How To Be A Freelance Writer
How to start a small business as a freelance writer, including all the things you need to have and know.
As a freelance writer I can tell you that this is a full time job. Not only will you have to be the writer, but you will also need knowledge in administration, marketing, and most of all...professionalism. This is the complete how-to guide for writers to get started.
1) Setting up your work space. I recommend using a computer, but you can still use the old method of typewriting. In addition to using your computer, you will need to have several supplies to keep your business running efficiently. I have a bulletin board full of inspirational quotes, interview candidates, markets to check into, and of course, a calendar. Aside from that, have lots of paper clips handy, a Rolodex for markets and editors, and a file cabinet with lots of manila folders. As you query a market, use one manila folder to hold all information regarding that sale.
2) Coming up with a subject. Go somewhere quiet with paper and pen. It is usually fairly easy to come up with a topic; the difficult part is coming up with a fresh approach to a common subject. This can be done by brainstorming. Think of at least 10 ways you could include your subject in an article. This can be tough, but I find that the best ideas are often at the bottom of the list, due to the fact that they are usually the most original.
3) Writing a Query Letter. There are three parts to a query letter: the hook, specifics, and your experience. A query letter should be brief, as editors have little time to read more than a page. The hook is the first two or three sentences, and is attention grabbing. I often use a question, quote, or interesting fact for the lead, and then follow up with a bit more about the subject. The specifics are what you intend to include in your article. Here you should list potential sources, word length, and a title. Never mention money or rights you plan to offer, unless you can only offer reprint rights. The last part of a query is where you list your experience. Include why you are particularly qualified to right the article. (Ex. Are you involved with the subject in everyday life, have a degree in the subject, or have you written other articles on this subject.) You should also include a related writing sample with your query; I have also used an excerpt from the proposed article.
4)A word about professionalism. Stationery with roses or playful kittens are cute, but this is a business, not daycare. Editors will quickly discard your query letter if the envelope or paper are too "frilly." Stick with plain white paper and envelopes. Find out the correct department and person to query; you can do this by looking at the masthead of a magazine. Follow standard rules of writing a business letter. You are a professional, make sure your manuscripts and query letters show it. I also suggest creating your own webpage to showcase your best writing. Places like Homestead offer free webpages and lots of different options to customize your page. This shows an editor that you take writing seriously.
5) Marketing Your Writing. Take the time to get to know a magazine and its style before you query. Skim through a few back issues to see what type of writing they use. This will also tell you if your article topic has appeared in their magazine recently. Blind queries benefit no one.
Frequently Asked Questions:
* Do I have to query? - I say yes, unless a market specifically says there is no need to query. Again it shows professionalism and saves you and the editor time if your subject is not appropriate content.
* What are simultaneous submissions? - This is when you send out the same article idea out to several markets. Many editors prefer that writers submit to only one market at a time. My opinion is that not every market you query will want your article. At most, you may get positive feedback from two or three. If you do, take the highest paying position and offer the other markets a different article on the same topic.
* Should I write the article before writing the query? - No. Do some minor research to keep your query from sounding vague.
* How should I send a manuscript? - If your manuscript is more than 6 pages long, send it in a large business envelope, flat. Otherwise, it may be sent in a standard #10 business letter, folded in thirds. Always include an SASE for the editor.