How to Write for Magazines | 7 Tips to Get Started

Learning how to write for magazines is one of those things I didn’t understand until someone else taught me. So I thought I’d do the same for you today.

Write for Magazines

How to Write for Magazines

Maybe you’ve been a writer for a while and you feel like you should know how to do this and now you’re afraid to ask. Or maybe you’ve thought about writing for magazines but don’t know where to start. Or maybe you know what you want to pitch to a magazine but you don’t know how to do it, if they accept pitches or where to send it.

All good! I didn’t know either. A lot of magazines accept freelance pitches and pay for articles but figuring that out can seem a bit overwhelming until you understand how it works. Here are a few quick tips to get you started.

Tip 1: Figure out what magazines you want to write for

You should have a basic idea of the type of magazines you want to publish articles in, and even better if you have a few specifics in mind. If you don’t know, start by doing some research. Go to your local library and look through their magazine stacks—which magazines are you interested in reading? Which ones publish articles in the style you write? Which ones would you like to see your byline in? Make a list.

Tip 2: Brainstorm several article/story ideas

When you write for magazines, much of the time it’s you, the writer, pitching ideas to them, the editor and/or publisher. So you can’t go to a magazine and say, “I’d like to write for you, what are you looking for?” This approach outs you as an amateur and doesn’t get you far. You need solid story ideas when approaching a magazine and, in general, you want a few in your back pocket so when the opportunity arises, you’re ready with your pitch. So have a few ideas going before you need them and keep this list topped up.

Tip 3: Before you pitch, do your research

Cross-reference your list of target magazines with your list of story ideas. When you write for magazines, you want your pitch to stand out from the rest. The best way to do that is to ensure your idea fits with what the magazine publishes and that they haven’t done it before. Many magazines publish their upcoming themes on their website, which will also help you out.

Tip 4: Write a query letter or letter of inquiry (LOI) when pitching

For the most part, you’re sending in queries about an article, not the full article itself. Your query letter is a quick pitch, trying to see if there’s any interest in your story. Your goal from this letter is to get the assignment so make sure it’s good!

Tip 5: Ask your network for introductions to magazine editors

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, your freelancer network is your strongest asset. Your freelance writing friends may already be writing for magazines. Ask them which ones they’re writing for. Or, if there’s a specific one you’re interested in, ask if your writing friends have any connections there. Then, ask for an introduction. Not only will a referral get your query past the gatekeepers and into the right person’s inbox, it improves your chances of your pitch being read and considered. One caveat: if you’re asking for a referral remember your friend is putting his/her reputation on the line for you. Be professional, be courteous and—above all—don’t be a flake.

Tip 6: Don’t know who to contact? Look in the front flap at the masthead

If you know which magazines you want to write for, look at the masthead and find the editor’s name for the section you want to pitch to. You’re looking for something like a departmental editor or features editor. If their email isn’t listed, look on the magazine’s website and see if you can find it. You may find a “write for us” area on the website where there will be more specific pitching instructions. Do your best to send your query to the editor rather than the general info email unless you’re instructed to.

Tip 7: Wondering which publications pay? Get a market guide

If you can’t learn anything from your research or network about whether or not your target magazine pays for article, you can purchase a market guide to help you. It will also give you a ton of magazine titles to consider, contact information for the editor you need to query and special instructions for pitching. This is a gold mine of information. Here are a couple I recommend.

I hope this helps you write for magazines! Let me know how you do.

Learning how to write for magazines is one of those things I didn't understand until someone else taught me. So I thought I'd do the same for you today. Here are seven tips for getting started.

Other helpful resources

Network with Freelancers to Grow Your Business

The best marketing you can do is network with freelancers. A bold claim, I know. But I stand behind it. Building a strong network will help you grow your freelance business.

Network with Freelancers

Why Building a Network with Freelancers will Help You Grow Your Business

If the idea of traditional networking fills you with fear and loathing, allow me to present a different way. Think of networking as making friends with like-minded freelancers and treating them well instead of attending awkward events with strangers and trying to pass out business cards.

Doesn’t my way sound better?

In order to network with freelancers you have to avoid thinking of other freelancers as your competition. It’s easy to slip into a scarcity mentality and view every gig as something another freelancer can steal but the truth is there’s more than enough work for everyone.

