Monday, January 07, 2008

How did I get started?

OK, pretend I haven't been neglecting this blog. Fine? Fine. Now we can go on.

Someone asked how I got started freelancing. Hmmm, there really was no rhyme nor reason to it. I guess if I had known how hard it was I may not have started.

I'm a journalist, a newspaper reporter by trade, and my first freelance pieces were sold to, on a city I knew. I sent a e-mail cover letter and a few sample pieces. I did a few assignments for dot-coms during those days (that dried up in 2001, however) and in 2001 I also no longer had a job. So I started stringing for the regional paper. Every time I had a story I ended up having to "pitch" it to the editor so he would buy it. My queries are similar to these, although the years have since polished my skills.

Long story short, I started freelancing fulltime from 2004-2006. Did I know anyone? Not really. You end up making contacts and it took me about a year to find steady clients. (And after about a year, they leave and you have to do the same thing over again!) If you network in a place like NYC, you are probably going to do much better than I ever have. Like anything, freelance writing is 50 percent marketing yourself.

Introducing yourself, going to writer/publishing events, making contacts, schmoozing -- it's all part of the game. (Also reading industry info on who's the new editor and who just left where ...!)

Rejection is very common. I think I probably got a YES on maybe 30 percent of what I sent out and I never said no to any assignment, which was probably stupid -- but that's something you also learn.

So if you want to be a freelance writer, you need to write. You need to be curious and you need to entertain. You should also read. When you find a publication that you would like to write for, you send them a query outlining the story idea with a couple of writing samples and mention briefly where you wrote before (if you were published before, if not, don't bother.)

Don't make it long because most editors will pretty much read the first couple paragraphs before they toss or keep it. So put the good stuff up high, the credits and clips at the end.

If anyone has any specific questions, feel free to ask. Thanks for reading!

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