webinars, discounts on conferences and events, monthly newsletter about issues and trends in PR, networking opportunities, discounts on insurance and other products and services
Ever wonder where you’ll find author, freelance writer, and writing coach C. Hope Clark? Two of her hangouts include Make a Living Writing (check out her recent advice about how to earn more), and the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network. SPAWN was created to help authors with the process of writing, publishing, and marketing fiction and non-fiction books.
Founded in: 1996 Annual membership: $75 Includes: Book promotion services, The Chicago Manual of Style Online, monthly tips on book marketing and industry trends, expert interviews, and more
Blame it on Ernest Hemingway. He’s one of the most recognized travel writers in American history, and wrote extensively about life outside the U.S. from one romantic adventure to the next. His advice personal solution to writers block: “I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence…”
Travel for recreation has certainly changed dramatically since Hemingway’s most prolific years. But travel writing is still a thriving niche for writers with opportunities to write for consumer magazines, in-flight magazines, travel agencies, resorts, and more.
Founded in: 1955 Annual membership: $125 + application fee Includes: Networking opportunities with travel writers and marketing professionals, training and development, monthly newsletter about travel writing and industry trends, discounts on insurance, products, and services
Where would we be without a free press and journalists willing to track down sources, dig up information, and write about the issues, trends, and people that impact daily life for everyone? Think about that for a minute. If you’re a freelance journalist, SPJ has your back. It’s one of the oldest writer organizations in the United States, and was created to help protect First Amendment rights, the free press, and foster ethics and excellence in journalism.
Founded in: 1909 Annual membership: $75 Includes: Professional development, networking opportunities, job board, awards program, legal counsel, Quill magazine with news, information, and trends about the journalism industry
It might be hard for you to imagine a time when business news didn’t dominate the headlines. But when the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing was founded, Inc. magazine didn’t exist. And it would be 20 years before every major metropolitan city would have its own business journal. It’s founding mission: promote superior coverage of business and economic events and issues. And that’s still the focus of the organization 55 years later.
Founded in: 1964 Annual membership: $60 to $75 Includes: Networking opportunities, professional development, updates on industry news and trends, awards program, annual events
Tap into the benefits of writer organizations
The next time you’re feeling like you’re working on a deserted island that happens to have a wifi connection, tap into your writer organization to check in with other freelancers, stay motivated, and level up your marketing efforts to find your next great-paying client.
What’s your experience with writing organizations? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultra-marathon.
Long ago, I came up with a list of 113 ways working freelancers can grow their writing income. If you’ve been wondering how to make money writing — serious money, that is — this list is for you. If you’re a newbie, you’ll find plenty of useful suggestions here, too.
I’ve given the list a major update, since things do keep changing in the freelance world. Enjoy!
Aren’t you sick of the negativity out there in the freelance writing community? I know I am.
You know the spiel. Uninformed comments like:
Print is dead.
All articles are now $5 or less.
I can’t believe this Craigslist ad asks for three free samples.
The fact is, some freelancers are still earning a great living, and you can, too. But first, you’ll have to stop buying into the gloom and realize that what you earn is really up to you.
Take the attitude that you are an unstoppable force of nature, and you won’t give up until you’ve got your freelance writing biz earning what you need!
To help you take charge of your writing career, I put together a list of 100+ proactive things you can do right now to build your income. Yes, there are a couple of affiliate links below, for things I personally know well and can recommend (plus direct links to a couple useful things I’ve created for you).
Surely, one or more of these ideas can help you bust a move toward better pay? Here we go:
How to make money writing: 113 ways
I’ve organized these tips into sections — these links will take you straight to each subtopic:
6. Grow your network. On LinkedIn, in person, everywhere you are.
7. Get out and meet live humans. People give you jobs, not computers.
8. Scared to go networking? Bring a friend for support. Then, take it slow. The first time, just go and observe and smile a lot, and then go home. Next time, introduce yourself to one person.
9. Start a networking group, if there isn’t a good one in your area. Great way to get known by a lot of people fast — because everyone thanks the host, don’t they?
10. Create a “me” speech, so you know what to say when people ask what you do — after the part where you say “I’m a freelance writer,” and they say, “Really? What kind of writing do you do?” (Thanks to IJ Schecter for this one.)
50. Stop bidding on jobs online, where you’re competing with hundreds of other writers. Opt out of the race to the bottom.
