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Freelance Writing Tips: Getting Your First Clips

Updated on February 3, 2015

When you are first launching a freelance writing career, it is very likely that you'll be caught in the clip conundrum. You need published clips (writing samples of your published work) to apply for writing gigs, but if you are new, it is also highly likely that you won't have them, correct? This leaves the aspiring writer wondering what to do and just plain confused. However, this need not be a hinderance to getting your writing career started; it really is not that complex and there are several ways you can go about this.


Tip#1: Submit to Article Directories

Although some writers may disagree with me, new writers can obtain quality published writing clips by submitting to free article directories on the web and there are literally hundreds of them. What you'll need to do is, write your article. Make sure it is a high quality article, and that it contains information which actually helps your reader. Also be sure to edit for grammar and punctuation errors thoroughly. Now after you have submitted the article, search for your article frequently by its title and your name using Google or some other search engine, so that you can see where it is being published online. This serves as a published clip for you. What most likely will occur is that several people will publish your article to their blog or other type of site. Simply choose one to use as a sample.

When you submit your article, use the resource box wisely. The resource box is where the writer is able to include "about the author" information. You can include your name or pen name if you use one, and a writer's web site url so that those who may be interested in offering you a writing assignment can find out more about you and possibly hire you. Using article directories is also a great way to establish yourself in a new market.

List of Free Article Directories

A Helpful Resource: #1 BestSeller

How to Make Money Blogging: How I Replaced My Day Job With My Blog
How to Make Money Blogging: How I Replaced My Day Job With My Blog

Tip #2: Start a Blog

Another way to highlight your writing skills is to start and maintain a blog, preferably in your particular area of interest. The blog must be well organized and professional. You need not spend lots of money to begin, in fact you can get started with your own blog for free. What's even better, is that you can monetize it with Google Adsense and affiliate advertising such as Amazon and EBay. When you decide to query a publication, you can point to your blog as an example of your expertise and writing ability. It is important that you approach publications whether on or offline which offer gigs in relevant subject matter. If your blog is focused on organized crime, don't use it to query a publication for a writing gig about cooking, for example.

Mr. Magazine
Mr. Magazine | Source

Tip #3: Approach Markets Most Open to New Writers

There are cetain types of markets which are more welcoming to brand new writers as they are frequently willing to take a chance on you, even if you've never written a single article. Many writers do get their start by obtaining first assignments from trade publications and new magazines. Also, publications with small circulations are willing to take on new writers because they tend to have smaller budgets. These are good ways to get experience and published clips. I actually got my first published writing clip from a new parenting magazine which was written entirely by parents. Local newspapers and regional publications also tend to accept new writers.

If you'd like to keep abreast of new magazines, visit, a site maintained by Samir Husni, a professor of journalism. You can also frequently read trade journals written for writers such as Writers Market Online and Writers Weekly.

Try Writing for Residual Earning Sites

Residual earning sites allow writers to write articles of varying topics of their choice. They earn through Adsense, traffic and product sales like Amazon and EBay. If you are an expert in a given topic, or want to expand to new areas, residual earning sites may be just the ticket. While anyone can join and start writing, the highest earners write engaging, quality articles. They also write a lot. If you are interested in writing for residual sites, here are few to try:

Tip #4: Take a Journalism or Magazine Course

My very first experience with the business of writing came in high school, writing for the school newspaper as the sports editor and columnist. If you are a high school or college student, take advantage of journalism courses and working for the newspaper. It is a great foundation to a career in writing, and you'll get some great first clips. What I enjoyed most about this experience is that I got to see the entire process of publishing, not just the writing of my particular article. Now of course, these were in the old days before digital publishing became the new medium!

Even if you've been out of school for several years, don't be afraid to go back and take a course or two. Look for courses offering opportunities to write articles for actual submission to publications. You'll receive lots of feedback and help from the instructor. Oftentimes, students do get their first articles published this way.

A Few More Suggestions:

Whenever you approach a publication, whether online or print be certain to consult their writer's guidelines and follow them precisely. Writer's guidelines are the basic format that they want writers to adhere to for submissions. It contains important information such as word count, to whom you should address correspondence, contact info, rights and subject matter needed. You will also want to read a few copies of the publication or take a look at the site to see what kind of style and information they publish, as this will give you a better idea of what to submit or the best query approach.

If you'd like help with querying or writing a book proposal, there is a very good resource which I have myself and frequently consult: The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals by Moria Allen.

Good Luck & Happy Writing!

How did you get your very first published writing sample?

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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Thanks for the good advice. Madeline L'Engle, one of my favorite authors, sent her first book to 40 publishers before it was published. Just keep writing.

    • LoriSoard profile image

      LoriSoard 6 years ago from Henryville, Indiana

      Good advice. Getting those first clips can be a challenge. The key is to not give up.