Do you have a great idea for an article? Are you looking to build your professional resume?
I’ve been a freelance writer for many years and while it sounds romantic and mysterious, it’s actually a lot of work. A freelance writer must be self-motivated and focused.
Freelance writers are independent contractors who sell their craft in order to build up not only a resume, but also a portfolio and reputation.
For many writers, their first publications are through freelance articles. This is a huge plus as it shows dedication and professionalism to the craft. This can be useful if you’re trying to grow within the writing industry. The first thing the industry insider will do is google your name to see your brand and/or platform.
Freelance articles for magazines, e-zines, blogs etc. will all show up in the search and add to your credibility as a writer.
All that stuff you’re reading on your favorite website, was written by somebody. Newspaper articles need to be written as do magazine how-to’s…
The need for content that is fresh and interesting is constant.
A freelance article starts with an idea.
It morphs and changes depending on where the writer want to send it.
The article is not normally written until a pitch via a query letter has been accepted and terms agreed upon.
Some magazine may ask for a piece “on spec” or “speculation”… This is a lot of work with no guarantee and possibly no money.
I would recommend you not write on spec and keep trying to pitch elsewhere.
Think of your query letter like a baseball pitch. You want to do all your hard work and homework before you actually toss your pitch.
In baseball, the pitcher will know the hitter’s stats and that is power prior to him introducing the pitch. It’s very similar… Do your pre-work before you toss out that great idea!
You want to hit it out of the park and here are FIVE TIPS to keep in mind when pitching.
To Whom Are You Pitching?
Do your homework and make yourself familiar with the publication. Read the magazine. Often you can get a good idea of the tone and need from the website, but you can also check your local library for back copies.
Are you pitching to the right magazine/e-zine? If the magazine is about horses don’t pitch a story about kittens and puppies. Exercise your common sense.
Know what they’ve printed for the last two years. Don’t pitch article ideas that have been addressed in recent articles.
Learn and absorb the “tone” of the magazine. Is it conversational? academic? humorous? Knowing the tone will assist you in adjusting your writing style to their needs. It also is something you want to add into your query letter which shows you’ve done your homework.
Who is Your Intended Audience?
This is all part of your homework too and an important one to consider.
If you’re pitching to a Christian publication for example, then the content must be faith-oriented and appropriate.
If you’re pitching for teens then it must be age and genre appropriate.
If it’s for young children, make sure the vocabulary reflects the publication.
Most publications want a comfortable conversational tone suitable for the intended audience.
Make sure you avoid cliche, dated slang, and inappropriate references that the publication could find offensive.
What is Your Unique Angle or Spin on Whatever it is You’re Pitching?
Consider, and answer, these questions. This the the type of information you can put in your query letter.
- HOW is your idea different?
- WHAT makes it fresh?
- WHY are you the one to write it?
- Are you an expert or have special connections to the subject? Answering these questions are very important as they can set you apart from other freelancers.
- If you’re coming in with something new and exciting then say so.
- And don’t forget the editorial calendar that is at least six months in the future. So at Easter, you should be pitching Christmas and at Thanksgiving, you should be looking at summer-time stories.
Did You Check the Submission Guidelines?
Again, this is part of your job and an important one to complete.
Almost every publication has a page dedicated to letting writers know what is needed, how and when to submit, and what to expect—from pay rates, to response time, to kill fees.
By studying the guidelines you’re already a step ahead of those that overlooked this step. It will show professionalism when you write up your query referring back to their guidelines and current needs.
If the site you’re studying doesn’t have a specific drop down menu on “guidelines”, they can often be found on the “Contact” page.
Know (or Learn) How to Write a Query Letter.
This is your introduction to an editor.
Your idea needs to fit into one tight well-written sentence.
Watch your spelling, facts, don’t use poor grammar, or tell them that you’re the next super-star writer.
I’m sure they’ve heard it all and they can see through the crap but you want them to actually read and not just scan and toss.
A query letter is...
- one page maximum (yes, even for you)
- needs to be addressed properly to the right person (call if in doubt)
- no fancy fonts or pictures
- use Times New Roman 12 font
- always have a “call to action”–for example–In a query letter it’ll be something like “I can be reached at any time to discuss this further…” or “I’d be happy to forward clips of my articles…” or “I appreciate your time and am looking forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience…” Something along those lines.
- Keep it professional and personal at the same time.
I’ll write up a post on the query letter and have some tips for you. For now, get those fresh ideas bubbling and start doing your research.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I’d really like to hear about your projects and stories about freelance writing.