Building a Full-Time Freelance Writing Career

For almost a year now, I’ve been freelance writing and editing. When I worked full-time as a magazine editor, I often pitched and wrote freelance writing assignments because I’m obsessed with magazines. People often ask me how I land assignments so I wanted to share some ideas of what I do to keep working.

1. Subscribe to Next Issue and read Mediabistro.

Next Issue is a great app that’s basically the Netflix of magazines. You pay a monthly fee ($9.99 for a basic plan) and have digital access to a whole slew of publications. I love that everything is in one place and greatly cuts down on the amount of paper magazines I receive. Also, Next Issue continually adds mags so the library keeps growing. I subscribe to Mediabistro’s daily email so I know what’s happening in the media world. Also, Mediabistro’s How to Pitch articles are super helpful for the correct editorial contacts.

2. Send handwritten notes.

After finishing an article with an editor, I almost always send a handwritten note. Yes, you can send an email, but I like to take the time to write a note of thanks and mention that I loved working with my editor. Why? Emails are a dime a dozen to an editor and a handwritten acknowledgement of their work is nice.

3. Set up in-person meetings, if you can.

As a writer in LA, most of my editors are in NYC. When I’m visiting NYC, I like to set up in-person meetings to say hello, talk about what they need, and generally get some face time. I used to be nervous that editors would think I was crazy for asking, but I’ve found that most say yes. I usually ask for coffee and let me know that I’ll meet them when it’s best in their schedule. I keep the meeting short and simple, and some times I bring treats (if I’ve worked with an editor before).

4. Create a spreadsheet to track pitches.

I pitch way more than I publish so I keep a simple Excel spreadsheet with what magazine, who I pitched, what I pitched, and when I plan to follow up. It keeps me organized. Plus, editors move to different publications so this helps me remember and track them down to their new magazine.

5. Keep your portfolio up to date.

As soon as a piece I wrote is published—whether online or print—I publish it on my blog to keep my work up-to-date. It’s a great way to say this is what I’ve just done and to show the topics I’ve covered. Don’t let it lag and have an article from 2004 as your latest piece. Even though it can be a pain to upkeep, it’s worth it.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

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10 thoughts on “Building a Full-Time Freelance Writing Career

  1. These are a great re-cap of traditional freelance writing tips–but I particularly like #3. It never occurred to me to meet up with editors while I’m traveling. Looking forward to doing this now!

  2. I’m going to have to start sending thank you notes! I don’t do that yet. I’ll also have to get back to updating my online portfolio. I was beginning to think it was becoming a bit redundant because I write a lot of news pieces. What do you think?

    • Mikelle, I think if you write a lot of news pieces, then highlight a few of your best work or pieces that you think would show off your reporting skills. For sites I’ve written a bunch for, I chose pieces that were popular for readers to show that I could write for a large audience. I hope that helps!

      • I was considering doing a sort of weekly digest of sorts. Maybe that would be better. And then for any very significant pieces I could break them out. I’m not sure yet. I’m still at very early point in my career so I have QUITE a few things to figure out

      • I think it’s good to have a game plan that’s manageable in the long run. You don’t want to spend all of your time updating your portfolio, but it’s good to have records of what you’ve published. Good luck with your career!

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