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Getting Started

Many people dream of making a career in freelance writing. However, it is a very crowded field, like acting, music and pro sports, with thousands of hopefuls for every one freelancer who makes it big.

Here are some tips to help you turn your dream into a reality:

  • Expect to pay your dues. No matter how talented you are, major newspapers and magazines rarely give inexperienced freelancers a chance. Start with free publications. They can be devoted to any of a number of topics, such as local news, arts, sports, parenting, home repairs, etc. They are distributed in stores, restaurants, and libraries, through the mail or in street corner boxes.
  • Find places to start close to home. Contribute articles to alumni publications; identify trade publications related to your profession, industry, or hobbies; or surf the web for websites that are looking for content writers with your particular knowledge.
  • Expect low pay to start. In the types of publications mentioned above, expect an article of up to 1,000 words to earn you $50 or less -- perhaps only the experience and future reference.
  • Build a "clippings" file. In writing for smaller publications that pay poorly, your goal is to build a file of "clippings" or "clips." This is the equivalent of an artist's portfolio or a musician's demo tape. Before even considering you for their pages, the editors of bigger publications will demand to see samples of articles that you've had published elsewhere.
  • Pitch ideas to the editor. In approaching any editor, you must offer an idea for an article. Your idea must demonstrate familiarity

    with the publication and the sort of articles that it runs. Naturally, you'll be suggesting something new but in line with the publication's general focus. Selling an article idea is much easier if you can demonstrate expertise in the field in question (based on your prior experience or contacts, for example).

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