Best Editor Tips: How to Get in Magazines Over and Over


Best Editor Tips to Get More Assignments. Makealivingwriting.comHere’s a little secret: The best editor in your niche frequently gives the same freelance writers story assignments.

Sounds pretty good if you’re one of those writers, right?

But what if you’re not? Is there a best editor Book of Commandments you can follow to move up and earn more?

That’s kind of the million-dollar question.

You spend a lot of energy and time sending out pitch letters and letters of introduction. How do you catch the attention of the best editors to expand your freelance writing business?

If you’re feeling like trying stay fully booked is an exhausting effort, you’re not alone.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a more energy-efficient way to get repeat freelance work from the best editors.

Want to learn how to get more assignments with less effort? Here’s how it’s done:

Make connections to make more money

If you want to make more money as a freelance writer, and reduce the amount of hustle you have to invest to land work, get to know the best editors and their publications. Taking the time to build a relationship with an editor will help you:

  • Hone your pitches
  • Develop strong, interesting story ideas
  • Improve your writing skills
  • Get more yeses, and
  • Be the first writer an editor calls for the next assignment

If you’re trying land an assignment, think about it from the perspective of former Toronto Star travel editor Jennifer Bain:

“It’s 40 percent about the story, 40 percent about taking or sourcing photos, and 20 percent about being a dream to work with.”

So, what can you do to be a “dream” to work with? Here are seven ways to connect with the best editors to land repeat assignments.

1. Communicate

Editors like to know what’s going on. If you need clarification about the assignment, or are having difficulties with your story, let the editor know.

For example: If you can’t get a hold of a source or discover new information that could change the angle of the story, check in with your editor.

You’ll build trust, reduce his/her stress level, and raise the chances you’ll be the first to contact for new assignments.

2. Be on time

Never miss a deadline. Make that a mantra when an editor gives you an assignment. Sure, unexpected events might mean you’ll have to ask for a deadline extension someday. But make the norm turning in your assignment on time or ahead of deadline.

Do this: As soon as you get a pitch accepted, or are given an assignment, ask for the due date, and take it very seriously.

Why? The production schedule for the magazine, newspaper, blog, or other publication is usually tight, and depends on everyone taking care of their portion.

3. Keep it clean

One of the easiest ways to win over an editor…turn in clean copy. Every assignment you complete should be:

  • Well-researched copy that meets word-count guidelines
  • Written in a voice and style appropriate to the publication
  • Formatted as requested based on the publication’s guidelines

Note: Although most publications have copyeditors, your editor will appreciate it if your piece doesn’t need cleaning up. Use spell check, triple-check name spellings, polish the piece, and write a great headline.

4. Play well with others

Unless you’re writing a personal essay, most assignments will require you to interact with other people: sources, photographers, graphic designers, and the people in accounting who get you paid. If you want to wow an editor:

  • Act professionally with everyone you meet in the course of researching and writing your story
  • Be gracious and thank people for their assistance
  • Represent the publication in a way they would appreciate, even though you’re a freelancer.
  • Use good manners on the phone and professional language in all emails and written correspondence
  • Be easy to work with, cheerful and enthusiastic, and leave a good impression

5. Listen to feedback

You submit your assignment on time or ahead of deadline, and then the editor asks you for updates, corrections or changes.

  • How do you respond? Curl up in the corner rocking back and forth in the fetal position obsessing about the request, or jump in and make the updates?

If your editor tells you something that needs to be fixed with your piece, or suggests that you should do something differently, listen and respond gratefully.

Do this: Rather than seeing it as criticism, consider it as an opportunity to learn something and improve your skills. Take mistakes seriously, and make requested corrections in a timely manner. Try to not be defensive. Accept any edits gracefully. If you think they’re inaccurate, take it up with the editor and discuss the matter.

6. Be available

When an editor contacts you, write back as soon as possible. You don’t have to be available 24/7, but don’t leave your editor hanging.

When you respond, be enthusiastic and ready to write the article, on their schedule. Realize the article isn’t done when you turn it in, because you may be asked to complete edits and revisions.

Be the writer an editor can count on in a pinch. For example, sometimes pieces need a quick turnaround. Tackle the assignment, do your best work, and turn it in on time. When you step up for an editor like this, you’ll be the first person they think of when they need a writer to fill another assignment.

7. Go the extra mile

Consider what else your story needs, and help provide it. Most stories will be accompanied by photos, so if you have ideas for great shots, communicate this to the editor. Or maybe you have ideas for sidebars, an infographic or pull-quotes for your story. Share this with your editor.

When you go the extra mile, most editors notice. It’s a great way to become one those writers the editor keeps giving assignments to.