51. Send bills out more promptly. Many companies only cut checks once a month, so don’t miss the cutoff. Better yet, negotiate for better payment terms and get paid faster. Better cash flow is as good as a raise.
52. Cut your expenses. Then, you’ll feel less pressure to take low-pay gigs and have more quality marketing time.
What’s your writing process look like? Are you productive and efficient, or do you spend a lot of time spinning your wheels?
Stop right there.
If you’re dreaming about the days of crushing it as a full-time freelance writer, you’re probably wondering how to dial in your writing process, find clients, get work done, move up, and earn more.
When I was new to freelancing, I needed to hit the reset button on my writing process and mindset, but I didn’t fully understand that until years later.
If you want to be a successful freelance writer, make an appointment with Mrs. Discipline.
Why? Freelance writing isn’t for the faint-of-heart, easily-defeated type. It’s hard. It requires a long-game mindset, commitment, and the ability to deflect distractions to get work done.
Making some commitments to yourself and your freelance goals can be a total game-changer. I only figured that out after a lot of stops and starts and second-guessing myself. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Want to be a successful freelance writer? Adopt these five no-compromise rules:
Want to land an assignment with your dream magazine? Or score a copywriting contract for a dream client? Be persistent.
You may need to reach out to the editor or marketing director more than once. Your pitches may get rejected or go unanswered. But if you’re persistent, you cannot fail. Carol Tice puts it this way:
Become an unstoppable force and don’t give up until you find the clients you want, and have all the work you need.”
Tip: Still chasing that dream magazine assignment or client? Create a calendar or set reminders to follow-up on pitches. Be persistent, until you connect with the editor or marketing manager.
Blame it on Google, fast food restaurants, and the 24/7-always-on Internet. We’ve been conditioned to get what we want, when we want it. But building a successful freelance writing career takes time. Some things may take a lot longer for you to learn, master, and complete than others. But it’s worth the effort to take the time to:
Write an effective query letter or letter of introduction
Find the right person and email address to send your pitch to
Follow up with prospects
On-board new clients and learn their business
Market yourself as a freelance writer, consistently, until you’re fully booked
Write engaging content to wow your clients and readers
Learn new skills and strategies to move up and earn more
Tip: Feeling frustrated freelance success isn’t happening as fast as you’d like? Stop, and take a deep breath. Maybe a couple. Reach out to your writer community for support. And remember pro writers didn’t achieve success at instantaneous speed, either. Be patient.
Pay your dues
At the beginning of your freelance writing career, expect to pay your dues. When I was itching to get published, I pitched a column in my local newspaper. The editor was thrilled but couldn’t afford to pay me, so I saw it as an internship.
I wrote the newspaper’s weekly column for over a year…for free. At the same time, I was pitching other places to land paid assignments. Eventually I did, and then something crazy happened. I used that paid assignment as leverage to turn that weekly-column gig into a paying client.
Tip: Writing for free for a year might be a bit much. But if you want to move up and earn more, sometimes it’s part of paying your dues. If you’re trying to break into a new niche, or get your first clip, pitch a pro bono project. Start, then keep going.
Make time to write
You can say you’re a writer all you want, but unless you actually write—and write regularly—you’re simply an educated human.
To make it as a freelance writer you need to make time to write. If you’re a wealthy recluse who lives alone, you’ve got all the time and money in the world. But for everyone else, you’ve got to figure out how to make freelance writing fit in with the rest of your life. For example:
Wake up an hour or two before your day job to write, complete an assignment or send a pitch
Set up a day-care trade with a friend, so you can write without mom-or-dad-duty distractions
Work the eight-to-midnight shift on your computer, and work on writing once the kids are asleep (something Carol Tice did for years)
Tip: If you’re just starting out, or you’ve hit a slump, spend all your writing time working on query letters and letters of introduction. Once you’ve got assignments, don’t procrastinate. Make time for writing to get the work done.
Make freelance success your priority
This is the most important no-compromise rule in my opinion. To succeed as a freelancer, writing has to be your priority.
I recall a conversation with my aunt, a successful artist, when I was first started freelancing. I had engagements after work every day that week and was complaining about not getting writing gigs.
She looked at me and plainly said: “Well, it looks like socializing is more of a priority to you than your writing career.”
I was floored. I wanted to retort, but how could I? She was right. If your priority is writing, you will skip other tasks to accomplish your goal.
Tip: In order to make freelance writing a priority, take hard look at your current schedule, priorities, and responsibilities. Can you commit to this? Are you willing to put in the work, and stick with it until you’re successful? What are you willing to give up, or move down on your priority list to make room for writing?
