Content of the material
- How to Find Relevant Publications
- How to Write an Article Where to Find Images
- 2. Screenshots
- 1. Start Cold Pitching
- 16. LinkedIn Jobs
- Tap Into Your Background and Personal Life
- Pitching an Article to an Editor
- 6. Do quick pre-interviews
- A note about email ‘interviews’
- Becoming a freelance writer: Savannah’s story
- 4. Talk to people
- 4. Find your hook
- Tips for identifying a news hook
- A note about magazine timelines
- 2. Use a multi-resource approach
- Top Articles
How to Find Relevant Publications
Before I write an article on a familiar or unfamiliar topic, I first explore potential publications that publish such topics. I do this in a few ways:
- I search online for relevant magazines.
- I visit the magazine’s website and browse through its content.
- I review the magazine’s writer’s guidelines.
- I review the magazine’s editorial calendar. An editorial calendar will tell you what the editor plans to publish in the coming months.
- I review how much the magazine pays and what “rights” it buys. This can help you eliminate magazines that don’t match or exceed your pay rate or which purchase “All Rights” to an article (without the rights ever reverting back to you).
- I judge the level of competition. The chance of a new writer selling a first article to a widely-distributed national magazine that pays $1.00 per word is probably 0.01%. A new writer should aim for regional, local or trade magazines that welcome new writers and pay decent rates.
How to Write an Article Where to Find Images
Sometimes a client may ask you to provide a feature image. This is a great way to increase the value of your services (and increase your rate at the same time).
If you’re new to sourcing images, you might think you can just grab any image on Google. I mean, why is there an image search if you can’t use those images?
Well, not all images are free to use, distribute or modify. In fact, many are copyright protected.
This means if an image is copyright protected, you can’t use it without authorization from the owner.
If you end up finding an awesome image, but have no clue if it’s copyrighted, I wouldn’t use it. You don’t want to get your client in trouble for using copyrighted images, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Specifically for this guide, I’m going to just talk about the two types of images I give my clients.
You can also provide screenshots of plugins, apps, social media posts, websites, and more.
These types of images back up what you are writing and also provide a visual element to your copy.
Taking a screenshot is different on each laptop. Go here to find out the keyboard shortcuts to use on your laptop.
1. Start Cold Pitching
Do you know cold pitching is a fabulous way to land recurring gigs? There’s much less competition and you’ll have a better chance at landing a gig when you contact clients directly.
What is cold pitching?
It’s when you contact bloggers, entrepreneurs, companies, small businesses or startups and let them know how you – a freelance writer – can help grow their business.
Yes, I know, it sounds hard (and scary) doesn’t it? Especially if you’re brand new to freelance writing. But, you know what?
It’s totally easy to do.
First you need to locate businesses to cold pitch to. Maybe you noticed they don’t have a blog – but should. Or, on Twitter you see they are trying to grow their online presence and you think your content can help with that.
You can even do a Google search for find online writing gigs.
Once you locate these places, spend time researching them.
Some companies are huge brand and it would be difficult for a brand content writer to find a job that way. So get a Gsheet and mark some companies, but then niche down to get smaller companies that would need help with your writing. Some examples:
- Cruelty-free beauty products
- Eco-friendly beauty products
- Luxury beauty products
From there, find the right person to talk to (Editor, Content Manager or the owner) and draft up a cold pitch!
This can be the hardest step and takes the longest but in the end you’ll have a list of businesses and contact information to pitch to.
In your pitch make sure to include:
- How you found out about them
- Who you are
- How you can help them
- A writing sample to demonstrate your writing skill
16. LinkedIn Jobs
Did you know LinkedIn has a job board?
I never did until recently. I have no idea why because I do spend a considerable amount of time networking on LinkedIn.
Go to their job board and all you do is put in your job (“writer”) and see what pops up.
You can be more specific too – freelance resume writer or freelance technical writer – too see more results.
From here you can decide how you want to approach these businesses – use a warm pitch or a cold pitch. If you have the time to invest in building a relationship and you have clients already, I would use a warm pitch approach. But, if you are itching to land work now, go ahead and add these places to your list to cold pitch.
Guess what? There’s another way you can use LinkedIn to find more freelance writing jobs? Want to know what it is?
It’s using your header image for your profile! Check out this video to see exactly what I mean (and subscribe to my YouTube channel when you have a chance!)
