So, you've completed your course and you feel like you’re ready to start working and earning money - where do you start?
If you are working as a freelancer, you have the luxury of being your own boss. It sounds great to begin with, but remember that this also means you are responsible for finding your own work and getting in touch with editors. It’s no good sitting at home and waiting for editors to contact you and beg you to write for them – you have to be prepared to be proactive!
You will not have a “boss” who will tell you what to write about and when. Instead, you will come up with your own ideas, write an article with a target market in mind, then contact editors to see if they would be interested in buying your article. When you’re doing this, make sure to get a copy of the submission guidelines before you send anything in as different editors will want different things. Some might want a complete article, while others would prefer a shorter query letter or outline first. By sticking to the submission guidelines, you make an editor’s job much easier and they are more likely to read your submission properly instead of putting it straight in the rejection pile.
There’s a reason market research is such a big part of our courses. We know it isn’t much fun, and it might not be what you had in mind when you enrolled on a writing course, but our aim is to help you to make money, and this is the way to do it. It might seem boring at the time, but learning how to research the style and tone of your target publication will help to give you the best possible chance of having work accepted. Tailoring your work to your target market shows an editor that you take your work seriously, and shows them that you see this as a job, not a hobby.
Now, when you’re first starting out as a freelancer, you’re bound to get a few rejections. This is normal, so don’t be disheartened. It’s part of the job and there isn’t a writer alive who can say they have never received a rejection. It doesn’t mean your work isn’t good, it just means the editor doesn’t have a place for it right now.
If you receive a rejection – don’t argue! Politely thank the editor for their time and their reply, then move on and submit your article to someone else. Remember, editors have a huge pool of freelancers to choose from when they are looking for articles, so you need to make a good impression. Your attitude is just as important as the quality of your work, so whether you’re writing a letter, emailing or talking on the phone you need to keep things pleasant, polite and professional. If in doubt, ask yourself: “would I say this in a job interview?”
If you are serious about making a living as a freelance journalist then you need to be willing to work. This is not a quick and easy way to make money; it is hard and success requires a lot of motivation and self-discipline. It is absolutely worth it in the end, but if you want to be successful then you need to be actively looking for new markets all the time.
You should constantly be looking for new publications, and essentially reading anything you can get your hands on! New writers are far more likely to be paid for their work if they target smaller publications or those that are just getting started. If you’re struggling, pay a visit to a local newsagent or a larger supermarket and pick up something you’ve never heard of before. Challenge yourself to read it from cover to cover and then make a list of articles you could write if you really put your mind to it. You’ll be surprised what you come up with!
Lastly, the best advice we can give you is to never give up. There is no time scale you have to work to, and two writers can do exactly the same thing and get different results – it’s just the nature of the industry! Success has a lot to do with luck, and submitting the right thing at the right time is crucial. The more articles you write and submit, the more likely you are to have one published – so get writing!