Wow editors to win more assignments

If you want to win more freelance assignments for your favorite magazines, invest in building relationships with those editors. Even if your pitch is rejected, stay in touch, follow-up with a better pitch. And when you do land an assignment, do your best work. And you’ll quickly become the go-to writer editors want to work with.

How do you get repeat freelance assignments? Leave a comment below, and let’s discuss.

Catherine McBride is a freelance writer based in Louisville Kentucky who writes about food and health.


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  1. Linda June

    What I do when I get asked for edits, even when I hate the suggestions: I write back saying, “Thank you so much for the feedback. I’ll make the changes right away.” My ego had to be tamed, for sure, but when your editor knows it’s emotionally safe for her to send a change request, she’ll respect you and be very happy to work with you.

    If it’s clear the editor really doesn’t know what she’s asking for, not having researched like you have, it’s easy to diplomatically tell her how the changes won’t make sense. When that’s the case, I ask if the editor knows of any resources I didn’t cite that will point me in the right direction. Usually, the edit request is withdrawn at that point.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve successfully fought against edits and won, too…sometimes that’s what you gotta do!

      • Linda June

        Sometimes you have to or they’ll look foolish (and make you look foolish, too, if you’re getting a byline). They don’t know that, so you want to be gentle when explaining what their suggestions will do to the piece.

        Thanks, Carol, for your website!

  2. Judith Norris

    Hey Catherine,

    Good suggestions! I especially liked #’s 4 and 5.
    #4 Play well with others. Really? Why can’t people get along?
    #5 Listen to feedback. People are either afraid of positive criticism. Are they are afraid of being better? Who knows?
    The others are super cool as well. Happy writing!

    • Catherine McBride

      Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed the post. Cheers!

  3. Krishnamurty Worah

    What is your opinion of Grammarly ? Is it reliable in correcting language mistakes?

    • Carol Tice

      No idea…I don’t use any tools like that. I think if you need a tool like that, I wonder if writing for a living is for you, honestly. But maybe others will weigh in? People certainly use it…but I guess I was thinking more for writing school papers or something, not writing for clients.

    • Evan Jensen

      Go have a look at this Make a Living Writing blog post: Grammar Checker Tools: Crucial Software or a Crutch for Freelancers?

    • Cherese Cobb

      I use Grammarly. It’s good for catching minor grammar mistakes and spelling errors. However, it’ll often give incorrect grammar suggestions and doesn’t alert you of missing words either. My suggestion: run it through. Then read your article from bottom to top, especially if you have dyslexia as I do. I hope that helps. 🙂

  4. John Kerr


    Long time reader, first-time commenter. I’ve been using this blog for years to stay motivated. This is such a great resource for people trying to build a career in writing, thanks for all your effort!

    Do you have any suggestions on how to connect with editors if you don’t have a huge resume? Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      John, congrats on your first comment!

      Freelance writers don’t have resumes… and a great query with a hot story idea they’ve just got to run has gotten many a writer an assignment with no clips at all. Remember, every writer working now once had no clips — right? So it must be possible to break in cold.

      • Evan Jensen

        Hi John,

        Lots of different ways to connect with editors without a big network. If you’re looking for an easy way to get published, try your local newspaper.

        Come up with a story idea about something or someone in your community. And pitch the idea to the editor. For example:

        -Feature on a public figure or local personality
        -Round-up on real-estate trends in your community
        -Preview of upcoming community event
        -Deep dive into a hot topic discussed at the last City Council meeting
        -Profile on new business/owner

        You might not get paid, or earn something like $50 for the story. But IMO, it’s a fast way to get published, and get a legit clip you can use to market yourself elsewhere.

        I worked at community newspapers for about 10 years as a freelancer, reporter, and editor. Always short-staffed, always on the lookout for fresh content.

        • John Kerr

          Evan, can I just say thank you for the amazing feedback! All great ideas, and things that I’ve never considered (especially the real estate thing). Very cool, man!

      • John Kerr

        “Freelance writers don’t have resumes…” Damn, I wish someone had told me that before I bought all this parchment paper… Seriously though, thanks for the feedback. I’ll let my great story ideas speak for themselves.

        As soon as I have one. Love the blog, Carol! Thanks so much

    • Catherine McBride

      When I started to do freelance writing, I wrote a few nonprofit newsletter articles and posts on friends’ blogs, for free. These allowed me to build up my confidence and have clips. Then I read Carol Tice’s “Earn Money Online: Monster List of 161 Markets for Freelance Writers” (Google it!) and found some paid opportunities that worked out for me. More clips, paid this time! It takes some time and determination, but it’s definitely achievable!

  5. Emily Gurnon

    As an editor who has worked with many freelancers, i can’t tell you how often i have had a writer ON THE VERY FIRST ASSIGNMENT miss the deadline. This looks bad, and makes me extremely reluctant to hire them again. Also, i would add: write to the assigned length. If i say 800 words, don’t give me 2000 and then expect me to do the work of cutting it down because you “had so much great stuff!”

