Saturday, October 25, 2008

How to get started freelancing, part five

All right, today we get into the good stuff: magazine work. This is where the real money is for most freelance writers. Most magazines pay anywhere from $.10 to $1 per word, which adds up pretty quick, especially on 1000+ word features. Many do not pay by the word but pay a set fee for different types of articles (300 word blurbs vs. 1500 word features, etc.), but it averages out to a great rate per word. There are magazines that do not pay, and they are generally easier to get into, which is a good way to get your first publishing credit.

Of course, the more the magazine pays, the more competition you have and the pickier you are. Your work needs to be very, very good--no errors, good structure, sources cited. Some national mags will not even consider you unless you have national credits to your name already. Lower paying mags have lower standards and are a good way to cut your teeth and get some experience.

Generally the way magazines work is, you send a query letter explaining what kind of article you want to write, why it's a good fit for their magazine and why you're qualified to write it. You may or may not include writing samples, depending on the submission guidelines. The magazine then decides whether they want to have you write the article "on spec" (speculation), and you write it and send it. If they like it, they buy it. You can also just go ahead and write the article and send it with your query, but you risk spending time writing articles that don't sell when you go this route--of course, you could keep shopping them around until you find a buyer, or stick it on Associated Content (see my post about online content sites).

Probably the most important piece of advice I can give you about writing for magazines is to find their website and locate their submission guidelines. Read them very carefully, and then read them again. Follow their instructions on how to submit to them to the letter, and then double check to make sure you did it right! This business is so competitive that many editors will not bother with writers who do not follow directions. Some magazines receive 100s of queries each day, so you want to stand out for good reasons, not bad!

Tomorrow I'll tell you how to write a query letter. If you have any questions about anything I've talked about, please ask and I'll do my best to answer!

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