However professional you might be, it isn’t just your ability to write or the right attitude that will bring in the money, it is also how you project yourself as a writer that will.
You could keep writing marvelous pieces and ‘sending’ endlessly.
Result: A hit sometimes, but most times a miss.
Many a tip and suggestion on how to freelance (find markets), found on the net and elsewhere, may hold well here, it doesn’t necessarily translate into the kind of success one hopes to attain simply because the concept of freelance writing is still at a nascent stage. Every magazine/resource usually has its own in-house writers. They’ve never needed to look elsewhere.
Now with this sudden increasing demand for instant variety and quick article turn-around, they have had to start scouting around for new writers.
So you need to help them find you. You need to go about marketing yourself as you would a brand or a product. You need to be clear about what you want and devise a strategy that will work for you.
A strategy that will project you as a familiar/dependable product who/that will deliver – much like any other product in the open market. Wouldn’t you choose a known brand over an unknown one when say, choosing your cornflakes? Similarly!
Most editors are unhappy with unseen and untried writers while writers are wary of submitting to their dictates without an assurance of a confirmed commitment. Editors have been known to steal ideas submitted as queries. While the market is still chary of writers who have no visible support system or those who do not fall within the general preconceived notions of a proper career, writers are also averse, almost embarrassed, to market themselves or assure these ‘doubting Thomases’ of their talent and dependability. So for both, the mindset has to change. But unfortunately the onus is on you the freelance writer to prove the point, because while they’ve been around for ages you are the new kid off the block!
Despite the Internet making considerable headway in recent times, the print media still holds sway, especially for the serious writer. But yes, they are slowly getting there. Every media house has a presence on the Net.
Whether you want to be a writer in the print media, a web content writer or an author trying to publish, you need to position yourself prominently where others can find you, know you. You need to sell yourself as a dependable proficient deliverer of articles – always on call. It will take time but with every piece that’s published you are that much more experienced and closer to achieving your goal which is, to get established as a good writer. To build yourself a reputation that will stand you in good stead.
And a great way to start is by first getting yourself.
1. A portfolio: An on-call file of articles on topics you are comfortable with is a must. You need to write yourself a portfolio of suitable articles that can be sent in at the hint of a call.
You need to scout round for the kind of magazines and websites you’d like to write for. Understand their writing styles. Call the editors. If they don’t come on the line get their email address. If that is also impossible then check out the email addresses of others on the staff and simply follow the format. Send in your query. Personal mails are usually answered (general are ignored). Now that you’ve touched base the rest will follow naturally but that will again depend on your ingenuity and tenacity. Bottom line – you need to get noticed!
If you know someone who knows an editor or owner get her/him to put in a word, in other words, introduce you via email or telephone. This works good. Then send in your samples. More often than not, you soon become someone she/he knows! You come recommended, don’t you?
- If a friend gives you a reference use it. Email the editor with your query mentioning the friend’s name. Usually a reply will be immediate unless the friend has turned foe!
2. Visibility: This is the next step in marketing yourself! Discussion boards, forums, letters to the editors, Blogs, online writing communities, all of them will help you in getting yourself an identity as a writer. They will make you ‘known’, a familiar name to be reckoned with.
- Take part in genuine discussions on forums/discussion boards whenever you can. Join as many online communities as you possibly can. Become an active participant. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be shy. Help and you will be helped too is but a natural fallout.
- Comment on articles that appear. Write letters to the editor with opinions of your own. Again become a name that is familiar. From letters to a whole piece is but a step away. Get on board with a few of them. Alternate and rotate them. A core group of about five or six will ensure you a steady income even while you explore.
- Don’t confine your contact to just the telephone or email. If possible indulge in some editor hopping. Drop in and see them whenever they/you are free. Become a part of their charmed circle and make sure your flawless articles help. But don’t push!
- Get yourself on the mailing lists of syndicates. Send your stuff in and they will send it wherever. Payment is also assured though at times erratic. Rather than dealing with individual contributors, media houses today prefer to outsource their needs to writing syndicates who supply them with a steady stream of articles. This is actually an efficient way of marketing yourself quickly.
- What better way to sell yourself and your talent than getting yourself a blog? Send the link in to all and sundry. Publicize it. Invite comments. Engage in debates. Anything and everything that will project you as a serious writer, is not to be disdained.
3. Dependability: When editors comes calling, dependability is what will make them return. Whatever the deadline, whatever the cost, you need to come through. Give them what they want whenever. Never say no, Even if you find the project unattractive, put in your best. Suggest topics, make changes. Flexibility wins over rigidity every time. Show them you care; that you are not a one article wonder but someone who can be counted upon. As a marketing tool it works well.
4. Quick turn-around: Editors depend on writers who are quick in delivering. So you need to perfect the art of writing on your feet. Sometimes the turn-around period could be half an hour to an hour. Promise to deliver? Keep your promise. This in turn will keep yon in clover and lead you to bigger things.
5. Networking: Needless to say this is probably the most important part of a writer’s life after ‘writing’. Getting to know editors and other writers has to become a part of your life. It is through a balance of good writing and sensible networking that a freelance writer come into her/his own. How else will you know of projects going a begging or refused by someone that is right up your street? Attend book launches. Mingle with other writers. Mix with editors. Take part in book readings. It will egg you on to greater heights and an assured income.
And with the enviable reputation you’ve managed to gain for yourself (plus hopefully more than a bagful of moolah in the process).
The name of the game is good marketing!