The freelance life is tough enough as it is, and isolated. Make friends with other freelancers and see what you can do to help and support them. It will make a huge difference to your own business.

But maybe this still doesn’t make sense. I understand. When you haven’t experienced the amazing give-and-take of a true network this approach seems counter-intuitive. I’ll give a couple examples from my last year of freelancing to help you understand.

Example One

I attended a webinar through one of my professional networks, Canadian Media Guild Freelance on how to price your work. As part of the training, the presenter asked if the attendees would share our hourly rate with each other. She said freelancers have to stick together and talk with each other about their rates, how they charge, how they put projects together…and more.

But we’re so afraid to share. Maybe we’re charging too much! Or maybe we’re not charging enough! Maybe we’ll reveal how much we don’t know if we say anything! Here’s the truth: you’re stronger when you ask questions and share with one another. Imagine how empowered you’d feel about your pricing if you knew what others charged and could stand behind your quotes with confidence!

Example Two

I have a friend who is just getting started in her freelance career. Earlier this year I taught a series of workshops and she came out in support, which I appreciated. A few months later we met up and she shared a bit more about what type of work she was thinking about pursuing. So you’d better believe when a colleague asked me if I knew anyone who was looking for work in exactly what my friend had said she was looking for I referred her first.

Now, this may seem like an obvious choice but think about it. I know lots of freelancers. I could have referred any number of equally talented, qualified, available people for the gig. So what made this friend stand out? Well, for one she supported me at one of my events without expecting anything in return. And for another we stayed in touch and she shared what she was looking for. So when the opportunity arose, she was at the top of my mind.

Helping others helps you

Get it? Helping each other benefits everyone. Share what you learn with each other and help each other out when you can. Referrals are the freelancer’s bread and butter so keep your freelance friends close. Listen to them, support them, ask them questions, and refer them when you have an opportunity. Introduce them to people you think they’d benefit from knowing and grow your network one by one. And, hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.

The best marketing you can do is network with freelancers. Building a strong network will help you grow your freelance business. A bold claim, I know.

Other networking tips for freelancers

How to Find Great Freelance Writing Jobs

When you’re a new freelancer, finding freelance writing jobs may seem like an overwhelming task. And I understand how finding a gig—any gig—can feel a bit like luck. Where do you even start looking? And when you find someone looking for a writer, how do you know the job is any good?

freelance writing jobs

The good news and the bad news about online freelance writing jobs

OK, here it is. The good news is, when you Google “freelance writing jobs” you’ll find a lot of postings. The bad news is, when you you’ll also find a lot of low-paying postings and straight up bad gigs. Learning to tell the difference is an important part about finding success as a freelance writer. Finding gigs that pay what you need is another important part.

How to discern a good freelance writing job from a bad one

The first thing to keep in mind is “good” and “bad” gigs are subjective. You need to know ahead of time what kind of job you’re looking for and what type of client will suit your needs. If you’re new to the freelance world you may not know this yet and will learn through trial and error. That’s OK! But take a few minutes to think about the types of freelance writing jobs you’d like to have. Writing blog posts and articles? Media releases? Business profiles? Journalism? Think it through and write it down.

After you know what type of writing you want to do take a few minutes to figure out who your ideal client is. Are you looking for someone who is hands off? Someone to collaborate with? Do you want to be able to meet in person? And do you want one-off clients or ones you have an ongoing relationship with? There are no wrong answers here, just what’s right for you. Knowing what types of clients you’d like will help you avoid overwhelm as you comb through the vast array of freelance writing jobs out there. It will also keep you from applying for gigs that aren’t a good fit for you.

One more tip: keep a close eye on how the job postings are written. If you see phrases like “looking for hungry writers,” or a value attributed to the quantity of articles they’re looking for rather than quality of writing, these should trigger warning bells in your head. These gigs are often low paying (pennies per word, if that) and demanding. Even if you don’t have much experience yet, you can do better.

How to figure out what you need to earn as a freelance writer

Even though many writers aren’t numbers people, it’s important to learn how to budget so you know how much income you need in order to reach your goals. Do a bit of number crunching and determine what you need per month to get by. Also figure out how much time you have to dedicate to your freelancing. From here you’ll have a good idea of how many clients you can take on and how much you need from each one.

