In the few years I’ve been freelancing, I’ve sold a several hundred articles to more than thirty magazines, newspapers and websites. I get asked on a regular basis on how to break into freelance, so here are a few tips.
One of the most basic and important things is to be able to write, and this includes a strong understanding of grammar. I think a lot of would-be freelance writers get rejected off the bat for grammar mistakes. I know it surprises me when I get emails from people interested in freelance and they seem unaware of all the errors in the message they sent me. There are plenty of books and online places where you can learn what you need to know about grammar.
I usually recommend to people that they start out small and build up. Unless they have connections, odds are their first article is not going to be in a big magazine. I had no connections, so I started where I could. I originally did freelance work for a small newspaper, but that counted on my résumé, and from there I started to get into smaller magazines. Once I had written for a few smaller magazines, I could go to bigger ones and they’d take me seriously because they saw I had a solid work record.
Persistence is key. Sometimes you have to write to a magazine (or newspaper, or website) more than once. I emailed places like Booklist and Publishers Weekly several times before they responded and began having me write for them. However, take breaks (a week to a few weeks) before writing back again. If you send them too much, you might annoy them and get deleted. Also, I recommend you only try this technique if you think you have a good chance of getting into the place. I wouldn’t go to the biggest magazine out there and email them over and over, because odds are you’re wasting your time and theirs.
Write about what you know. If you’re knowledgeable on a subject, try magazines that cover it. It might lead to other magazines of a similar nature. I wouldn’t recommend trying to write for a magazine that deals with something you don’t know about.
Having a website can be very useful. I have one, and on one of its pages I have links to about 200 articles I’ve published at various places. When I write to new editors, I can link to my website.
Be aware that becoming a freelancer is hardest at the beginning. When you’re brand-new and don’t have a résumé, it takes more effort to get yourself out there. However, with such things as good writing skills, persistence and knowledge, your efforts ought to pay off.
Danica Davidson is a professional freelance writer who is now actively seeking to publish a YA novel. She was interested in novels before freelance, and has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and featured on the Guide to Literary Agents about her novel-writing. She has also adapted Japanese books into English. Please check out her website or follow her on Twitter.