4 Steps to Getting Started with Freelance Writing

Many people have tremendous writing skills and are curious to learn how to parlay that into regular freelance writing opportunities. These quick tips offer a Get Started Guide to the World of Freelance Writing.

1) Identify Publications

Most online magazines, newsletters, blog or newspapers accept freelance writing submissions. Before you approach a publication, you’ll want to be sure to know what their guidelines and standards are. You’ll likely have to browse the publication’s site a bit to find their policies with regards to freelance work. Some publications maintain topic or word count guidelines, others require new material only. It’s also likely they’ll indicate a preferred method for how they prefer to accept submissions.

Understanding these requirements will help you to be successful. Additionally, you’re best served to begin by targeting local publications where the pool of competitors won’t be as large. This gives you an edge as your local knowledge allows you to provide something to the story other writers couldn’t.

2) Brainstorm

After you’ve chosen a few publications that you’d like to pitch for freelance work, you’ll need to come up with some ideas. You’ll be best served to incorporate anything that makes you unique or sets you apart in the market. Come up with several ideas that you feel you could comfortably write and go from there.

A key item to remember: Most freelance articles are expected to be written in third person, not first. Be sure to check out some of the publications’ articles before you submit to see how they’re written as this may influence your topic choices.

3) Target your Articles

Next, you’ll need to figure out which of your ideas would work best for which publications. Some may be better suited to one place than another – that’s perfectly fine. Just be sure to know which apply where. For instance, an article about traveling with kids might apply to a parenting magazine, a travel magazine and possibly a humor column. Once you’ve figured out which ideas match what publications, you’re ready for your last step.

4) Pitch

After you’ve done all your research above, you’ll need to refer back to the submission guidelines for each publication. Then, write a pitch letter addressed to whomever is listed as the contact. If you don’t have a specific contact, that’s ok. Not all publications are going to make this easy for you. Try to write the pitch in a similar tone to what the publication uses.

An important to note: You should pitch these articles before they are fully written so that if the editor wants to make any specific requests about tone or length, you can easily accommodate the request.

When your first start out, you might practice targeting and pitching freelance articles somewhere that’s low key and doesn’t intimidate you. You can also do a few pitches to friends or blogs that don’t intimidate you to get your feet wet – then go after the more prestigious opportunities.

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Be sure to check out freelance writer Emily Suess’ upcoming Writer’s Week! The event includes a writing contest and freelance advice from 11 writing professionals!

17 Comments

  1. Emily Suess

    I second this information. All sound, practical advice for getting started. Thanks so much for helping me spread the news about Writers Week!

    Reply
    • admin

      It’s a great series – thanks for hosting it. Lots of our users ask about freelance writing so it’s a perfect fit.

      Reply
  2. Alison@Mama Wants This

    Great advice as always. I’ve been thinking about freelancing sometimes in the near future, so this is handy, thank you!

    Reply
    • admin

      Always happy to help!

      Reply
  3. Alexandra

    THis is wonderful.

    I love how easily outlined you have this, and how actionable the items are.

    Also, love that I found Emily Seuss to follow now.

    This is going to be my year.

    Thanks, ladies…you two, just such a resource to the writing community.

    Reply
    • admin

      Thank you! We’re here to help.

      Reply
  4. Missy | The Literal Mom

    Yay for Emily and writer’s week – I’m excited for it and these tips today are great. Love the one about writing in third person!

    Reply
    • admin

      Third person is definitely something we can forget after we write about ourselves so much.

      Reply
  5. Leigh Ann

    This is great advice. Great idea to start local and get your feet wet.

    Reply
    • admin

      More and more, we’re convinced local is the way to go with most ventures.

      Reply
  6. Morgan

    Thanks for the good tips! I have just begun the process of surveying the field of freelancing. A few more tools in my toolbox!

    Do you have a directory you would recommend for browsing publications?

    I’m excited about Writer’s Week … yipee!

    Reply
  7. Mrs. Jen B

    Emily is a lady who knows what she’s talking about. I am so excited for Writer’s Week!

    Reply
    • admin

      We’re really excited for what she’s put together – she’s a great resource.

      Reply
  8. Mad Woman behind the Blog

    This couldn’t have been more timely! Thank you, you smart smart women!

    And um, could someone remind me how to write in 3rd person?

    Reply
    • admin

      Just make sure you’re not talking about “I” or “me” and you should be fine. It’s so hard to do after you get used to blogging, isn’t it?

      Reply
  9. Robin | Farewell, Stranger

    Great tips. There are lots of sites out there that can help you find freelance work too. I use them and have scored a few freelance gigs that way.

    Reply
  10. Grumpy Grateful Mom

    So helpful!!! I definitely wouldn’t have known about writing in 3rd person. I’ve never attempted freelance work, but I think it would be fun. Hoping to try it soon. 🙂

    Reply

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