If you missed the first two entries in this series, catch up here:
Adventures In Freelance Writing Volume I
Adventures In Freelance Writing Volume II
Successful Query Letter Sample
As promised, I’m kicking off this edition with a sample of a successful query letter which got me my first assignment for Today’s Parent. I had queried this editor several times, always with prompt and positive replies (even if the answer was no) and once she was interested in a story and we went back and forth for a bit, but it ended up there was no room in the issue. Here’s what I sent her one day last Spring:
You can check out the completed article here:
They loved your pitch, and gave you the assignment. What do you do now?
Be clear on the details: Read the contract and/or any other communication (e.g. e-mails) carefully to make sure that you know exactly what you’re being asked to do. What’s the word count? Does that include sidebars? Deadline? I was mortified not too long ago to get back a draft with lots of revisions necessary, because I had gone a bit off track and not covered the angle the editor was looking for. Once you get rolling, it can help to refer back to your assignment notes occasionally just to make sure you’re going in the right direction. I checked in with another editor recently just to touch base with how I was drafting up an article – I’ll probably be paranoid about that for a while now – and the reply read: “PERFECT! I love the way you are developing it!” Whew.
For locating experts, Google can come in handy (though you have to be careful that the person you find actually qualifies as an “expert” on the topic), but usually I already have an idea of someone I’d like to speak to based on previous contact or their work in the media, so I’ll fire off some e-mails and see who bites. I know Toronto-based magazines are sensitive about trying not to over-represent Ontario and the GTA in particular, so when looking for sources for my article above, I did some Googling and contacted a Midwives association out west and a OB/GYN association out east and was able to find two fantastic sources to interview. It’s important to get this ball rolling right away, as it can sometimes take a while to get chats booked. I also find writing less painful (yes, I said it) when it’s spread out over time.
Be professional: Always. Make sure your communication is appropriate and positive (even – especially? -on social media). Ask the important questions, but don’t expect editors to hold your hand. Thank them for the opportunity – even though hopefully they’re seeing it as a win-win situation, it never hurts to use your manners.
While I think I’m a decent writer, there’s a huge pool of people out there with talent, and the way you conduct business could be exactly what sets you apart…for better or worse.
I’ve even been offered a couple of assignments I didn’t ask for, one at a magazine I’d never even contacted, because editors talk. Both started with “Such-and-such an editor suggested that you might be interested in writing a piece on…”
How I Made My Blog Work For Me:
There’s no requirement that freelance writers have websites or blogs, but it’s certainly a great way to showcase your work, practise your art (is that an oxymoron?) and perhaps make a few bucks. Here’s how I use This Mom Loves to my advantage.
Focusing just the right amount on quality writing: I definitely try to avoid errors, but not to the point of obsession. I would say 95 % of my posts are error-free, but I can still go back through them and find the occasional typo. I make an effort not to let it bother me.
Accepting review materials and sponsored posts, selectively: While I’m most interested in print publications, being paid for sponsored posts is still freelance writing work as far as I’m concerned, and while I realize you can’t pay the bills with Build-A-Bears, being given products for review can still help a bit with the budget if they’re the right items. Plus last summer we did Nashville for deep discounts as I was writing travel posts, and went to Centreville, Santa’s Village and Legoland for free as promotional opportunities. Be very transparent and make it clear to your readers when products/services have been provided free for review purposes, or you were paid to write the post, and avoid any companies or products that don’t jive with the values you hold or the image you want to present.
That’s it for this edition! As always, I am happy to answer questions from other new writers out there, so please don’t hesitate to contact me! I’d also love to know what topics you’d like to see covered in the fourth volume of Adventures In Freelance Writing!