How to Become a Freelance Writer
Kurt Jacobson on starting a new career…
I came to freelance writing after a variety of careers…professional cooking, aircraft mechanics, real estate. When, health issues forced my retirement and I started looking for a less strenuous form of income. With freelance writing, I’ve struck gold. I get to work my own hours and write about subjects I love.
If you tap your previous careers, favorite hobbies, and passions…there’s almost no limit to what you can write about and get published. For just about any skill or hobby you have there’s a publication running these stories.
When you write about subjects you know and love, quality writing comes easier than with subjects you’re not familiar with. Find those publications that cover your favorite subject matter and study what their readers want. Don’t worry if you don’t get queries accepted in your first attempts. Write all you can for the low-paying or no-paying websites and work up to it.
1. Start Blogging
No matter what your subject matter, you can start a blog for very low start-up costs.
Offer to be a guest blogger on other websites, too. This doesn’t always pay but it’s great for raising your profile. If the website has a large following, you’ll be exposed to thousands of viewers. You can become known as an authority on your subject very quickly. I began contributing to a food and organic gardening site and, as a result, I was invited to write magazine articles – which do pay.
2. Take a Course
After blogging for a while about food, I began to see opportunities in other types of writing. I signed up for a travel writing workshop and learned how to write better and find publications seeking new writers. You’ll find a variety of weekend workshops and online courses that will help you improve your writing.
3. Approach Editors
I began by accumulating email addresses of editors and starting a filing system. I would send out a few queries each week. By the end of the third-month things were clicking. I started sending out 20 to 30 queries per month and was getting more accepted assignments. I took whatever I could get during the beginning to build my resume. By the end of the first six months, I had written destination stories, hotel reviews, and a few food-based articles. I was thrilled with my progress.
4. Read and Write Often
When I decided to become a travel writer, I practiced writing five to six days per week, and read gobs of travel magazines. Reading helps to stimulate ideas…and don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. Editors will love you for it. For instance, I love good wine and recently I approached my organic food client about a sustainable winery in Maryland. My editor told me, “We’ve never published a winery story that’s a great idea!” He said he would love to have me write a story for their first wine-focused issue.
5. Seek Regular Assignments
By the time I had been writing for 18 months, I had become a regular contributor to five different publishers. The latest one is a local food magazine that started up last year and has published my stories in each issue. I’m commissioned ahead for the next two. With this group of publishers, I’m able to write almost anything I want to and know I have a publication to run the story.
I’ve gone to farms and published stories on a young chicken farmer in Temecula California where the local visitor’s bureau paid for my luxury accommodation. On fishing trips to Alaska, I’ve had stories published in Fish Alaska Magazine. And my love of hiking and biking has landed a few stories about scenic trails and parks in Maryland.
It’s a great life.
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