Writing Freelance: Getting That First Clip
When writng freelance you need "clips". But how do you get "clips" if your work hasn't been published yet? Here are a few suggestions.
You’ve always loved writing. Perhaps you wrote poetry as a student or kept a journal for years. Maybe you wrote for your high school or college newspaper or edited a company newsletter. You’ve read magazine articles and children’s books and thought, “I could do better!” You have ideas oozing out of your fingertips at the keyboard. You know you have talent. And now, you’ve decided to try your hand at writing for publication - and perhaps continue in a professional capacity.
You select a few publications you like and send away for writer’s guidelines. You’ve got an idea for a dynamite article. You’re ready to roll, right? Well, not exactly. Most publications ask you to send, with your query letter, “clips,” or copies of articles or other pieces you have published. The problem is, of course, you’re a new writer - how are you supposed to get those first “clips” if you’ve never been published?
There are numerous roads to getting that first piece published. They may have little in common with the type of writing you ultimately want to do; they may pay little or nothing - but don’t let that discourage you. You simply need to get a few things published in order to build your credibility as a writer and let prospective publishers sample your writing style.
Start with the publications you currently read on a regular basis. Many newspapers have local events columns, gardening, gadgets, local people of interest and other regular features that publish articles sent in by readers. They may even offer compensation. Look for editors’ notes soliciting reader’s information at the end of the article. These notes will usually describe the columns’ needs and payment, if any.
Here is an example: The Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal runs a column on Saturdays entitled, “The Best, A Continuing Search for the Best of Everything.” It is entirely written by readers who send in short, fun personal essay-type pieces describing their experience with a product that, in their opinion, is “The Best.” Published pieces bring the writer, “Forty bucks and the all the fame you can stand.”
Take a look at the magazines you subscribe to, or read on a regular basis. Many women’s magazines have “reader-to-reader” features, where readers submit “helpful, homemaking tips,” ideas for better family life, or even childhood reminiscences. Woman’s Day, McCall’s and other women’s magazines have these types of regular columns and offer $50 - $100 if published. Victoria Magazine offers up to $400 for personal essays in their reader-to-reader column.
If you don’t usually read magazines, simply go to the library and skim through several that interest you. You’re bound to come up with a few ideas in no time! Jot down the publications' names, column names, article ideas and mailing instructions.
Another good place to try for publication is the "Letters to the Editor" section of magazines and newspapers. A well thought-out and written letter to the editor that is published provides a good clip for a new, or well-established writer. It demonstrates the writer’s finesse at getting his point across.
And last, but definitely not least, try the internet. Pieces published on web sites and email newsletters can provide credible clips - especially if published on wellknown, or high traffic sites. How to select web sites? Simply target a few that interest you, just as you would select magazines for querying. Visit the sites and look up their writer’s guidelines. If there are no guidelines, look for the web master’s address and send them an email asking about the possibility of submitting articles for the site.
Before you know it, you will be writing and submitting pieces to various publishers. Even if your work is not published immediately, you will be gaining valuable writing experience and confidence. Even before you get published, you will begin to believe that you are indeed, a writer. Those published clips will come in time. By then, you may be even more focused on the type of writing you ultimately want to do.
So get to work, start writing and start submitting. Don’t wait to hear from the editors; simply go on to the next piece and keep writing. Your career will come, one clip at a time!