Art & Culture
Adventures In Freelancing
By Jenna Glatzer
new writers suffer from a nasty malady known as C.S.S.(Convenience
Store Syndrome). They assume that it's necessary to get published
in the magazines they see at their local 7-11 in order to
make a living as a freelance writer.
This myth must be debunked! There are thousands and thousands
of smaller magazines, newspapers, and websites in need of
good freelancers. While the glory may not be as great, there
is money to be made and credits to be earned by tapping into
On the Internet, there are more writing
opportunities than ever, and simple methods to finding them.
First, you can search through the listings at www.writersdigest.com,
a supplement to the Writer's Market series. You'll find hundreds
of market listings, along with contact information and writer's
guidelines. Equally handy are sites like this one, which offer
job listings. Typing "writers guidelines" or "writers
wanted" at any major search engine will keep you busily
surfing for hours.
Why start small?
If you expect to break into bigger markets, you need
clips. Don't expect to approach "Cosmopolitan" empty-handed....
Before you make the leap to full-time freelancing, you'll
need to learn the ropes. Do you know proper protocol for source
sheets, model release forms, invoices, expense reimbursement,
contracts, rights, etc.? If the answer to any of these is
"no," then it's a good idea to get your feet wet
with smaller publications, which can offer more hand-holding,
feedback, and will tolerate a few mistakes.
Second, if you expect to break into bigger markets, you need
clips. Don't expect to approach "Cosmopolitan" empty-handed,
offering only your enthusiasm and promises of professionalism.
If you can get your work printed in a few small publications,
you now have credibility and a reputation to build upon.
Once you've got a fairly well-established career, why would
one want to continue writing for small publications? Simple.
It offers you the chance to specialize. Let's say you have
a strong interest in fishing. The chances of you placing an
article about "the best lures for striped bass"
in a major national magazine are pretty slim. However, there
are literally hundreds of trade magazines, local papers, websites,
and small-to-mid-sized magazines devoted entirely to fishing.
It offers you the chance to resell. Especially when dealing
with regional publications, you can offer very specific rights-for
example, "First rights in the state of New York."
This way, you can offer someone else first rights in Denver,
first electronic rights, etc. Smaller publications (with smaller
budgets) are more likely to accept reprints, and because audience
overlap is low, you are likely to sell the same article again
and again to different small publications.
Regular assignments. You may be lucky enough to place
a piece in a major magazine, but what are the chances that
they'll pick you up as a regular contributor? Since fewer
writers apply for positions in smaller publications, it is
easier to build a relationship with an editor and attain regular
columns or assignments. It's also easier to get a query accepted
in the first place if an editor only has five of them on her
desk, versus five hundred.
Ability for growth. The editor of "Omaha's Prettiest
Cats" today could be the editor at "Good Housekeeping"
tomorrow. Write every piece well and on time, and she'll remember
you. Build your contacts now, and you'll have a better chance
of riding their coattails later.
Less pressure. Sure, a deadline is always stressful,
but you tell me-how much sleep would you lose the night before
your article about romantic tips for Valentine's Day is due
for the local singles paper versus the night before you have
to turn in your investigative report about stock market fraud
for "Time?" You have more opportunities to choose
your own article ideas and slants if you work with smaller
publications. You also have more editorial control, meaning
that you'll often see your words printed exactly as you wrote
them, rather than slaving over tons of rewrites and then finding
that you don't recognize what appears in the magazine (after
going through department editors, copy-editors, and the editor-in-chief).
Trade-offs. Because they don't pay as much, many smaller
publications are willing to offer you other perks-bylines,
links to your website, free subscriptions, etc. In a business
built on networking, never underestimate the power of a good
byline. You never know who happens to be reading that little
More variety. When you work on a major national piece,
it's very likely that you'll spend weeks-or months-of your
time working on a single article. Sure, the pay is good, but
for the easily bored, it's not ideal. On the other hand, if
you write for smaller publications, you must turn out a bigger
volume of material to make a decent income. In that bigger
volume comes more opportunity for variety. You can opt to
write short articles for several different markets and audiences,
meaning that your job stays new and exciting every day.
Don't let C.S.S. strike you. Keep yourself open to all possibilities,
and remember to actively seek out small markets. Lots of writers,
including myself, earn a living selling their handiwork to
publications you've probably never heard of. Aggressively
seek out lesser-known markets, and you might just find yourself
in a publishing boon.
Jenna Glatzer is the Editor-in-Chief of Absolute
Write, a big Web site for all writers. She is also a full-time
writer with hundreds of national and online credits, including
Woman's World, Salon.com, and Writer's Digest. She is the
author of The More Than Any Human Being Needs To Know About
Freelance Writing Workbook.
also see -> Freelancing
Writing Tips - Write What You WANT to Know
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