If you’re wondering how to set your prices, check out my free 15-minute course on how to price your work. Setting your prices takes a bit of effort but it will help you stay away from jobs that don’t pay enough.

When you look at online postings you may feel like you have to lower your prices or standards in order to get work. Don’t give up! There are great freelance writing jobs out there but sometimes you have to know where to look.

Where I look for great freelance writing jobs

I encourage writers to think outside of the box when looking for work. Even when you need to get clients fast you shouldn’t lower your standards. The main ways I find work are from referrals, networking with other writers and Twitter (really!). There’s always someone looking for a writer but people have to know you’re a writer in order for them to think of you and reach out.

Job boards are a great starting point for freelancers who don’t have established networks. The good gigs are scooped up quick so if this is your go-to then you will need to check often and apply a lot. It’s a numbers game so don’t become discouraged if you don’t hear back from many or most of the places you pitch.

Here are a few suggestions for job boards I’ve found good.

One more tip: I’ve learned it’s important to keep looking for freelance work even if you have a full client load. Developing strategies to keep the marketing machine going during busy times ensures you won’t have so many dry spells. And the better your clients are, the less you’ll need in order to reach your financial goals.

When you are a new freelancer, finding freelance writing jobs may seem like an overwhelming task. And I get how finding a gig can feel a bit like luck.

Hiring a Writer? 10 Things You Should Know

If it’s your first time hiring a writer or even if you’ve done it before but find it a bit awkward, you’ll love this post.

These 10 tips for hiring a writer were written by Cynthia White who is a freelance writer based on Vancouver Island. I love this topic because I spend time talking to writers and Cynthia had the idea to speak to people thinking about hiring a writer. Love it.

10 Things You Should Know About Hiring a Writer

I’m a freelance writer, just like my friend, Robyn. I asked her if I could write an article on hiring a writer for her blog because she blogs only about writing-related topics, and I blog about anything that strikes my fancy.

When a new client wants to hire me, there are several things that I run into repeatedly, things that the client doesn’t necessarily understand. I thought it would be useful to tell a little bit about what it means to hire a writer and give some insight into the writing process.

So, here are 10 things you should know about hiring a writer:

10 tips for hiring a writer

  1. Most writers don’t work on a per hour basis. We usually price writing work by the word or by the project. We may have an idea what our hourly rate is, but we usually don’t say

    Why do we price our work by the word? I don’t know, but that’s the standard. We never want to be told to “write faster” because we’re being paid a certain amount per hour. So, we just tell you what the job is worth to us, and whether it takes us one hour or 21 hours, that’s our problem.

    If you have an established long-term relationship with a writer, very often writers just work for a monthly retainer. The writer agrees to give you a certain amount of work at previously agreed-upon intervals for a fixed monthly price.

    You want to know what the going rate is for a writer? Here are two articles about that.

  2. Professional writers aren’t cheap. You can definitely find someone on Upwork or elsewhere who will write for $0.01/word. But you won’t find an experienced professional writer to work for that rate. Even $0.10/word is cheap by our standards, but sometimes we’ll do that work if it’s pleasant, and we’re able to do it fast.

    With writing, you get what you pay for. The odds are against you getting a great job done for less than $0.10/word. For less than $0.10/word, you’ll be hiring someone who either doesn’t have English as a mother tongue, or who doesn’t have a degree in English or journalism, or who doesn’t have any experience.

    We’re going to do a better job of writing your articles or your blog, than you will. You may know your company better than we do, but we know how to write effectively. If we’re writing your blog, we know how the articles should look, how many links to include, how to optimize the work for search engine optimization, and how to make the work look polished.

    One advantage for you of hiring a professional and experienced writer is that some writers have a large and established social media following. Your writer may be happy to promote his or her articles about your business through their own personal social media platforms—especially if the writer’s name is on the article.

  3. It’s OK to ask for revisions. Writers can’t read minds. We may have a good idea what you want, but we can’t give you exactly what you want without some feedback. It’s OK to ask for revisions, and we expect that. The more feedback we get, the closer we will get to giving you the ideal product, just like with machine learning.

