November 06, 2002
How to Kick Start Your Freelance Career By Susan Miles
I must admit, I have never had dreams or lofty ambitions of being a writer. I have always been in awe of those who could write and their ability to inspire and motivate those who read their offerings.
Six months ago I noticed an offer for readers to submit articles in one of my favorite publications, Runners World (Australia/New Zealand edition). I had just returned from my first overseas running event and was busy sending off emails to friends and family describing this amazing experience. A quick rework of one of these newsy emails produced an article on the theme of striving for your dreams, which was picked up immediately by the magazine.
After this article and then a second the following month in the same publication I started to think maybe I was onto something. I began explore other avenues and opportunities to sell magazine articles. While I read and absorbed all freelance and marketing advice I could find, I was a little unconvinced of the need to submit articles to publications one at a time (too slow) and by mail (way too slow).
My strength appeared to be inspiring sports/running type articles. As there is literally only one running magazine in my own country, I needed to go international straight away. The Internet quickly provided me with a long list of publications of this type throughout the world. While reading the actual magazines would have been the preferred option, a detailed review of the magazines' websites (and writer's guidelines when available) gave me a good feel for the type of content that would appeal.
I then set about submitting a combination of proposal outlines and completed articles to these publications via email. I deferred from attaching clips or my submissions in attachment form (mindful that these may not be opened by editors through fear of computer viruses,) and pasted my submissions into the email. At the end of each submission, I included a detailed list of my writing credits and offered to forward copies of these articles by mail if required.
I submitted simultaneous submissions, something most writers guides will advise against. I took a geographical approach to this issue, and submitted my multiple proposals to regional publications that did not share the same demographic. This has allowed me to sell the same article to a Houston-based publication and a Seattle publication which was satisfactory to both editors.
I have been working in the corporate sector for well over a decade, mainly in finance, and decided very early on in my freelance writing that I would apply the same standard of professionalism as I do in my finance career. My email submissions are always structured in a business letter format, I respond with a short but courteous thank you to all feedback provided (whether it is an acceptance or rejection), and I keep detailed records of all articles, who I have submitted to, and their replies.
A recent proposal I submitted was greeted with positive feedback but it was an idea that a staff writer was preparing to write in the coming month. A vague offer was made for me to "be involved" in this piece. I promptly offered my services to do the legwork for the staff writer and to provide a detailed draft/research document. This was enthusiastically accepted with agreement by the magazine to purchase my draft.
So what have I learnt from a mere six month of freelance writing?
1. Be totally professional, in both your conduct and your actually writing.
2. Email submissions are acceptable, just as long as they are structured as carefully and professionally as a posted submission.
3. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, just think geographically.
4. Publication websites are a great alternative when you can't easily purchase an interstate or overseas magazine.
5. Go with your strength, and then
6. Think Globally! (If your writing is good enough for a local magazine, then it will be good enough for a similar publication interstate or overseas).
Susan Miles lives in Melbourne Australia, and is enjoying her new freelance career writing for sports, health & fitness and travel magazines in both Australia and the US. She has recently formed a partnership with a UK based photographer to produce a series of travel features and is also working on a travel book for women, a combo of travel hints, photos and essays taken from her own extensive travels through Canada, the US, Asia and Europe.
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