Follow the rules to move up, earn more
Freelance writing isn’t easy. But it’s also not impossible…you just have to want it. And not just want it, you have to be willing to adopt a few no-compromise rules to make it happen. If that means waking up extra early or staying up late to make a writing deadline or stick to your writing plan, then so be it. That’s the path to freelance success.
What are your no-compromise rules for freelance success? Let’s discuss in the comments below.
Sally Baho is a freelance writer based in Monterey, California. She loves food and people and writing about both.
Creating a great online home to showcase your writing was always a challenge for freelancers. Then came smartphones, iPads, and the need for mobile-responsive writer websites.
If you don’t have a mobile-responsive theme or layout to your writer site, when people look at your site on their phone, it usually looks like…crap. To be blunt.
It’s hard to find the navigation tabs. The copy you slaved over gets cut off mid-sentence. Your contacts may disappear from the top. It can be a real hot mess.
Not exactly the impression you wanted to make. Ugh! After you’ve invested all the time and energy in creating a writer site.
So, what’s a writer to do? Find a better answer.
Building better writer websites
Some of the more popular platforms for creating writer websites haven’t kept up with the times. I’m looking at you, Wix (Tablets and iPads apparently don’t work yet). And Writer’s Residence (even their own site doesn’t have mobile layout).
Once, these dirt-cheap solutions were workable for writer websites — and now, they’re not. Also, most freelance writers aren’t in a position to hire their own designer and spend thousands getting a custom site.
Because great writer websites are sort of a passion of mine, as I saw old solutions failing at mobile, I decided I had to find (or create) a better answer.
What’d I do? I basically begged my own designer, Keira Dooley, to create a new writer-website platform. I proudly affiliate sell her FolioSetup hosting and design solution now.
You’ll see an example of that simple, elegant WordPress theme below, along with several other approaches. There are other solutions out there, but they start around $1,000 or so and go up from there, and I know writers need something more affordable.
The difference mobile makes
Wondering how much better a writer website designed with mobile in mind will make you look? The writer websites below give you a guided tour.
More and more people are doing business on the go, on their phones. That trend isn’t going away. You show you get the Internet when you have a mobile writer website.
I recommend you view these examples on a laptop, where you can first see the browser version. Then, shrink your window down to phone size, to see how mobile themes keep you looking pro on any device.
Writer websites that rock mobile
Take a look at these beauties for more than the mobile angle. You’re going to see sharp Home and About page copy, terrific photos, and more. Here’s my lineup (alphabetical by last name):
1. Melissa Bein at writermelissab.com. Melissa went with Keira’s WordPress-based FolioSetup custom mobile theme, designed specifically for creatives. It’s got drag-and-drop flexibility so you can easily move elements around (so you could make yours look different than this one). Without spending thousands on a custom design, you can pop in all the key elements you need — logo, contacts in the header, shot of you, the works.
Watch it compact the menu into the classic mobile ‘hamburger’ lines when you go small. Slick! Melinda doesn’t have a portfolio up yet, but Xavier Galindo is another FolioSetup user who does, if you want to see that.
2. Neal Eckert at That Counseling Writer. If you don’t like how you look, so you don’t have a photo of yourself on your writer site, you need to check out Neal’s site right now. Because Neal is a writer who only has one hand. And he took some cool shots for his site, that put out there who he is and what he brings to the table, and make him look pro — and you can do it, too.
The home page shot actually disappears in mobile, would be my one complaint – but you can still see him on his About. Neal hired a design firm for this one, and it’s built in WordPress using the popular Divi theme from Elegant Themes.
3. Kari Matthews at karimatthews.com. This is another one built on Divi. Kari told me she recently updated her site for mobile, which shows you that you can improve an existing site. It was totally worth it — she goes bold with a monochromatic theme, cool little logo, and more.
4. Matt Seidholz at mattseidholz.com. Matt has a killer ‘proof bar’ (or in his case, proof circle, of logos of his client companies). Watch how those logos scale down elegantly when you go to the phone-sized screen. Sweet!
He gets extra props for DIY-creating this nice-looking site, using WordPress’s default 2016 theme (he says he did some light CSS styling).
5. Jen Theuriet at ContentByJen. If you have a strong background in the topics you write on, it rocks to show that visually. Jen does that here with her background in fitness and taking her shots in a workout mode. This is another WordPress site.
