Freelance Writing Tips from the Homeplace - A
Home and Hearth
1. Find your niche
Freelance Writers write at home, their “Homeplace,” so this is the first of a series of tips from someone who had been there and done that. I published 85 print magazine articles in a five-year span, while also going to graduate school (doctoral) and graduating. I was writing part-time, needless to say… and you can do it too! (Did I mention that I was also 50-55 years old, at the time?) This is aimed at beginners, primarily, but others may find a gem or two that works for them.
I will focus here on writing magazine articles. My experience was writing for print, but much of what I have to share applies just as well to online writing. [The more things change, the more they stay the same…]
Two key elements. Know your market. Know your subject.
What is your niche? What do you know enough about that you can create good content with only a little supplemental research? You should always do supplemental research, but it should not be excessively time consuming. You don't have the time. But, you also cannot be successful by writing shoddy content that no one wants to read.
My niche was "small business acumen." What does the small business person need to be successful? What are the pitfalls? How to avoid them? Where do most small businesses miss the mark? What is your niche?
I arrived at my niche partly by experience. I had tried to run several small businesses and, to some degree, failed at each one. I also exceeded, in some degree, in each one. But, I learned what I didn't know, didn't do right, and started sharing some of that knowledge. So, your niche may come from what you know well, or, it may come from what you realize you didn't know.
Where would this information be useful? Not in "Tips for Small Business Owners" - although you might try that… Everyone else will, you can be sure.
Here are some of the "niche markets" where I found success:
- "CM Cleaning and Maintenance Management"
- "Physician's Professional Development Review"
- "Water Technology"
- "Mini-Strage Messenger"
- "Writer's Connection"
- "Your Church"
- "Today's School"
There are literally thousands of these small publications directed at very specific niche markets, that you and I never would have thought existed. You just need to find them.
Each of the operators of these different niche markets - the people who were reading these magazine articles - had a need for "tips on business acumen." That is how I would, and did, get my articles accepted - and was paid for doing so.
When you seek them out, read their "writer's guidelines." They each have them. That information should tell you if they are a good candidate for a well written query. Be realistic. If they say, for example, that 10% are free-lance articles… go on to the next one. If they say 90% freelance, and pay in other than copies, you may want to look at them a little more.
The original novel in "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga historical fiction stories
Have you found your niche?
2. Work your niche
Read the details in the "writer's guidelines" to see where, within the publication, your specific content would fit - for that publisher. REMEMBER, you are writing for them, and their audience, not for yourself. You can write the greatest prose or poetry, but if it isn't meaningful to their specific readers, in the view of the editor, your article does not have a chance of acceptance.
Don't expect to start getting Feature Articles accepted right away. I found my success by looking at Departments, Columns, How To, etc. - smaller articles in each magazine. They each have them, different names, different formats, different sizes (word count), but you fairly quickly learn what to look for. In a handful of magazines, I quickly became a regular columnist. More on this later.
In preparation, be sure to have at least three well-written generic articles, and at least one longer and one shorter, already prepared before you make your first query. And, of course, carefully craft what you want to use as a query letter.
Let me step back, for a second, on the "query letter" issue. There are many available articles, and even books, on query letters, so not a lot of detail here and now. In this context, it may be an actual letter. It may also be a two or three sentence email. You have to find the right approach to each situation.
With your generic articles, and your generic query letter, at the ready, when you find a possible prospect for one of your articles, take the time to tailor both specifically to "the needs of that editor at that publication." This is based totally on the "writer's guidelines." When these are ready, send it. Do not wait. You have now entered a "numbers game." The more you send, the more you get accepted. Most, of course, will be rejected. Be prepared for that. It never ends.
Go find the next set of prospective "writer's guidelines" where you feel you can make a positive contribution to that magazine. Keep several queries in process at all times. Keep accurate records of what was send to whom, and what, if anything you heard back from them. You may get an almost instant email response. You may not hear back in weeks.
In the meantime, begin to think about how you can shape your article by using your creativity to meet the differing needs of the several magazines you have queried. When you start getting responses, requesting samples of your work, or, a specific request for an article, you will be ready. Or, at least, ready to be ready to further adapt one of your generic articles to the specific need the editor indicates. REMEMBER, again, that you are writing to fulfill the perceived need of the editor for content he/she believes their readers will be attracted to. That is now your job. It is a wonderful job. Enjoy every moment.
The novella in "The Homeplace Saga" series of stories
Will you adapt?
3. Adapt to the niche that accepts you as the expert
You will be surprised, as I was, at who accepts what you write. Also, who wants more, and what it is they want. Be prepared to adapt. But, do not do what you know you cannot do. Adapting to the needs of others can be a real challenge. If you just want to write, write your stories on your blog, HubPages, Squidoo, or such. If you want to be paid to write freelance articles for magazines, and others, be ready to learn to adapt specifically to their perceived needs. That is what successful writers do. You cannot predict what they want. But, you can adapt to what they want. When you do that, you will find success.
Once someone has accepted your writing, take the first opportunity to pitch your next piece. Understand, it may get either a positive or negative reply. But, once an editor has accepted what you have already provided, you are far down the road to getting another one accepted. You still must think, you still must work, you still must adapt. But, you don't just have a leg in the door. You are inside, you have been accepted. It is now up to you to suggest the next thing that the editor will want to see. The editor is far busier that you are. Make it worth their time to read your next query and reply with a positive request.
The latest novel in "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga historical fiction stories
Give credit where credit is due. Bill Holland's hub inspired me to write this one. Read him, regularly, if you don't already!
- The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Six
And here we go with another question and answer session about writing. If you are ready, then let's get started.
My home... "The Homeplace Saga" series of family saga historical fiction stories
- "The Homeplace Saga" Blog
The home blog for "The Homeplace Saga" series of historical fiction family saga stories set in the southern Missouri Ozarks. All updates of the series are mentioned here, regardless of platform. Watch of the release of the forthcoming collection.
The latest eBooks are here...
- Dr. Bill Smith's Books and Publications Spotlight
See "The Kings of Oak Springs: The Arrival Months in 1876 Vol 1" and others.