Tap Into Your Background and Personal Life
Even if you have no credentials you don't have to give up. Let's say you spent years as an administrative assistant. That means you were exposed to the business world and understand the jargon and inner workings of companies. You might excel at business writing and should try for a gig writing brochures, newsletters, and emails.
People are also hiring freelance writers well-versed in social media platforms. If you tweet, Instagram, or Snapchat a lot (even for fun), you likely have a skill set you weren't even aware of. Employers looking to hire freelance social media writers will often post their openings online on sites like Indeed.com.
Pitching an Article to an Editor
I generally make a list of potential markets based on pay and response. As long as magazines do not ask for exclusivity, I email a number of queries at once. I double-check the writer’s guidelines for each magazine to see what information I should include in a query letter. I address each editor by full name and title, and keep my query letters as short as possible.
If you’re using an email sending platform to deliver a batch of query letters, make sure to personalize your emails by using dynamic content features. This will help increase the odds of your pitch getting read and approved.
Generally, a query letter contains four paragraphs that sell your article and convince the editor to publish your article.
- In the first paragraph, I hook the editor, usually with a short passage from my article.
- In the second paragraph, I support my hook by discussing a solution or solutions to the problem.
- In the third paragraph, I tell the editor why my article will interest readers.
- In the fourth paragraph, I tell the editor my credentials and why I am the best writer to write on the topic. For example, if I had written an article about Apple’s newest iPad and I have a background in designing mobile applications, I would mention that fact.
Here is an infographic that shows the components of a query letter.
6. Do quick pre-interviews
This is the part where for many newbie freelance writers, the whole thing screeches to a halt.
Yes. Most well-paid article assignments involve speaking to live humans (on the phone, or maybe on Skype, or in person). That’s one of the reasons they pay well — they require some legwork.
Breathe. You can do this. You talk to people every day, right?
Now that you have a premise for a story, this is the point where you can get interview practice by conducting quick pre-interviews of an expert or two on your topic.
- What’s a pre-interview? It’s a quick chat you do so that you have a few good quotes and ideas to put in your query letter. Think 10-15 minutes, tops.
- Prepare and listen. Come with a few of your top questions, and listen carefully to the responses. They’ll help you craft your follow-up questions.
Note: You might think that no one will talk to you for an article you don’t have assigned yet, but you’d be surprised. Not everyone will agree, but many will be game.
The bigger the market you’re pitching, the easier it’ll be. Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time for an expert to risk for possibly ending up with a national-magazine mention.
A note about email ‘interviews’
In the world of blogging, collecting info via a quick email has become routine. But when it comes to well-paid article writing, not so much. Most legit magazines will expect you to actually speak to people, and may even require that you note it in the article if you only emailed, as in:
“This sucks,” said Joe Shmoe, in an email response.
Yes, that is awkward. So avoid it by screwing up your courage and doing actual interviews. It’s just asking people questions. No lives at risk. Practice with a friend, if you need to!
Becoming a freelance writer: Savannah’s story
The only downside to having so many opportunities is that it can make getting started as a freelance writer feel somewhat overwhelming.
One of the biggest initial challenges people face is trying to picture what the process of becoming a freelance writer actually looks like.
While the origin story of every freelance writer can—and does—look a little different, it’s helpful to ask around in person and look at stories online to visualize the process and get some inspiration.
To illustrate the process, I asked my friend Savannah how she got started as a freelance writer, and here’s what she shared:
“Like many people, I wasn’t too sure what to do with my life as a college student. Despite being an English Literature major, I ended up going down the path of becoming a digital marketer because it felt ‘safer,’ and I decided to pursue my love of writing in my free time by creating a lifestyle blog.
While I really enjoyed the analytical side of things with digital marketing (and those skills certainly came in handy later), I found myself longing for more creativity and a better schedule.
I started to travel a lot and grow my blog more as I went along, and I realized that I didn’t want to give those things up.
Basically, the freedom of working wherever I wanted and doing what I loved as a freelance writer grew more and more appealing.
I had no idea how to be a freelance writer, though, so I turned to a friend who was already working as one and asked her for advice. She led me to a freelancing platform called Upwork and was kind enough to give me some tips and share her profile to reference.
Soon after talking with her and putting in some solid market research, I started pitching myself to a ton of potential clients on the platform.