It all beautifully re-sizes down to mobile, though the white-on-white copy gets harder to read (hello, seriously nearsighted person here!). I personally like how it says ‘Menu’ by her mobile-collapsed ‘hamburger’ menu lines. I’m still not sure everybody gets that, so I think it’s smart.
6. Carol Tice at caroltice.com. Yes, I’ve taken the time to go back and get my own WordPress-based writer website updated for mobile, and I am darn happy with the results. Keira did this one by hand, as it was before FolioSetup was born.
She worked hard to make my cool little contacts header stay at the top of the page, when you look at it on the phone. Custom-developed from CyberChimps’ free Responsive theme. (Keira says she wouldn’t take this route again, BTW.)
7. Kristi Valentini at kristivalentini.com. — I love Kristi’s 1-2 punch on the Home page buttons, where you can contact her immediately, or go to her ‘Why Me?’ page as the next step. This sleek site is built on StudioPress’s WordPress-based Genesis framework.
8. Dana Watt at danawatt.com.I know teachers aren’t supposed to play favorites… but Dana is one of my coaching students, and I’m in love with her food-industry focused copy. Her site is also elegantly mobile — I like how her photo stays at the top for smartphones. If you hate WordPress, this is the site to check out — she built it on SquareSpace.
When writer websites go mobile…
The result is awesome. As you can see.
If you haven’t yet got your site up, start it off right and make sure you choose a mobile-enabled approach. If you’ve already got a site, decide if you love its basic layout and want to upgrade or update it for mobile — or if it’s time to blow it up and start over with a better, mobile theme.
What’s your reaction to these writer websites? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.
A forum to tell a sob story about some traumatic life event
A clearing house for pyramid schemes and money-making scams
A philanthropic organization that cares for rescue dogs, cats, monkeys, and unicorns
Interested in a vague mish-mash of ramblings about freelance writing
It’s kind of a problem. Truth be told, maybe 1 in 20 guest post pitches make the cut. The rest are a major brain drain, on time, inbox capacity, productivity, and creative mojo.
Far too many pitches we receive have nothing to do with the business and craft of freelance writing. If you don’t want to be escorted off the mat, don’t submit a pitch that will disqualify you.
Deliver your pitch with a punch in the face
Do it. If you’ve got a great guest post idea about the business and craft of freelance writing, ball up your fist and punch us in the face with your best offensive strike. Seriously, unleash your fury. Here’s how.
Study the guidelines. It’s all there. Lot of freelance topics, details, and instructions to pitch an idea with the best chances of acceptance. Far too many writers don’t read the guidelines or purposely ignore the explicit rules for disqualification.
Read a dozen or more blog posts published on the site. FYI, there’s more than 1,000 on all kinds of freelance writing topics. Get familiar with the content, style, and audience, before you pitch a guest post idea.
Develop an original idea about the business and craft of freelance writing. We don’t accept any generic, researched-off-the-Internet writing topics we’ve all seen 100 times before.
Share your experience. Your hands-on approach to freelancing, successes, failures, and strategies make a difference. Share your experience or provide a play-by-play account of how you get more clients, for example. Learning from other writers’ personal experiences is a powerful way to teach, motivate, and help other freelancers move up and earn more.
Write a pitch with a working headline and brief outline of the points you’ll cover in the guest post. In case you didn’t see that…write a BRIEF outline with a working headline. No pre-written posts, ramblings, or novel-length submissions.
Send us a guest post pitch Mr. Miyagi would be proud of. “Either you karate do ‘yes’ or karate do ‘no.’ You karate do ‘guess so,’ get squished just like grape.”
It’s open pitch through March 8. Let’s see what you’ve got. Send us your guest post ideas, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible, if it looks like a good fit.
Have a question about pitching a guest post idea for Make a Living Writing? Let’s discuss.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline, or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultramarathon.
Ever wonder if there’s a superpower to help you find great writing jobs?
You know, like some kind of mind-reading technique to help you know what editors want.
Or some sophisticated computer program that learns rapidly and starts writing pitches to help you land more writing jobs. That would be nice, right?
Well, either one would also be the easy way out. And you’re not going to learn anything about the business and craft of freelance writing if you do it that way.
So if you’re struggling to find writing jobs and clients that pay well, what should you do?
Forget everything you might know about left-side brain logic and the most practical path to build your freelance writing business.