    Of course, there’s an old saying in freelance writing that if the client isn’t happy with the third draft, then there’s either something wrong with the client or something wrong with the writer. Three drafts should be plenty. If you’re asking for six, seven, or eight drafts, then the client doesn’t know what he or she wants. I let go of clients like that. I’ve been doing this for years, and I can afford to be choosy about who I want to work with.

  4. It’s OK to ask for photos to accompany articles. Most writers will charge extra for this, especially if they are original photos that we have taken ourselves with our own cameras. It’s extra work for us, and many clients prefer to furnish the artwork themselves, but it’s OK to ask. And if we’re being paid a reasonable rate, we won’t mind looking up a few royalty-free photos for you.
  5. Press releases cost more than regular writing. Press releases are not priced on a per word basis, but as a flat rate. (And the flat rate does not include the price of distribution, which is separate.) Why? Because writing them is a special skill that some of us have spent years acquiring. Press releases have a special format, a special language, and even writing the titles and subtitles is not for amateurs.

    A press release is not the job where you should pinch pennies. Why? Because when someone skilled writes a press release, it will get more “pick-up” or traffic, which is what you want. If you hire an inexperienced writer to write a press release, there may be a delay in the release going out because the company used to distribute the press release may have to rewrite it. Not good. Experienced freelance writers not only know how to write a great press release, but we know all about the pros and cons of including images or videos, and when is the best time to get them out. Most of us also have a relationship with a company that does the distribution. Personally, I use Ereleases if it’s for a press release originating in the US.

  6. It’s a good idea to pay us promptly. I wish I had a nickel for every client that I’ve ever had who was ultra-available when he or she needed me to finish a job and ultra-unavailable when it came time to pay. Cash flow is everything, and it’s not fair to make us chase you around for payment. The time spent reminding you to pay us is time that we could be working on other projects for clients who pay promptly. If you’re a new client, don’t be surprised if we ask to be paid up front or after each little job, just to make sure that we don’t do an enormous amount of work and never get paid for it. Yes, it happens.

    I’m, in fact, running into a problem with a new client right now. The client wants a certain number of blog articles each month. But the client only wants to pay for the published articles. That means I submit X number of articles each month, but they can sit on them as long as they want, and I won’t get paid until they’re published. That’s not right, and that’s not how it works. The writer should be paid upon submission. If the client takes a month to ask for revisions, that’s fine, but the writer should be paid. Otherwise, the writer is always being paid for a subset of what they’ve written for the client. I don’t think I’ll be writing long for these folks unless they change that policy.

  7. Need another freelancer? Ask us. Most of us have a well-established network of freelancers. We know other writers, editors, design people, and software people. If you need to hire someone else, ask us.
  8. We’re going to charge more for ghostwriting. Writers like to have their names on things. This gives the writer credibility, and if there’s a blurb about the writer and a link, this can help drive traffic to the writer’s website. If we’re writing for a client, and we’re not going to get to put our name on anything, for example on your business blog, then we’ll charge you more because we lose those added benefits.
  9. If you need something fast, be prepared to pay extra. Most freelance writers have several clients and schedule of work to be done. Sometimes a schedule may be in place for several weeks or months in advance. So, we can do your work, but we can’t necessarily do it tonight. If you need it instantly, be prepared to pay extra to move to the front of the line.
  10. We have other skills. Ask us. Often clients who hire writers don’t realize that many of us can do more than one type of job. The person who writes for your blog may also be an expert on social media. Your blog writer might also be an expert editor who could proofread your website or edit the text of other freelance writers. Some writers are happy to do ebooks, press releases, or copywriting (like sales copy). Some writers do some design work like for business cards or logos. Some writers have extensive business and marketing experience. So, if you have a writer that you like, and you have other jobs that need doing, ask your writer first.

The idea for this article came to me recently because I started with a new client who seemed very reluctant to ask for revisions. The client was afraid I’d be insulted because he wanted a few more statistics in his blog articles. I wasn’t insulted. I told him, “writers expect to be asked for revisions. It’s OK.”

I hope this is helpful for someone hiring a writer for the first time.

If it's your first time hiring a writer or even if you've done it before but find it a bit awkward, you'll love this post.

