Freelance Writing for Magazines

Have you ever considered writing for magazines? Writing for magazines, whether full feature articles or just small tidbits, can be fun and profitable. There are a few things, other than writing great pieces, that anyone has to work at if they want to write for magazines someday. Here are some of the things would-be magazine writers should consider as they start on their careers.

One thing to know upfront is, while making money is possible for magazine writers (people do it all the time..) beginners and even experienced freelances shouldn’t look to magazine writing as a get rich quick scheme. If you query with (propose) and article idea, it might be months before any editor gets back to you, and, if they accept the idea, it could be months more before you get paid. If you send a submission to a publication with an open-submissions policy, it still may be quite a long time before you hear back, and, again, longer still if you’re accepted before you get paid. So, go in looking at freelance magazine writing as a long term investment, not a quick money fix. (In other words, not everyone pays like ACâÂ?¦)

Once you’re ready to start writing for magazines, evaluate your knowledge base. People will likely accept your work much more quickly if you’re an expert on something than if you’re exploring it for the first time. If you’re a parent, consider that an expertise. If you have a profession, consider what you might be able to write about your job. If you have a hobby you’ve worked on for a long time, a chronic illness you’ve handled for years, experience traveling the world – whatever it might be – think about what you have to offer the magazine universe. In other words “find your niche.” Then, come up with specific article ideas you can “pitch” about that topic. Don’t rush to write the articles – that can cost you untold hours and you’re not sure yet if you have a market for them.

Speaking of markets, finding a market (a place to sell your articles) is the next step in the writing for magazines process. Say you’re ready to write a few articles on your profession. What magazines, newsletters, or websites exist for that profession? You may know some off the top of your head, or you might have to search online or in WRITER’S MARKET (bible of places accepting writing) to get the complete list. Figure out which magazines want the work you’re willing to write.

After you know who wants your next (or first) article, see what their submission guidelines are. This means: do they take whole articles or just queries (proposals). If they accept whole articles, what is their word requirement (500, 1000, etc.) and what are their formatting requirements (AP style, when to use italics, etc.) and submission requirements (for instance, do you need to send a disk or a email attachment, etc.). Once you have all those under control, write that article and send away! But remember, it might be some while before you hear anything back. Sometimes, you don’t hear anything back at all!

On the other hand, if the magazine you want to write for requires a query, see what that magazine wants in the query letter. Usually, it’s a brief description of your idea, some information about why you’re qualified to write the article, and maybe, some published clips (if you have them). Make sure your query letter is concise, complete and professional and has a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) if you’re sending it by regular mail.

Once your article idea is accepted by the magazine you’ve targeted, and it’s time to get writing, embrace the writing process. This means, don’t just hammer an article out off the top of your head. Research as necessary, then do some organizing of ideas – outline formally or informally depending on what works best for you. It is MUCH easier to revise an outline than a whole paragraph or section of an article. Outlining might also help you realize what research you still need to do. After you’ve written the article, if you have a trusted writer friend, let him or her read it over, or at least ask someone whose a good proofreader give it a look. Better a friend catches your typos than a magazine editor who you’d like to pay you! Rewrite the article as needed (first drafts are almost never “best drafts”) then, go ahead and send the article in. Again, remember to stick to the guidelines of the publication, and, if you have any questions, contact the editor to make sure you get it right.

Once the final article is “put to bed”, don’t go to sleep yourself! Think up that next idea to pass along to the magazine editor whose got your first one. It may not get accepted, but it may keep you in the editor’s mind for future assignments.

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