That’s what I did when I stumbled across a mind-bending process that really works. It took a little while to wrap my head around the idea.
Now I’m booking more work, landing more long-term clients, getting better-paying writing jobs. And this year is going to be even better.
What’s the mind-bending process to get more writing jobs? Here’s what you need to know:
The universal freelance trigger for ice cream cravings
When I received my first rejection letter, all I wanted to do was wallow in self-doubt with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
Been there, done that? It’s kind of a universal trigger for freelance writers.
You put your heart and soul into writing the perfect letter of introduction, pitch, or query letter. Then you hear nothing but crickets. Or after a long wait, you get a generic email or form letter in the mail, that says your pitch was rejected.
It’s time to retrain your brain
When you’re new to pitching editors and marketing managers to land freelance writing jobs, it’s easy to second guess yourself. You’re staring at the e-mail or reading that rejection letter thinking:
I’m not good enough.
I’m not smart enough.
I have no business even calling myself a writer.
I’ll never be able to do this.
OK, so maybe I took those first rejection letters harder than most. It was bad. But you can turn it around if you’re willing to adopt an out-there mindset shift. Rejection doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can use it to transform your freelance career and get more writing jobs.
Wrap your mind around this mind-bending idea
There’s a common misconception that goes along with rejection that needs to be clarified. Instead of feeling totally defeated when an editor or marketing director rejects your pitch, remember this:
Rejection does not equal failure.”
I repeat, rejection does not equal failure.
You are not the only one receiving a “Thanks, but no thanks” email. We all get them.
Rejections are a part of every writer’s life. It doesn’t matter what you write, how well you write, or anything else.
If you’ve been a freelance writer for a day or a lifetime, rejections come with the territory.
Instead of fearing them, it’s time to change your mind about rejections, and use rejections to get more writing jobs. How do you do that?
Stop allowing the fear of rejection from holding you back.
Don’t get hung up on rejection. Keep pitching until you’re fully booked.
Reasons a pitch is rejected…
Before you start second-guessing yourself, recognize there are many reasons a pitch is rejected (and it’s usually not your idea or writing skills) like:
The publisher nixed the idea, even though the editor liked it
The query wasn’t clear to the editor/marketing director
It didn’t make it to the right decision maker at the company/publication
Your pitch email was deleted in error on a chaotic day for an editor
The list of reasons for a rejection is endless. Assume nothing. Take rejection in stride. And then make this one crazy move…
Set a rejection goal to get more writing jobs
By aiming for rejections, the business of pitching becomes a kind of game. Ask yourself this question: How many more rejections do you need to reach your goal?
If you’ve been struggling to get freelance writing jobs, you probably haven’t thought of those rejection letters this way. I know I didn’t. I used to keep a spoon and a bucket of Ben and Jerry’s on hand just for the occasion. But not any more.
Pick a rejection goal. For example, 10 rejections a week. Or 50 rejections a month. It’s a different way of thinking. But it works. It’s a process goal that will force you to send out more LOIs and more query letters. Set a goal, and get to work.
By the time you hit 100 rejections, or whatever your goal is, you’ll be a better writer. You’ll have more confidence in your skills to pitch ideas. And the more you send out, the higher your chances of getting more writing jobs to help you move up and earn more.
My rejection journey to more freelance writing jobs
Last year I set a personal pitch goal. A pretty wimpy one, in my opinion. Send out 90 pitches. I aimed for 90 winning pitches, not 90 rejections. Of those 90 pitches, 47 were accepted, and nine grew into repeat clients.
Not bad, right? Imagine how much better I could’ve done, had I really challenged myself. In truth, by aiming for pitches instead of rejections, I grew bored partway through the year and stopped before hitting a full hundred.
There’s nothing wrong with a pitch goal. But I challenge you to set a rejection goal this year. It’s a great way to force yourself to work harder, put yourself out there more, and make the odds of landing more writing jobs a lot better for yourself.
Here’s another way to look at this mind-bending idea. If you get 100 rejections this year, how many writing jobs will that translate to. There’s only one way to find out. Ready? Let’s do this.
Have you used rejection to get more writing jobs? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.
Beth Casey is a B2B writer living in Maine. She writes about business, digital marketing, health, and technology
It’s the middle of the afternoon. You’ve got a client deadline. And all you’ve been able to do for the last few hours is think up writing excuses for why you’re not cranking out copy.
Your desk is too cluttered.
You’re behind on dishes and laundry.
You don’t feel like writing.
