How to Write for Magazines: Freelance Writing 101
One great way to get exposure as an author and expert in your field is to write for publications that reach your target audience. Whether you want to write purely for exposure or you want to get paid for your efforts, following are the steps to begin landing writing assignments.
It’s not easy to break in to the large magazines that you see at the checkout stands in your grocery store. Most contributors for premium publications have many years of professional freelancing experience. However, you can work your way up to major publications if that is your goal, or you can choose to stick with writing for small and mid-size publications.
Trade association newsletters are a great starting point because they can reach your target audience and often welcome new contributors. Also consider smaller local newspapers like the ones that are mailed to homes or those that can be picked up from a news rack, and the smaller niche magazines found in the back of your local bookstore.
Once you identify publications that you would like to write for, the easiest way to get started is to send an email to the editor that details your expertise, topics you can write about, and lists any prior experience that you may have (such as links to stories you’ve written), as well as a link to your blog if you have one. The editor will want to see some examples of your work, and may ask you to pitch some specific article ideas or may assign you a topic to cover.
Some of these publications will pay a small fee, though most small publications pay you with exposure. Be sure to request a 100-word bio that includes your website as a form of payment. If all goes well, you could even work your way up to writing a regular column for the publication, and at the very least you will rack up some experience and “clips,” which are simply bylined articles that you can then showcase when pitching other publications.
Write a Query
For professional freelance writing for larger publications, the standard cost of admission is a query letter to the editor. A good query opens with a proposed story idea. That means you need to pitch something relevant for the publication’s audience. It should briefly explain the angle you will take with the story, followed by why you are the best person to write the story. Here’s a brief example of a pitch to a wedding industry business magazine:
Dear <editor name>,
Pinterest has quickly become the third largest social media site and I would like to write an article for <publication name> called “Pinterest Profits! How Wedding Pros Turn Pins into Dollars.” This article will explore how wedding professionals are leveraging Pinterest to increase website traffic and gain more customers. I will interview three sources who I have already identified and write a 1200-word article with concrete tips and solutions for your readers.
I am an author of <book title> and I have written articles for <list publications here or leave this line out if no experience just yet>. You can view some of my previous work here: <website links to articles if available>. I appreciate your consideration and would welcome the opportunity to work with you.
A query should be brief, compelling (great title), timely (related to a hot trend or tied-in with an upcoming event or holiday), and should clearly appeal to the publication’s target audience. To locate editors, look for an email address in the masthead or via the publication’s website. Another great source for locating editorial contacts is Writer’s Market (a paid directory).
Whether you want to work your way up to writing for major publications or you want to focus on writing for smaller niche publications, it all starts by reaching out to editors and building your portfolio. As you add more published clips to your portfolio, you will have more content that you can use to dazzle editors and create more writing opportunities.