Freelance Writing 101 – How to Start

In most websites out there, they’ll tell you the key to freelancing is pitching but they don’t tell you how to pitch, rather show you a bunch of query letters that sold (which is very, very useful by the way). However, when you are new at this, looking for ideas and struggling with queries might not be your thing (certainly ain’t mine). I started freelancing three months ago, give or take and it has been a bumpy ride. The experience of finding publications to write for, looking for ideas to pitch, and learning the trade has been more annoying and frustrating than difficult to say the least. Today, I will share what I have learned in the past three months in hopes to ease your transition to freelance writing.

Publications to Write for
Knowing which publications to write for is key. But before you pitch, you need to familiarize yourself with their style and tone. You also need to pick your niche. But then again, when you are new, you really don’t know the market all that well. At first, I used twitter to look for interesting publications to approach, but that was so time consuming and fruitless. Then, I came across this link, which basically lists down publications and their submission guidelines according to different categories. It sure did make my life a whole a lot easier. I also came across another link, which does the same. So, there you have it, two links containing more than 1000 publications.

Looking for Ideas to Pitch
This is the hardest part to be honest. Ideas usually come from what most intrigues you from social or political issues to stuff you are exposed to in general. But lets say, you aren’t really exposed to anything (which I highly doubt) and have practically ZERO ideas (which again, I highly doubt), press releases and academic databases are your best friends. More than we would like to admit, academic databases are full of research based on current events and human interaction. Remember the time you were writing your undergraduate thesis and thought scholarly databases were the bomb. That hasn’t changed, they still are if you are looking for ideas to write about. Press releases on the other hand, are easier to access and are mostly free, check out Eurekalert.org for Science stuff and PR Newswire for everything else.

Learning the Trade
This surprisingly is my favorite part (and the easiest by the way); simply because help is all over the place. A lot of experienced freelance writers share their knowledge wholeheartedly with their audience. Ms. Mridu for example has over 10 years experience, she shares tips on her personal blog and her latest freelancer website. There are many other sources like makealivingwriting.combeafreelanceblogger.com, and myfreelancelife.com to name a few. When you subscribe to any of these websites you will have access to query letters that sold and general tips on freelancing, marketing yourself, finding your voice, etc.

Lastly…
The important thing is to start. Put yourself out there and be patient. If it doesn’t work the first time around, try again. You only need one pitch to sell and then the ball will get rolling. In your first year focus on learning as much as you can (experience before cash), if cash comes along then that’s a bonus. The more you write, the more you learn.

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