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, editorial director at DoctorOz.com 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, a staff writer at Atlas Obscura 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, come up with a few go-to experts you can use that will develop your piece.
After turning in a pitch or a query letter, you may not hear back from the editor right away, but don’t panic. It’s important to remember that editors have a huge workload, and may have other deadlines to meet before they can evaluate your pitch. You can shoot your editor (or potential editor) a follow up email, just not too soon. 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 written up 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. Labeling it, ‘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, digital director at CountryLiving.com and WomansDay.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 1,300 words,” she says. So, as obvious as it sounds: Different articles call for different lengths, so make sure you’re aware of what the word count is! Your editor will thank you.