    • Carol Tice

      OMG, I have SUCH A COMPLEX on first assignments, and would never want to miss the deadline! I try to block out an entire day, several days BEFORE, for writing. But I think a lot of writers don’t know how many flakes are out there, and how much goodwill you can create by just being on time!

      • Evan Jensen

        “OMG, I have SUCH A COMPLEX on first assignments.”

        Carol, I’ve always loved that you’re totally transparent about this. (Get a first assignment, then spend part of an afternoon rolling around on the floor with self-doubt and loathing. Then get up and get to work)

        Never fails for me either. Even if it’s an assignment on a topic I’ve written about a thousand times. Always have a bout of catastrophic thinking on first assignments, and then the client is happy with my work.

        But the complex persists, even after years of writing. LOL. I guess knowing that about yourself helps you work out a plan to meet deadlines and get the work done.

    • Catherine McBride

      Absolutely. Meeting the deadline and complying with word counts are two simple things writers can do to make editors appreciate them!

    • Catherine McBride

      Yes, meeting the deadline and complying with word counts are two very simple things that writers can do to make a good impression on an editor.

  6. Kelsey Zander

    Love this advice! I’m a transcriptionist who is trying to break into copywriting. I transcribe a lot of phone interviews for B2B publications. Polite, engaging interviewers who sound grateful for the opportunity get such better content than interviewers who sound like they are distracted or reading off a script. It never dawned on me how this would translate on paper and to an editor until now! Fascinating.

    • Catherine McBride

      I am glad you enjoyed the article! Good luck with your copywriting, sounds like you have a great attitude and are on the right track.

    • Catherine McBride

      Thanks, I am glad you enjoyed the article! Good luck with your copywriting, sounds like you have a great attitude and are on the right track.

  7. Barbara Shaw

    What has worked for me is to see yourself from the editor’s point of view. They don’t care about who you are, but they care very much about what you can do for them.

    I let editors know right away that I want them to see me as a resource they can count on for whatever it is they need, whenever they need it.

    I compliment them on a particularly fine story by another writer, a great photo, a good story concept. I suggest related articles I could write. I study who their advertisers are as a clue to the interests of readers, and what might be needed.

    — ads for disposable diapers…articles about babies and toddlers.

    — ads for high end jewelry and clothing … a story about a gourmet farm-to-table restaurant in your town, an artist’s retreat on the Amalfi coast, or a secret yoga hideaway near Puerto Vallarta.

    — ads for easy prep foods — A jaunty anecdotal lead followed by a collection of healthy recipes for dinners in fifteen minutes, from scratch.

    When an editor sees you as a resource, you are a dependable producer who doesn’t make mistakes and NEVER complains.

  8. Evan Jensen

    Just keep pitching. If you’re writing solid pitches, the editor will eventually notice. Here’s an example:

    When I met the editors for Oklahoma Today magazine at an event, I followed up the next day with a pitch. Got rejected, but the editor encouraged me to try again. So I did. Scored a first assignment. And that turned into a regular gig with a story assignment or two every month.

    When the editors planned out a special issue, I was among the first writers they called to assign those stories.

    Gave up the gig when I moved out of state, but if I didn’t I’m sure I’d still be a regular contributor.

  9. Heather Ritchie

    Great article! It’s full of actionable information and great tips that I’ll definitely keep in mind the next time I approach an editor. What is so sad as that many writers don’t take these key elements in mind when writing for a magazine. If you get the chance to actually write for one and you don’t make a good impression, there are plenty of other writers ready to take your place. Thanks for the awesome information.

  10. Charmaine Engelsman-Robins

    Sounds silly but one of my best tips is to up your deadline if possible. When I get my deadline … and assuming there’s no reason NOT to do this … I mark it 48 hours earlier on my deadline calendar. Editors need and appreciate a little breathing room come crunch time.

    • Carol Tice

      Nothing silly about that, I totally do it! Give yourself the wiggle room.

  11. Willi Morris

    #5 did me in recently. They were trying to manufacture conflict in a personal essay where there was none. After the third or fourth email/phone call with edits as I’m about to go out of town, I got irritated. I told them I can’t give them a story that’s not really there.

    I got paid but the story never got published and the editor has ignored all of my emails. 🙁

    • Charmaine Engelsman-Robins

      Understood. I signed on as a REPORTER for a small weekly newspaper only to find out that what the publisher/owner really wanted was someone to take her dictation and put a byline on it. And PS it was pretty much all bullshit. No thank you!

  12. hari

    hey Catherine,

    wow! that’s what this post is, simply wow!

    golden tips! thank you so much!


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