Five Tips for Being a Freelance Contributor

Working as a freelance contributor to various magazines is a fantastic way to get your name out there and your reputation as a writer to increase.  Keep in mind though, that how well you work with editors at the magazine will contribute greatly to how easily you get new assignments.  People talk in the media world, and what they say can carry quite a bit of weight.  So, if you’re interested in contributing to a magazine, newspaper, or online magazine, here are a few things to remember.

Tip # 1:  Grab a Copy, Read a Copy

As a general rule, magazines, newspapers, and other serial media will have a particular feel or look to them.  They have particular areas that they tend to focus on, or a style of writing and viewpoint that they want to portray in their magazine.  Before you even consider pitching a story idea to an editor, it’s imperative that you pick up an example of what they’re looking for.  Read it, analyze it, and make sure that what you want to write about is something that they would be interested in.  If you don’t, the chances are that you’ll be wasting their time- and trust me, editors don’t have a lot of time to waste.

Tip # 2:  Read and Follow the Submission Guidelines

This tip should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many potential freelancers fail to do this.  I was guilty of it as well, I’m sorry to say.  Following the submission guidelines lets the editor know that 1- you are a professional, 2-you value their time as well as your own, and 3-you’ll be relatively easy to work with.

Tip #3:  Give Them Enough Lead Time

Believe it or not, most print and only media that use legitimate freelance contributions start planning their layout at least six to eight months prior to publication.  That means that if you want to contribute a piece to a woman’s magazine about a gluten-free Christmas Fruit Cake recipe, it’s best to pitch your idea to them around May or June of that year.  Yes, this means more planning on your part, and yes, thinking about winter during the summer months, but trust me, the editors will thank you for it.

Tip #4:  Remember to Read the Fine Print

Different media outlets will have different requirements and different compensation guidelines.  For the most part, there is very little negotiation when it comes to compensation, so it’s important that you understand what you’re expected to contribute, what the compensation is, and what rights you will be relinquishing before you start work on a project.  Most media outlets worth contributing to will provide in writing what they expect, and what they will provide in return.  Ask for the information, and read it very, very carefully.  If you’re uncomfortable with the terms, don’t contribute.

Tip # 5:  Be Professional With the Edits

Believe it or not, the editor will edit your work.  They’ll have to in order to make sure that the piece fits the style, format, and voice that they’re interested in.  It will happen.  When the editor contacts you with the edits, look them over with an objective eye and only push back in instances where you feel the edits might significantly change the piece for the worse, or foster a misunderstanding.  If you find such a case, talk with the editor and voice your concerns.  If the editor agrees that they are realistic, changes can often be made, and most editors are willing to do so quite readily.  The important thing is to not waste their time pushing back on trivial matters.  Trust me, it will help to keep the working relationship going smoothly.

These are just a few tips that I’ve learned over the years.  I’m sure there are many more.  Here are a few good resources for working as a freelancer.  Be sure to check them out.

Funds for Writers

Writing World

Freelance Writing

© 2014, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.

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