What is a Freelance Writer?
Ever considered writing an article for a magazine? Maybe you don’t have a want a full time job as a staff writer. Did you know that many of the articles you read are from freelance writers? But what is a freelance writer? Freelancers come in all shapes and sixes. Some have regular jobs as writers and also write on the side, submitting articles to magazines. Many freelance writers are students or work in other fields than writing. If you enjoy writing fiction, nonfiction, opinion or poetry, here is some advice that will get you started.
Become a Freelance Writer -Choosing a topic
For your first article, write about a hobby, or achievement. For example: Do you baby-sit? Write about unique ways to entertain kids. A personal story about how you dealt with a baby-sitting emergency would catch an editor’s eye. Do you like to garden? Write about easy-to-grow flowers. Live near the beach? Tell us which plants grow well in sandy soil. Do you volunteer? What have you learned and who are the people you help? Do you have your own business? Whether you sell handmade jewelry at the local flea market or do computer programming after school, chances are, other teens would like to read about it. What advice would you give other teens? Are you a vegetarian? How do you feel about the ethical issues of vegetarianism and animal rights? Get the picture? To become a freelance writer, start with what you know.
Write what you know. Your knowledge and sincerity will be apparent if you stick with subjects that are familiar. Also, keep in mind that your article does not have to be written for people your own age. There are lots of magazines geared toward younger kids like Highlights, Stone Soup, etc.
Speak from experience. An article should inform, entertain or help people solve a problem. Narrow down your subject and don’t go off on a tangent. Example - an article about how to take better pictures of your pet is better than an article on everything you know about photography. Keep focused. Editors love focus!
Contacting an editor
The job of an editor is an exciting one. He or she is responsible for putting together an entire magazine every month. They may have several writers on staff, but most still accept and need freelance writers to submit appropriate articles. If you think that contacting an editor is intimidating, don’t fret. Editors are some of the friendliest people around. Busy, but friendly. If you approach them with an idea that fits into their magazine, they will work with you to get your article published. Follow their suggestions.
That brings us to the next step. You have written your article, proofread it and it is ready for submission. Don’t send it just yet. Editors usually like to see a query first. A query is a letter that contains details about your article to see if they are interested. It’s not a term paper, though, make it lively and entertaining. An editor should be able to say “Wow, I can’t wait to read the rest of it.” Many magazines now accept email queries, saving you, the writer, time and postage.
A magazine’s guidelines tell a writer how many words an article should be, and what type of articles are suitable. Study the magazine before querying or sending a manuscript. You don’t have to be web savvy to be a writer, but it sure helps. Everything goes much quicker and you will often get a reply within a few days. If you send your material by snail mail, expect to wait weeks or even months for a reply.
One search engine that stands out above the rest is Google. Just do a search for “magazines.” It will give you a database of over 11,000 magazines sorted by category (there are over 1,100 categories!). Click on specific magazines to visit their Web sites. Most sites have a section for writers wishing to submit articles. It’s usually called “submissions,” or “contact the editor.” Some magazines want only queries. Others request completed manuscripts. Always be polite and thank editors for reviewing your work.
Don’t take it personally. Did you know that the author who wrote the Dr. Seuss books was rejected more than 15 times before he found an editor that accepted his work? Rejections happen to every writer, even famous ones. It may be a case of bad timing (they ran a similar article two months ago), or an editor may have too many articles on the same subject.
Sometimes an editor may even like your article, but feel the subject matter is not appropriate for the magazine. Don’t take it personally, just have a list of several magazines and go down the list. With 11,000 magazines on the market, your article is sure to find a home if it is informative, well written and error free.
Choosing a magazine
Your article is researched, written, proofread and ready for submission. But which magazine will you query? There are many magazines and e-zines that are looking for teen writers.
Don’t begin with a large national magazine. Smaller publications are more willing to accept new writers. You may not even be paid at first, but it’s still good experience and the fact that you are a published author is excellent to include on a college application or job resume. It’s really exciting to see your article and byline in a magazine for the very first time!
For now, work on getting published. As you gain experience, work on getting paid. For many of us, writing is fun, cathartic and satisfies a personal need to create. If you have written and published an article and want to continue writing, there are websites to help you become a better writer, spark your creativity and help you understand contracts and copyright issues. One of the best is writersdigest.com. They also provide several links you’ll find useful.
So what is a freelance writer? It’s what you make it. Still want to become a freelance writer? Checko out writing and other careers at NextStepU Careers