Through NY Creative Interns’ partnership with Eventbrite for their blogger tour, I was able to attend the Girls Write Now panel Freelancing: From Idea to Print. The panel featured speakers Donna Bulseco, Demetria Irwin, Caludia Parons, and Toni Sciarra Poynter, who talked about the process of freelance writing from the perspectives of published writers and full-time editors. Here are some tips from the panel to help you formulate, pitch, and get your article published.
When thinking of ideas for articles, be original
Or at least put an original spin on the idea. There are certain topics out there that have been so overdone that an editor won’t even look at your pitch if it seems even a little familiar. To avoid getting your idea skipped, make sure that the article you want to write has an angle only you could provide. For example, lots of folks write about basic relationship issues, but maybe you are/were in a relationship where your partner is obsessed with a certain object or piece of media and you can give advice on how to share in the obession, or maybe when it’s time to break away. Or perhaps you could write about how to handle an NYC relationship when you live in Brooklyn and your partner lives in Queens; you could list the best subway lines to take, where to meet in the middle, things to do in each area. Adding a unique, new spin to the idea gives the idea more heft and authenticity, and definitely leads to a more publishable piece.
Answer people’s questions
Claudia suggests picking article topics based on currently unanswered questions and trying to answer them with thorough research. A good way to test if an idea fits this realm is by asking yourself “What does this [idea/article] tell me that I didn’t know before?” For example, there are tons of articles out there about why avocados are good for your health; how about asking if avocados can help women during pregnancy? Or if avocados can make teeth stronger? Or maybe weaker? Yes, these may seem like silly ideas, but listing silly ideas first can lead to good ideas.
Be an expert in your topic
Have you noticed how much more trustworthy articles seem when written by someone who has extensively studied the topic you’re reading about? Experts often get published more than merely curious writers according to Demetria, so when formulating an idea, you really have to do your research (see the word “thorough” in the above section.) And when you’re pitching your article, it will help your chances of getting the assignment or publication if you show the editor you’ve really done your homework on the topic. As Donna added, “If you’re writing about a certain topic, research the heck out of it first,” and “make sure you have reliable sources of information.”
Keep pitches simple
When writing your pitch letters for publications, keep them short and concise. Most editors are incredibly busy during the day; they don’t have time to sit down and read a 500 word essay about why your article is the best thing they’ll ever read. They need the idea delivered to them in a quick, accessible manner, so you want to the letter to tell exactly what the article contains in as few words as possible.
Stick to your publication’s requirements
If you get an assignment, remember to stick to your publication’s guidelines. If they ask for a 2,000 word article, don’t turn in the piece at 3,000 words with the expectation that it will be edited to size. If they want your piece in a word doc, don’t send them a PDF. If they ask you not to swear, don’t consider yourself the exception. Keep to their rules, at least at first. Build up your reputation as a hardworking writer who can follow directions. Later, editors may be more relaxed with you.
Switch from a pipeline to a portfolio mindset
You may not always get the assignments you want, and sometimes editors may twist your original idea into something completely different. If you can still handle it, take the project and use it to build a solid portfolio. The bigger your portfolio of well-written, published pieces, the better you’ll look in the eyes of your next prospect.
Do you have any tips about freelance writing? Post them in the comments.
This post is sponsored by Eventbrite NYC. Eventbrite enables people all over the world to plan, promote, and sell out any event. It’s also a destination for people to discover awesome events going on in THEIR city. Whatever your hobbies or interests – from photography workshops and wine classes to food festival and industry conferences, there’s an event on Eventbrite for you to attend. Keep up on the goings-on in The City That Never Sleeps by following Eventbrite NYC on Twitter, or liking them on Facebook. Planning an event? Go ahead and create an account to get started.