Want to know the best way to boost your freelance writing career? Of course you do, you’re building a business. But it’s kind of a trick question because the best way to super-charge your self-employment is to freelance your freelance writing career to success. What the hell do I mean? Good question.
Make A List
Whether you guest blog or write magazine features (and both of these are options) you should keep a list of publishers and websites that you want to write for. These are your goal markets – and most have audiences that could skyrocket your reputation and traffic. Typically they pay pretty well but there are some big markets that pay in exposure. (I’m thinking Huffington Post.) And while I don’t condone big publishers profiting off the free work of writers, whether the exposure will be worth it to your career will always be your choice to make.
Okay, back to the point.
If you don’t have a list yet, start researching the big publications in your niche and rounding up their submission guidelines. You can easily bookmark them in a folder.
Do Your Research
Before you start pitching these markets, pick two or three and start checking their sites throughout the day. Read their most popular posts. Subscribe to their newsletter and get a feel for their content. For print publications hit the library, the bookstore, or their website for copies of back-issues. Pay special attention to any departments freelancers are encouraged to pitch.
Make Friends In High Places
Look up the editor-in-chief, the editors of any magazine departments you plan to pitch as well as any bloggers or website editors associated with the digital publications on your shortlist. Follow the publication itself, as well as your list of contacts, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other relevant social media platforms. Just be mindful should you come across an editor’s personal account—you don’t want to overstep.
Now share their posts to your audience.
Not only will this keep you in the know and on the radar of your future editors, it builds long-term professional relationships which are key to repeat performances.
Pitch Your Ideas
Some editors want several ideas in each pitch, some want one detailed query. Some want an email, some have an online form. Some pay really well and some don’t pay at all. You also won’t know what subjects the editor leans toward, what the word count of different departments are, or if they schedule content themes.
You won’t know what the editor wants unless you check the submission guidelines.
Too many freelancers skip this necessary market research and then wonder why they can’t get published. Don’t be one of them. Please.
If you can’t find a publication’s guidelines on their website, google them. If you still can’t find them, check the annual Writer’s Market. Or ask for instructions through their contact page. Still empty-handed? Email your pitch to the editor of the department that best suits your piece.
Once Your Article Goes Live Or In Print
There are a few things you’ll want to do when and after your article is published:
- Promote it on your social media accounts and tag the publication and editor in these posts. Knowing that you promote your own work can position you for easier pitching in the future.
- Thank your editor for the opportunity and for polishing your piece. Quickly explain that their publication is a major score for you as a freelance writer (which is an honest, heartfelt compliment) and you would be honored if your editor would write a two-three sentence recommendation based on his/her experience working with you. Of course you know that they’re busy and completely understand if they’re unable, but it never hurts to ask, right?
Now this only works if you delivered what you said you would, on time.
But you already do that, right?
- Monitor the post’s comments. Depending on your agreement, you may be expected to reply for the first few days. Check. But even if you don’t have to participate, follow those readers on Twitter. There’s a chance they’ll see it and follow you back.
- Add that testimonial and the publication’s logo to your writer website, depending on your design.
- I’m also a huge fan of linking to my guest posts on my website. For one, I feel they’re valuable to writers. Two, it highlights my work in well-known markets to my readers. I’m not just a crazy person with wifi. Let me rephrase: I’m not just a crazy person with wifi. 🙂
What publications do you plan to pitch? Will you boost your visibility in a specific niche like personal essays, magazine features, screen-shot laden tutorials, or interview-driven research pieces? Or will you secure your reputation as an expert on a specific subject?
What logos would look kick-ass on your website?
There’s so much these assignments can do for your career. Better start making that list—and rinse and repeat. Once you pitch the first two or three, move onto another set.