You didn’t get enough info from your client to complete the assignment.
And then the thought crosses your mind: I’m not really a writer. I’m just pretending to be one.
Been there, done that?
If you’ve made any of these writing excuses (FYI…there’s many more), you’ve probably done your share of whining, crying, and flailing around.
All that, when you could have been, you know, working.
Tired of writing excuses holding you back from moving up and earning more as a freelancer?
Stop whining, and crush your freelance writing excuses once and for all. Here’s how:
Meet writing excuse buster Linda Formichelli
Freelance writer Linda Formichelli has heard just about every excuse in the book from other writers. And she’s done her fair share of excuse making during her 20-plus years of writing for a living. But that hasn’t stopped her from a successful freelance career. Her work includes:
Writing for more than 150 trade and consumer magazines
Working for 35-plus copywriting and content marketing clients
Guest posting for many top blogs like Copyblogger, about the business and craft of freelance writing, and
We recently caught up with Linda for a Freelance Writers Den podcast to find how to bust your writing excuses once and for all.
Q: What if you can’t come up with any new story ideas?
Formichelli: Just about every idea you can come up with has probably been done in some way. Here’s a magazine example. If you look on the newsstand, you practically see, “ Walk off the weight,” on every single health and fitness magazine. It’s easy to think, “How can I come up with something any different?” It seems like they run the same thing all the time. But you can.
The trick is to figure out how to put a spin on an idea that only you can do. For example, maybe, there’s this new trend of walking backwards, or what if you walk with weights, or maybe an opposite idea about why it’s impossible to walk and effectively lose weight.
Q: What if you spend too much time on research and over-analyzing every assignment?
Formichelli: Lots of writers have problems with getting stuck in research mode. It’s another excuse used to avoid actually writing. The problem is, that if you don’t know already what exactly you need, it’s easy to go down that rabbit hole of just researching and researching.
For example, you’re writing about some health topic, and you don’t know exactly where your article or your pitch is going to go. Before you call some experts to interview, you just spend hours and hours researching to make sure you cover all your bases.
Here’s how I handle this. No matter what the writing project is, do just enough research to write a barebones piece. Then you look through it during the editing phase, and if you’re missing any information, you gather and add that information with research and interviews.
Q: What helps freelancers avoid the classic writing excuse, procrastination?
Formichelli: It’s not that complicated. Get started as soon as you get that assignment. Boom! You’re off to the races. When you take this approach, you’ll have time at the end, instead of being stressed out about your deadline. You’ll be a lot more confident, and you’ll be able to get the research you need.
Q: What if you don’t get all the info you need in your first interview with an expert?
Formichelli: Well, you could easily use that as another writing excuse. But there’s trick to take care of that you can use at the end of every interview.
Just ask: “Is it okay if I get back to you if anything comes up as I’m writing this piece?”
They always, always, always, always say, “Yes.” And that makes you feel a little bit better like, “OK, even if I don’t have everything right now, I can write what I have and then come back if I need something.”
Q: What if you get bored with an assignment and don’t feel like writing?
Formichelli: I’ve heard that kind of writing excuse from freelancers a lot. “I don’t feel like doing it.” “I’m not in the mood.” “I’m not inspired.” “I’m tired.” “I’m sick.”
If any one of these things makes you want to put off writing, don’t just do nothing. Choose tasks you can work on based on the amount of time and energy you have. If you have a half an hour and you’re really tired , maybe you update your website, or file your expenses, or just do something that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower.
But if you find that you always have the time and energy for research or posting on social media, and you never seem to have the time and actually writing, you know you’re in writing excuse territory. If you want to learn more about how to deal with this problem, go read this blog post by Mark Manson: F*** Your Feelings. It’s perfect advice for this situation.
Q: What should you do if you get stuck in I-don’t-feel-like-it mode?
Formichelli: Think about it this way. If everybody waited until they felt perfectly calm, energetic, centered, happy and healthy before they started writing, nobody would ever get anything done.
Your feelings come from your actions and not the other way around. If you get started writing, even if you don’t feel 100 percent in the mood, soon you’ll find that you are in the mood.
But it doesn’t work the other way. You can’t sit there and mentally motivate yourself with a motivational speech in your head, meditating, or wondering, “What the heck is wrong with me?” You need to just take action.
Q: How do you handle the ‘I don’t have enough time’ writing excuse?
Formichelli: It’s easy to think it’s all about time management, like if only you could figure out how to manage your time better, you could get more writing done. But that really won’t solve your problem. It’s more about attitude.
