How to Start a Successful Magazine Writing Career – 6 Freelancing Tips

These tips for starting (and sustaining) a successful magazine writing careeer are from published authors, freelance writers, bloggers, and editors. Even if you’ve been selling articles to magazines for years, I can almost guarantee you’ll learn something new here!

Before the tips, a quip:

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being,” said A.A. Milne.

That’s my goal: to keep collecting money as a freelance writer and blogger. If you want to earn a living as a writer, read How to Become a Fulltime Freelance Writer: A Practical Guide to Setting Up a Successful Writing Business at Home. And, check out these six tips for successful freelance writers…

How to Start a Successful Magazine Writing Career – 6 Freelancing Tips

1. Rewrite, revise, and edit after a 24 hour break. “Like feeding Gizmo after midnight, there is one thing a writer should never do: Submit their article within 24 hours of writing it. Doing so may result in death (of your career). For the 24 hours after finishing your article avoid it like the bubonic plague. Don’t think about it, look at it, or even acknowledge things associated with it. After the time expires, come back and edit your work. You’ll be shocked at the mistakes you find or humor that you can add.” – Brandon J. Mendelso, publisher, author and freelance writer 

2. Do not give up!“Write and write and write some more.  Everyone gets better and better.  No on gets worse and worse.” – Kay Marshall Strom, author of 34 published books, numerous articles, and 2 movie scripts

3. Ask the right questions when interviewing sources. “My tip for a successful freelancing career is from when I was a reporter in Washington, D. C. When you’re done with interview, say: “What should I ask you that I didn’t?” You CAN’T believe some of the extra that you learn, often out of left field.” – Tom Peric, writer

4. Train your brain. “A writer’s most important tool is not a pen, tape recorder, computer or even the ability to write. A writer’s most important tool is his brain. You need to train it like an athlete trains her body. As a writer, you have to cut through the flab of all the information around. You need to question, question, question. What happened? Who does this affect? Why is this important? Critical thinking precedes good writing.” – Mark Grabowski, journalism professor

5. Find factual support. “My tip for a successful freelance writing career is to try to include at least one relevant and supporting statistic in every article.” – Michael Johns, writer and author  

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6. Apply the Rule of 12. “My tip for successful writers keeps me productive and motivated. For example, come up with 12 different ways to say something; it will you keep your writing different and exciting. Send your work out to 12 different editors, someone just might like it. Write for 12 minutes a day, or 12 pages a week…whatever goal it takes to keep you going!” – Kimberly Llewellyn, aka “the Wedding Writer”  

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If you have any questions or thoughts on these tips for successful freelancers, I welcome your comments below!   

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9 thoughts on “How to Start a Successful Magazine Writing Career – 6 Freelancing Tips

  • Laurie PK


    Yes, I understand what you’re saying about defining who you are as a writer. One thing I never want to do is take on corporate clients, or write annual reports or business reports. I tried it once and hated it — it was awful! I loved my client, who was a smart, successful, savvy female law professor….but just couldn’t stomach writing for her.

    You sound so experienced and wise! Thanks for being here, it’s been really interesting 🙂 .

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..8 Ideas for Blog Posts or Magazine Articles at Halloween =-.

  • Laurie PK

    Hi Gini — long time no see! I hope your ‘puter will be home soon 🙂 . No, I didn’t know about Gizmo, that’s funny that it’s appeared twice in the past month.

    I definitely think that letting your writing marinate is crucial to writing well. That’s part of the rewriting process. My favorite way to write is to work on one piece every day over weeks — it just gets better and better.

    K.M., thanks for your comment! Objectivity is another reason to take a break from your writing — whether you’re a magazine writer or novelist.

    I think I want to be a novelist when I grow up.
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..8 Ideas for Blog Posts or Magazine Articles at Halloween =-.

  • Gini Grey

    Great assortment of helpful tips, Laurie. I’ve just been learning about tip no 1 – wait 24 hrs. I’ve always been the kind of writer who likes to get into the flow, whip off an article and be done with it. But in the past several days with my puter not working and having to use someone else’s, I’ve waited until the next day to post my articles, and sure enough I found better ways to word things after an incubation period.

    Hey, did you know what a Gizmo was in tip #1? It’s the cute creature that turns into a naughty gremlin (re article on taming your inner critic).
    .-= Gini Grey´s last blog post ..Courage =-.

  • K.M. Weiland

    Taking a break before editing is vital. It’s amazing the distance we can gain from our pieces in even a short amount of time. As a novel writer, I often take that a step further and let my stories rest for months. It’s very helpful in gaining objectivity.
    .-= K.M. Weiland´s last blog post ..It’s What Your Characters Do That Defines Them =-.

  • Natalia Maldonado

    Laurie, that’s a good point. I’ve been there, too. One of the most interesting pieces I ever wrote was assigned to me as a bio for an aviation consultant. They’d sent me his resume and since I knew nothing about aviation it looked like jargon to me, but once I interviewed him, I realized he had some amazing stories to tell.

    So I can definitely see the value in taking some work that might not interest you at first. I guess what I really meant was more in regards to work that you’ve already done in the past that you know doesn’t interest you. For example, I’ve been approached many times to write for one particular market that I used to write for, and over the years I realized I didn’t enjoy it because it required me to write in a voice that I didn’t feel was a good representation of the kind of work I do. I even started excluding those pieces from my portfolio. Even though I’m sure there are plenty of writers happy in that market, I know it’s not for me, so I’ve tried to distance myself from it and won’t accept similar new work that comes my way.

    I think a lot of it is about figuring out what kind of writer you want to be. There’s no harm in trying new things (on the contrary, it helps us grow). But after I try new things I always evaluate whether or not I’ll continue that kind of writing based on my career goals. If it’s not a good fit, I know to go in a different direction for the next time.

  • Tumblemoose

    Hi Laurie,

    Geez, I HAVE to record interviews. I can’t seem to remember anything after, and my notes are darned near unreadable. Now I make time notations of the questions on my little digital recorder and it really helps with going back and putting all of the pieces together.

    .-= Tumblemoose´s last blog post ..Books on Fire, Now it Just Takes a Keystroke =-.

  • Laurie PK

    Thanks for your comments!

    Quick Penmanship, what’s a “PLR article”?

    Natalia, I’m behind you 100% regarding printing pages to edit. I don’t do it all the time, but I felt I needed to before I submitted my sample chapters to a potential publisher! I usually re-set the margins and font, though, to save paper.

    Regarding writing about what interests you: I recently took a job about something I wasn’t interested in, and found that my interest increased based on my research and interviews! So, sometimes forcing yourself to do certain jobs can be beneficial 🙂 especially if the pay is good.

    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..14 Tips for Successful Magazine Writers =-.

  • Natalia Maldonado

    These are all excellent points! Number 11 and number 1 really resonated with me. Having written about things I wasn’t so crazy about at the beginning of my freelancing career, I realized that when friends and family would ask me “So what are you working on?” I would sometimes hesitate to answer. That’s never a good sign; we should always be proud of our work because our names are going to be attached to it. Now I don’t take on anything that I know I won’t enjoy writing, because chances are it won’t come out as my best work.

    And I agree that 24 hours is a good amount of time to let your work “marinate” before turning it in. I know this isn’t very earth-friendly, but if it’s a very long piece I’ll usually also print it out and edit it by hand (red pen and all) because there are always things we don’t catch on screen that we catch on paper.
    .-= Natalia Maldonado´s last blog post ..They’re no myth: Great clients do exist =-.