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How to Become Your Editor’s Star Freelance Writer

By AnaMaria Glaven

Freelancer writers (especially in the digital age!) are a necessity in the magazine industry and sometimes, it can seem almost impossible to stand out among the sea of other writers. But not to worry, whippersnappers: with these tips, it’ll be easy to become your editor’s go-to freelancer.

Be Ahead of the Deadline
The unofficial golden rule of freelancing is to abide by your deadlines. But in order to really shine? Rather than submitting at the stroke of midnight (Cinderella style), make sure to turn in your articles a little early. Colleen Travers, senior editor at Dr. Oz Digital says, “Turn your assignments in early. Even if it’s just a day or a few hours, try not to wait until the last minute to hit ‘send.’ This lets your editor know that you can manage your time effectively.”

Really Pitch Your Pitches
Pitching ideas can be super stressful and, sometimes, it’s easy to email off an idea with a sentence or two. But before you click ‘send,’ make sure your ideas are specific and fully formed. Jessica Leigh Hester, associate editor at The Atlantic’s CityLab, says, ”I prefer pitches that are fairly detailed—definitely more complete than a sentence or two. I’m looking for at least two paragraphs: one telling me why the story is timely and appropriate for my audience, and one devoted to explaining how a freelancer will tell it.”

Also, she adds, “That includes potential sources, please!” To make your pitch seem especially solid, jot down a few go-to experts you can use that will develop your piece.

Follow Up
After turning in a pitch or a query letter, you may not hear back from the editor right away: but not to panic. It’s important to remember that editors have a huge workload, and may not get back to you right away. If you still haven’t heard back about your pitch, it’s okay to shoot your editor (or potential editor) a follow up email. Hester says, “If you’re waiting to hear back about a query, I’d say a week is probably the sweet spot when it comes to follow-up. It’s great to be assertive, but don’t spam the editor.”

Take the Assignments You Don’t Pitch
When it comes to freelancing, pitching and writing go hand in hand. However, editors will often have topics that they need a write up on and, of course, good writers to do it. Whether the article is about home, health or beauty, always accept the assignment. Travers says, “Be open to lending a hand. Even if it’s not an idea you pitch, editors will always remember that you helped them and when the time comes for the next more exciting assignment, you will be front of mind!”

Differentiate Your Email
Hester, says “I love it when pitches are clearly called out in email subject lines, too. Freelance Story Pitch: TK TOPIC helps differentiate it from PR emails.” Ah, PR firms. Awesome when they send you free stuff, but not so awesome when they flood your inbox. With that in mind, editors get a TON of emails a day, most of which they won’t open. When sending a pitch or an article, make sure to write a subject line that states exactly what your email contains.

Stick To Word Count
Another essential thing to keep in mind? “Stick to word count!” says Lauren Matthews Ide, senior web editor at CountryLiving.com. “It can be tough to edit yourself when you spend a lot of time researching and interviewing and want to include every little tidbit of information you found in the story, but it makes the editor’s life much harder when he or she has asked for a 700 word story, and you turn in, say, 1,300 words,” she says.

Also, as obvious as this sounds: make sure you’re aware of what the word count of the article is. Different articles call for different length, so it can be super easy to get confused with how much you should be writing.

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