Just look at writers who get a lot done and are published everywhere. They’re all busy with their lives like everyone else, except they use the small amount of time they do have better. We all have the same 160 hours per week as everyone else, so you need to think about why some writers are able to produce so much in that amount of time, if you feel like you can’t.
Q: What if age is your excuse for not putting yourself out there as a freelancer?
Formichelli: In my experience, editors, publishers, readers and clients, care more about what you can do for them than anything about your personal situation, especially how old you are. If you present yourself professionally, have a great idea, and write really well, nobody cares if you’re 17 years old or if you’re 70 years old.
Q: What if you’re afraid to put yourself out there as a writer?
Formichelli: Remember this. You’re not the center of everyone’s universe. It’s so easy to feel like we’re always in the spotlight, everything revolves around us, and there’s some magical powers that are doing nothing but judging our writing. But the truth is, everyone is thinking about themselves too much to worry about whether or not you’re a writer.
Q: How do you deal with Impostor Syndrome?
Formichelli: You’re in a big club. So many writers feel like they’re frauds, like someday everybody’s going to realize that you’re not the real deal. Even Maya Angelou and Seth Godin have felt this way. It’s not uncommon for people who have this affliction to be the perfectionist-high-achiever type. So, if you feel like a fraud, I think it helps to remember that it probably means you’re not a fraud. It just means that you’re overly critical of yourself.
The formula for freelance success: No excuses
Ready to move up and earn more? Now is always the best time to start. If you’ve let excuses get in the way of freelance success, take Linda’s advice. Stop whining, stop making excuses, and get to work.
What excuses are holding you back from freelance success? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline, or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultramarathon.
Say you’ve got an idea for a magazine article. You write up a query and send it in.
What happens next? Crickets.
I’ve heard this tale from hundreds of writers. They all want to know why.
Usually, the answer is that you don’t know how to analyze the magazine you’re pitching, and use what you learn to create the perfect query — the irresistible one that editor can’t resist.
Everything you need to know to write a hot query can be found by studying the articles in that magazine.
What do you need to look for? Here’s my checklist:
It may seem like a small thing, but knowing how to write a headline that’s in the style of your target magazine can help get you off on the right foot with an editor. It shows you’ve read their magazine and care about their style.
For instance, some magazines have long headlines. Here’s one from O the Oprah Magazine:
This ‘Call Me By Your Name’ Producer is Fighting Female Violence in Film
Other magazines tend to favor short, 2-5 word, punchy headlines. This is usually followed by what editors call a ‘dek,’ that explains the topic in more depth. For instance, here’s the headline for a piece I did for Alaska Beyond:
Investor Appetite is Increasing for Initial Public Offerings
See the difference? Copy the headline style to alert your editor that you’ve read their pub — which makes them want to read through your query more carefully.
In the beginning…
As with headlines, magazines have conventions about how their articles begin (known in journo-speak as ‘the lede’).
Flip through an issue and read the first paragraph of each story. You’ll probably quickly detect a pattern.
It might be that most stories begin with a riveting anecdote. Or they might start with a fresh statistic or recent news event. Perhaps many begin by asking a question (that’s certainly true here on my blog).
Once you get the type of lede they prefer, you can write the lede in your query letter the exact same way.
Boom! The editor starts to imagine your magazine article appearing in the pages of their publication. Because it fits perfectly with their style.
Get to the nut
Most magazine articles have a paragraph early on that sums up what you’re going to learn in the story. It frames why the piece is important, and what news makes it relevant right now.
This paragraph is known to editors as the nut graf. One slick thing you can do analyzing your magazine is to see how far into the story nut grafs appear.
In a long feature, the nut might be a dozen paragraphs in. In some magazines, the nut graf IS the lede. It’s paragraph one. More typically, you’ll find it 3-6 paragraphs in.
Knowing the placement of the nut allows you to build your query so that your nut falls at the right point. In the query, that nut will say something along the lines of:
“In my article, [headline here], readers will learn X…”
It may be a little bit subliminal, but placing the nut in the right spot signals to the editor that you know how tight you need to write this, and how quickly you’ve got to get to the point of the story. Creating a nut also pulls together the drift of your story, so the editor can easily get their head around it and decide if it’s of interest.
When an editor goes searching through your query in vain for the headline and nut graf…they tend to move on.