Other posts semi-related to hiring a writer

Creative Places to Find Clients

There are a lot of places to find clients but the well-known places are competitive. Since I like avoiding hustle whenever possible (unless, you know, I need clients YESTERDAY) I like looking in less-obvious places for freelance work. Part of me wants to keep these creative places a secret so I’ll be the only one who knows about them but a bigger part of me wants to help other freelancers find work so here we go. Maybe there’s a new idea or two in here for you today.

creative places to find clients

Creative places to find clients

Places to find clients idea #1: From your day job

While this is an awesome place to find clients you do need to pay attention to your company’s privacy policy and it’s better if you keep your boss in the loop with any outside-of-work relationships you have with work affiliates. Assuming everything is above board and your freelance work happens outside of your day job, doing some side gig stuff with people you interact with every day makes a lot of sense. On a professional level they know, like, and trust you as you do them. And you already know you can work well together. You just need to keep the boundaries in tact so you don’t overstep in either direction.

Places to find clients idea #2: From your family and friends

I’ve mentioned this before (the best way to let people know you’re available for freelance work is by telling them you’re available for freelance work) but it’s one of those sort of awkward things so I want to mention it again. What you don’t want is to bug your friends and family and have them throw pity work at you. You also don’t want them to assume since they’re your friends and family you’ll work for a massive discount (or for free). So how do you create an environment where your friends and family know you’re available for freelance work and are happy to pay you for it? Now, that is the finesse of it. Everyone will find her own balance so the takeaway here is to put yourself out there and let people know you’re available.

Places to find clients idea #3: From places you’re a client

This is another time where you’ll need to tread with care and be sensitive to appropriate timing but there’s nothing wrong with mentioning you’re a freelancer while engaging in small talk and allowing the conversation to go where it may. I’ve had many experiences where I’m asked to leave my card behind or picked up the odd client from a place where I’m a client. I love it! Of course you’re not becoming a client in order to find clients…that’s not a hustle I’d recommend, but if it happens organically…awesome!

Places to find clients idea #4: From guest blogging

Guest blogging, guest writing (whatever), is an interesting beast. If you look around the Internet for long enough you’ll see a wide variety of opinions and teachings on why you should do guest blogging, why you shouldn’t do guest blogging, why you should never write for free, why you should write for free sometimes, etc. etc. etc. I’m not here to talk about any of that. I think you should figure out what is going to move the needle forward and then do it with abandon. Anyway, got a little off topic there. If you get into guest blogging and are choosing good partners, this could turn into a writer-client relationship. Honest! I’ve seen it happen! So keep building into your relationships!

Places to find clients idea #5: From partnerships

This idea launches from the last one—build relationships with others and form mutually-beneficial relationships. This could be an agency, a freelancer with complimentary skills, or a local business. The big idea is you share clients. No you don’t get 100 per cent of the pay but you also don’t have to do 100 per cent of the work and in some cases this is an awesome arrangement.

Places to find clients idea #6: From local events/workshops

Something I’ve noticed about freelancers is they’re out in the community a lot. Working freelance has them attending events, observing meetings, and talking to a lot of different people. So what about throwing a little extra networking in while you’re already out? Do what you’re there to do but also mention you’re a freelance writer and if it makes sense, mention you’re available for hire or pass out a business card or two.

This last point is extra exciting to me these days because I’m in the midst of building a workshop for freelancers, which developed from a pre-existing relationship, turned into a partnership and is now a collaboration. Wow. When we began building these relationships this workshop was not even a dream. And yet, here we are.

There are a lot of places to find clients but the well-known places are competitive. Since I like avoiding hustle whenever possible (unless, you know, I need clients YESTERDAY) I like looking in less-obvious places for freelance work. Part of me wants to keep these creative places a secret so I'll be the only one who knows about them but a bigger part of me wants to help other freelancers find work so here we go. Maybe there's a new idea or two in here for you today.

I hope I’ve given you a few new ideas to try here. Remember, marketing is a long game and it’s something you sprinkle into every day—while you’re busy doing other things. If you want some more tips and tricks you’ll enjoy my article on learning how to rock your marketing even when you don’t have time for marketing.