Freelance Writing 101

Freelance Writing 101

by Angela Adair

Anyone can be a writer, anywhere! Freelance writing was one of the premiere home-based businesses of all time. From the vintage typewriter to the high-tech home computers of today, freelance writing has remained a reliable source of income for wordsmiths worldwide. Their clients include magazines, newsletters, newspapers, book publishers, greeting card firms, gaming companies, and corporate clientele.

The best idea generator is to study market listings (see end of article).

You Have An Idea.  Now What?

Order Writer’s Guidelines. Writer’s guidelines are issued by publishers as an easy, quick way to let writers know exactly what they want from incoming manuscripts. To receive writer’s guidelines from a magazine or publisher:

  • Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with a short note requesting their writer’s guidelines.
  • Send an e-mail request to the editor
  • Or check their website to see if their writer’s guidelines are posted online.

Read An Issue of the Magazine

Most editors complain that they receive several queries that do not follow the magazine’s purpose or format, or do not target the magazine’s audience. Some publications will send a sample issue on request. Others charge a nominal fee. I always visit the newsstand at my local bookstore. I sit in their coffee shop and review the magazine without buying it. (If I bought every magazine I approached, I’d be in poor financial shape.) You can also get a good idea of a magazine’s editorial content by reading the articles posted at their website.

The Assignment and Dealing With An Editor

If you are persistent, you will become a published writer. The editor will contact you by mail, phone, or e-mail and will tell you to proceed. They might discuss your idea and tell you how they’d like you to write the article differently than your query angle. They should also provide you with a word count and a deadline. They might send you a contract, but this doesn’t always happen.

Many small publications do business “on a handshake.” One editor sent me an e-mail that said, “Great idea! Can you get it to us by August 15th?” My response was, “No problem. Send me a word count and I’ll get right on it.” That was it. I knew she was busy and didn’t have time for professional or personal chatter. I had read their guidelines and knew what rights they were buying and how much they were paying me. I only needed to deliver exactly what I’d stated in my query letter. The point I’m trying to make it this: I picked up on the editor’s “business etiquette” and her stress level. I did not bother her by calling for petty details, and I didn’t even call to ask if she’d received my article. I sent the manuscript by express mail so I could bother the post office with a phone call instead of her.

Included in my package was my manuscript, a disk of the article (so they wouldn’t have to retype it), my photos with accompanying negatives, and a short note proposing another article idea. My system worked because she gave me the go-ahead on that idea, and also asked me for a list of articles I could write for them next year. I’m now a regular contributor, and I have no doubt it is because I respected the editor’s busy schedule and made her job so easy.

Now write the article.