These eight freelance writing tips for print magazines represent some of the best lessons I’ve learned from the “school of hard knocks.” As a successful full-time writer without a Journalism degree, I’ve learned a great deal about writers’ rights, contracts, editing, sourcing, and pitching and selling articles.
Before the tips, a quip from Natalie Goldberg:
“A student in a workshop walked up to me swinging his briefcase. ‘Hi, I’m an engineer. I make $46,000 a year. How long do you think it will take me to earn that much with writing?’ I told him, ‘Keep your job.’ ”
Fellow scribes, know that you will eventually have to leave everything behind; the writing will demand it of you. You are on a path without markers, but for the the skulls of those who never made it back. “I will act as your guide,” writes Goldberg in Thunder and Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft. Click on her book for more info, and read on for eight freelance writing tips for print magazines…
8 Freelance Writing Tips for Print Magazines
1. Train yourself to continually create fresh ideas for articles. Coming up with new ideas is a skill that can be mastered. Don’t waste your time fine-tuning a pitch called “10 Rules for Beginning Freelance Writers” and send it to The Writer, because it’s been done before. Instead, find new ways to package old ideas. For more info, read 10 Tips for Selling Feature Articles to Magazines.
2. Keep pitching those query letters. Magazine editors always need fresh ideas for articles and good writing, and they recognize and respect perseverance. I’ll stop pitching article ideas only after I’ve emailed a dozen times and still haven’t heard anything. This is a valuable freelance writing tip for print magazines: don’t give up if you get rejected or hear nothing from editors or publishing houses. Sooner or later, you’ll get a writing assignment!
3. Check the website or print magazine for past articles. You don’t need to read a year’s worth of magazines to get a feel for a print or online magazine. Explore the website; search the site for the topics and ideas you have. Read the past 3 or 4 issues of the print magazine. If the magazine has lots of articles about reducing stress, don’t abandon your idea for a stress-free vacation. They obviously like articles about stress, and you may fill a gap. For help putting a fresh twist on an old idea, read How Freelance Writers Generate Article Ideas That Sell.
4. Learn something new about writing or freelancing every day. Keep studying freelance writing tips, publishing information, freelancing websites – and look for solid information about writing. Find a writing website or blog that challenges you to improve your writing, and re-read the articles until the writing tips have soaked in.
5. Pitch an idea immediately after you submit an article. When I get a writing assignment, I immediately start working on it (even if it’s not due for 2 months). And, I actively look for more ideas to pitch to that publication. It doesn’t work in all cases – I’ve worked for at least 3 magazines once and only once – but it’s smart to follow a great article with a fresh pitch.
6. Diversify your writing projects. There are so many areas for freelance writerss: blogging, technical writing, newsletters, textbook writing, print magazines, feature articles, research shorts, top 10 lists….don’t focus on one area. Instead, do a little of everything. Build a solid portfolio of writing clients. Create a blog or website – or offer to be a guest author on someon’e blog or website.
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7. Act like an entrepreneur. You’re a businessperson, which means you need to learn how to run a small business. Get the appropriate software, office space, spreadsheets, etc. Learn how to attract clients – and how to keep them happy. If you’re a freelance writer, editors and publishers are your clients. For more tips, read 6 Tips for Building a Successful Writing Career.
8. Remember that freelancing is different for everyone. What works for me may cause you to become a skull on the road to freelance writing (back to Natalie Goldberg’s analogy). Don’t take what other writers do as gospel — try new things, and find your own way to run your writing career!
What have I missed? If you have any questions or thoughts on these freelance writing tips for print magazines, please comment below…