Find the source(s)
The next step is to see what sort of facts are cited. What makes an acceptable source for this magazine?
Some publications trust government-agency sources. Say, the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the U.S. Census. For trade publications such as Nation’s Restaurant News, a source such as the International Franchise Association will be solid gold.
Still others love recently released survey data from top pollsters such as Gallup or Harris. Medical journals will want studies from highly regarded medical-research institutions.
Match your magazine article’s research sources to the types of sources you see in print, and you’ll convey the right authority vibe to please that editor.
Related to sourcing is the issue of interview quotes. Rattling off a statistic is one thing, but who do they find fascinating enough to quote in a story?
In a typical article, you might see a mix of ‘real people’ sources — the mom whose kid committed suicide, for instance — and experts in the topic. Those experts might be academics, association directors, authors, researchers, government officials and more.
Many magazines have rules about who can be quoted, or preferred interview types, and you can divine those by studying the quotes in current issues.
For example: For many years, business-owner sources for Entrepreneur always had to be under age 40, and their businesses had to have at least $1 million in revenue. (I know, like no one older has any knowledge? I had to pass on a lot of great innovators for that mag.)
Their ages were required to be stated, by the first reference of their name. Scanning an issue, this quirk would be apparent pretty quick. Catching on to that sort of detail can help you zero in on ideal interview subjects, save you a lot of wasted time — and impress your editor.
Check the layout
Just as magazines have conventions for headlines, ledes, quotes, and sourcing, they also tend to have article formats they prefer.
Have you read O lately? It’s charticle city there — single-page, often graphically driven pieces with short paragraphs or sentences for each section. If you pitch them a charticle-format magazine article, your odds of acceptance will likely improve.
Other magazines like subheaded sections, or prefer lists of numbered tips. Knowledge of article format can help shape your headline idea, if the magazine editor likes the setup of ‘7 Tips for Better Bread’ more than they would ‘How to Make the Perfect Loaf of Bread.’
Wrap it up
Magazine articles begin…and they also end. How they end is another style point for many magazines, so give a look.
I have a habit of ending articles with a final, insightful quote from one of my sources, which seems to work well for many different types of publications. But study the one you’re targeting.
You may not use it in your query, but you’ll be ready to write your draft when you get an assignment — and having studied your publication in this depth, your odds of that happening have definitely increased.
Watch your tone
Many magazines have a distinctive style. Their word choices stand out. Cosmopolitan is the one that always makes an easy example here. I just went to their site to give you some examples of their tone, and their notifications pop-up said, “Wanna stay on top of all the sh*t you actually care about?”
Obviously, if you’re reading The New Yorker, that’s not going to happen. Tune into word choice in your chosen pub to pick up on how they say stuff. Then, talk their lingo in your query. This is another big way to help the editor envision your piece in their magazine.
Many writers make the mistake of flipping through the current issue of a magazine, and then pitching the editor another article on one of the topics they just saw.
That’s not likely to pay off. If a magazine comes out 12 times a year, it’s unlikely they’re going to cover a particular topic more than once in a year. If it’s been 2 years since they did it and you have a fresh angle, you’ve got more of a shot.
Magazine editors are looking for something that’s like what they’ve covered, in terms of general wheelhouse, but that takes a new direction.
So if you see an article in the magazine on preventing teen suicide, for instance, don’t pitch them another one. Even if you found an interesting program for it. Maybe a story on how kids with terminal illnesses are supporting each other, maybe there’s a new app for that?
They also love topic pitches on ideas that are part of their mission, but have been neglected (so be sure to dig for their mission statement).
For instance, AAA magazines get tons of travel pitches — but they also sell insurance, and cover that area. Look for the less-traveled path and give them a story they’re more likely to need.
Imagine the reader
As you’re studying the magazine, a final step is to start imagining the reader of this publication. Who are they? What do they care about?
If you have several different ideas you’ve been considering pitching, honing in on the reader and their problems can probably help you see which one would be the most compelling for that editor.
Write your magazine article query
Once you’ve done all this analysis, you’re ready to cast your idea into the format your editor will love best. Your pitch should include:
Ideally, a bit of pre-interview from a source (or at least mention of the who you might interview)
ONE LINE about yourself to conclude, as in, ‘I’m a Seattle-based freelance business writer’
Including these concrete examples of how you’d actually write the story gives the editor a much better idea of whether you can really deliver what they want. Armed with your magazine-article research, you should be able to nail that.
What’s worked for you in writing article queries? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.