4 Creative Ways Freelance Writers Can Break into Tough-to-Crack Markets

Carol Tice

Pliers cracking a walnutBy Rosella Eleanor LaFevre

You’ve been dying for months, maybe years, to write for your favorite magazine. You know the one. You read it every month.

It’s one of the reasons you wanted to freelance.

But how can you get in the door? You don’t know anybody there.

Maybe your current clips aren’t that stellar. And you know that magazine gets a ton of pitches, because they pay so great.

Still, you can break into those tough, better-paying markets, even if you don’t have a lot of clips as yet.

Here are four approaches you can use to crack your dream publication:

The Shared Values Approach

What it is: We already know social media is important. You can use it to relay a magazine’s message — and grab that editor’s attention.

Retweeting and sharing links and status updates from the magazine show that you’re a reader and that you get the magazine’s message. Interacting with editors on Twitter is a painless, non-invasive way to get noticed.

How-to tips: Once you’ve been active for a while sharing the magazine’s social-media posts, reach out to the editor through a direct message or tweet and ask if they’re open to pitches. If the editor invites you to pitch her, you should make your email subject line something like: “Pitch From Twitter user and writer @handlehere.”

The Big Fish, Small Pond Approach

What it is: My favorite social media site, LinkedIn, is a great tool for finding experts and keeping up with industry news. In some cases, it’s the first place you’ll discover regime changes.

And the beauty of LinkedIn is that an editor’s inbox on LinkedIn is much less full than her email inbox.

How-to tips: If you don’t have a mutual acquaintance, send the editor a well-written, thoughtful pitch in an InMail message. Be sure to avoid these newbie writer pitching mistakes.

The Cold Call

What it is: Some editors respond only to email and hardly ever answering the phone, while others never seem to check their inbox. Sometimes the best way to get a response is to make your pitch over the phone.

How-to tips: Once you’ve got the editor on the phone, begin by saying, “Hi, I’m a freelance writer and I was wondering if I could take up a minute of your time to pitch an idea.”

If she says yes, be prepared to introduce yourself and your idea as succinctly as possible. If she expresses interest, say “thank you” and have a pitch letter ready to email off as a follow-up. (If she bites your head off, say, “Thank you for your time,” and hang up.)

The Love Letter Approach

What it is: Marissa Hermanson, whose piece about looking young at work appeared in the February 2013 issue of Cosmopolitan, has a piece in the March issue of Southern Living, a notoriously tough market. She broke in by sending an email about how much she loved the magazine to its editor-in-chief.

How-to tips: Keep it to a few paragraphs that show you’re a long-time reader who understands the mission of the magazine. Mention a story in a recent issue that you particularly loved.

Add a post-script saying, “P.S. I’m a freelance writer who has written about a, b, and c for x, y, and z. I’d love to write for yours!” If your email signature links to your writer website, you’re good to go.

How have you broken into new markets? Leave a comment and tell us your approach.

Rosella Eleanor LaFevre is a freelance writer and the editor-in-chief of M.L.T.S. Magazine. Check out her blog on the world of magazine, newspaper and online editing at Vision and Skill.

24 Comments

  1. Chrissy Das

    Great post! I’ve used Twitter for years but never considered using RT to gain exposure to editors.

  2. Kevin Carlton

    Rosella and Carol, as with some of the other readers here, I haven’t so far ever pitched an article to a magazine (or indeed anywhere else), although I really should.

    Only wish more writers read tips such as these, so that they stop wasting editors’ valuable time and hopefully get the work they want in the process.

    One thing, however, that I’m not particularly keen on is too much of the ‘please and thank you’ approach.

    Surely, when you’re pitching an idea, it is you that is doing the favour by offering something valuable and useful to the editor NOT they doing you a favour by giving you the work.

    Of course, this assumes that you’re providing something that may be of value to them in the first place.

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