Nerve-racking as it was to put myself out there (and rejections are an inevitable part of the process), it wasn’t long before I found someone who wanted to work with me.
Since then, I’ve continued to grow my own blog and have worked with multiple clients across industries, writing blog articles, social media posts, web pages, and much, much more. As of today, I’ve happily been a freelance writer for the past three and a half years.”
Now, with an idea of the process in mind, are you ready to create your own freelance writing story?
4. Talk to people
As we mentioned above, there are more sources of information than just the internet… And one of the best sources you can find when researching freelance articles is a real live person.
Sometimes it’s necessary to seek first-hand information by reaching out to real people. Whether this is for a formal interview, a casual chat or just a quick question, the direct human insight can really make an article shine.
Search online or ask around for the best people to contact about a particular topic. When you’ve found someone you want to reach out to, send them a polite email explaining who you are, what you’re writing about, and why you’d like to talk to them.
If you organise an in-person or over-the-phone interview, here are a few tips…
- Prepare adequately. Draw up a specific list of questions you want to ask to keep you on track throughout the conversation. It also helps to find out what you can about the person so you have some background information to go on. At the end of the conversation, ask if there’s anything you haven’t touched on that they’d like to share.
- Focus on listening rather than talking. It sort of goes without saying, but the interview should consist mostly of the other person talking! Listen carefully to what they’re saying and never interrupt.
- Record the interview (with permission). This can help you stay more focused during the actual conversation, as you won’t be madly scribbling notes the whole time. You can listen back later and jot down the most important insights, as well as direct quotes.
You did it! You wrote your first article for your client. And the more you write articles, the better you’ll become at crafting stellar content for your client and securing those testimonials.
There you have it! Your ultimate guide.
Tell me in the comments if you’ve been writing articles for your clients!
4. Find your hook
Story ideas that are likely to get an assignment all have one thing in common: A news hook.
What’s that? A news hook is something that gives your idea urgency, and makes it need to be published soon. It signals you have fresh information that we haven’t already seen 100 times online.
- The news hook gets your editor thinking, ‘This must run in the next issue!’ instead of ‘Well, maybe this could work sometime.’ You’ve got to get out of that ‘maybe’ pile to start getting regular assignments.
- That means you’ll to move beyond generic headlines like: ‘5 Tasty Ways to Cook Bacon.’ We’ve read that story already. A lot. So how do you do that?
- Find a fresh spin. Is there a new seasoning to use with bacon? A new celebrity chef saying they’re creating a bunch of innovative bacon recipes? Give that editor a new angle.
Tips for identifying a news hook
- A news hook might be one new fact that’s emerged in an ongoing story – a lawsuit was filed, or a candidate has withdrawn from the race.
- It could be an anniversary story because it’s a year after the big fire, earthquake, flood.
- Or something like all the recent ‘Amazon Turns 25’ stories. Google that, and look at all the different ways various news outlets covered that milestone. Some looked back and did historical pieces, others talked about how it changed the culture, still others look at what the next 25 years might bring at the online giant.
Always more fresh angles that could get an editor excited to assign you an article and get you paid.
A note about magazine timelines
Remember that many national magazines work 4-6 months ahead of time, when you’re looking for those news hooks. Yes, that makes it hard to be newsy! Pitching a story with a news hook that will be long over before the issue comes out is a common reason pitches fail.
- Think months into the future before pitching. Think about how you can examine future possible next steps or outcomes, spot up-and-coming trends, or provide more in-depth analysis to get in with the big magazines. You can also look at anniversaries for something that would be timely around the time that issue hits the newsstand.
2. Use a multi-resource approach
In today’s digital world, it can be easy to forget that there are other sources of information beyond the internet. But when you’re researching freelance articles, it helps to take on a multi-resource approach where possible.
Venture out from behind your computer screen and consult other sources: books, magazines, journals, documentaries, etc. Your local library is your friend! And don’t forget that people can be resources, too – more on that below.
However, as freelancer Carol Tice points out, there is such a thing as too much research…
Do you drum up a book’s worth of research for every 750-word article you write? … This turns the writing process into a time-sucking nightmare, as you have way too much material to juggle and have to make painful decisions to leave out interesting stuff.”
Weigh up the type and length of article, as well as the amount you’re being paid for it, before launching into a full-blown all-avenues research session. The multi-resource approach might not be needed for shorter, less comprehensive articles; save it for your more in-depth pieces.
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