My guest blogger today is the talented Nicole from Defining Moments. She has some great advice packed into this post if you want to jump start that freelance writing career. Since I love to discuss WAHM topics, this fits in the TMC Network perfectly. *And after you read this awesome post, be sure to check out her blog today since I am guest posting on hers! I’m talking all things blogging and social media related, two other topics that I know this community loves!*
When my oldest daughter was born in 2005 I started my “career” as a stay-at-home mom. At first, I reveled in the beauty of lingering coffees watching the Today Show. But after awhile, the mundane nature of changing diapers and talking to a babbling baby started to take its toll on my brainpower and my morale. So, I began a part-time career as a freelance writer. As I type this, I have several regular writing jobs for print publications and it’s just enough to keep the ol’ Mommy-brain from creeping in too often. It allows me a sense of professional accomplishment amidst the chaotic life that I live with twins under the age of two and a wonderful near six-year-old daughter. Additionally, it supports my writing conference attending and stiletto obsession. So how do you get going with your own paid writing opportunities? Well, I’m here to share what I’ve learned so far. I am by no means the guru of freelance writing, but I have found a way to support my shoe addiction nonetheless.
1) Master the Art of the Query: A query is a brief pitch to a publication sharing what you have to offer them in the way of an article. Many publications like to see clips along with your query to see who has published your work before, so when you don’t have clips available, you must sell yourself with a fabulous query. The most important element of a query is tailoring it to the publication you are pitching so do your research! Look at past issues, become aware of what has been published in the last year – those are the ideas you should not be pitching. Find out the names of the managing editor if it’s a smaller publication. If it’s a larger one, there are editors for different sections of the magazine so you need to be attentive to that and pitch to the appropriate editor. Make sure that you are looking at a current copy of the magazine’s masthead to ensure you have the most recent name because editors tend to change frequently.
2) Start Small: I started out with a small local publication. I pitched them an idea for an education article because that’s where my professional background lies and they gave me a shot. I have been featured in every issue since then. The small, regional publications are the magazines that are most likely to take a risk on a new writer. Starting out pitching Parenting Magazine or O Magazine isn’t likely to yield a response if you have yet to gain some experience. Just like anything else, you have to work your way up one article at a time.
3) Write What You Know: Use your expertise from life as a stepping-stone for becoming a freelance writer. Whether that’s experience from a career pre-children or a parenting article based on a personal parenting experience, start with something you are knowledgeable about. If you’re writing what you know you’ll feel more comfortable and your writing voice will be more authentic. Your editors are more likely to trust you with a topic you have experience with rather than one that you don’t at the start of your writing relationship.
4) Be Flexible: I have managed to build some wonderful working relationships with my editors because I have been flexible. By being open to article changes such as tweaking the focus or the deadline of an article, you begin to build a reputation for being adaptable. Once you build a positive working relationship, you will find more assignments coming your way as well as more creative control due to the trust you’ve built by meeting the needs of the publication.
5) Check Your Ego: This goes hand in hand with flexibility. You might be a fabulous writer, but you are not the editor, so it’s important to honor their role and allow them to make changes as needed. It’s important not take it too personal. Each publication has certain goals to meet in the way of word counts, page counts, advertisements and layout. Sometimes it’s a simple layout issue that requires a change to your article. It’s important to realize you will see some changes to your work. With that in mind, if significant changes are made and you are genuinely feeling as if your “voice” was altered, you should feel comfortable enough to voice your hope that the editor might confer with you first on such drastic changes. But, pick your battles. When you are just starting out as a writer, a big ego isn’t going to fare well.
6) Sometimes Free is OK: An online presence is key to building your marketability in the writing world, especially if you have book plans in your future. Your online following and presence can make the difference between getting assigned a regular column or not. It can mean a book deal or no book deal. I contribute in a variety of places, some of which is for free. I do this because I gain writing experience, I gain an additional online presence and I learn so much from those who are many steps ahead of me. The teacher in me is ok with trading writing for a learning experience. But with that in mind, I set limits and you should too. I have a number of set hours I’m willing to contribute to writing for free and I don’t take on more work than that time allows.
So don’t be afraid to write for free – choose carefully, set limits and you’ve got a win-win for both you and the site editor. You begin to add to your portfolio while you are in the beginning stages of your freelance goals. Free is not forever, it’s simply a place to start to build your reputation as a dependable writer who provides quality work.
Want to guest post at Theta Mom® for the Network? I am currently accepting submissions, full details can be found on the Network page.