Writing an article or feature for magazines and newspapers on a freelance basis is interesting and fun but with so many print editions going out of business it can be difficult to make a full time living.
Don’t let that put you off though, as there are still opportunities out there as long as you go about it in the right way.
Ideas are Key
As a beginner the first thing to know is that ideas are key when it comes to getting an article or feature into print. You will be aiming for that golden ticket – the commission and the way to get that is to send great ideas to editors in the form of a ‘pitch’ or ‘query letter’.
Your ‘pitch’ will be sent by email and in it you will set out three ideas (for some reason three is the magic number), a little bit about yourself and why you should be the person to write the article. This could be that you have some expertise or personal experience relating to the topic you are writing about.
Your mini bio should include what writing experience you have and whether you have been published and where. You can add a couple of sentences with relevant personal details, for instance, if you are pitching a parenting magazine mentioning that you are a mum will definitely help.
You should come up with a good headline for each idea that will grab the editor’s attention. This may take some practice but looking at the headlines in the magazine or newspaper that you are pitching to is necessary and will help you get a feel for what they like.
Then you should start each idea as though you were writing the actual article. The first opening paragraph will be the ‘hook’ and should literally hook the editor in and make him want to carry on reading. After the hook you can use bullet points to give an outline of how the article will run.
Whatever your idea is you should ideally have someone in mind to interview and before you ‘pitch’ to your chosen magazine it’s a good idea to ring the interviewee and ask for a sample quote to use in the query. This will not only give weight to your query you will also be able to confirm that the person is happy to be interviewed. Be honest when you ring them and say it’s for a proposal for whatever magazine you’re targeting and could they spare five minutes to give you one or two quotes. Always ask if it’s a good time to talk or could you phone back at a more convenient time. After you’ve got the quote/s thank them and say you will let them know the outcome. And make sure you do because if you don’t get the commission and don’t bother phoning them back, you can probably guess what their response will be next time you ring.
When you have done this for the three ideas, finish off your query with a short explanation of why you are the person to write the article and then add your mini bio.
This is a sample pitch of mine sent to a national glossy magazine sometime ago that got a positive response. The original email had been sent followed by another email a couple of weeks later as I’d had no response from the first one. The editor then asked if I’d send the ideas again, hence the very informal opening. She liked them all and offered to take them to the next editorial meeting but in the end they didn’t go for any – this often happens and is due to various reasons, which could be as simple as planning similar features by editorial staff. If this happens, tweak the idea and move on to the next magazine.
Thanks for your reply; here are the ideas:
Easing into Yoga – a guide to styles and their health benefits
Yoga’s recent resurgence in popularity means more people are thinking of taking it up, but there are so many different styles sometimes it can be confusing knowing which one to choose and what the benefits of each style are, and even if you’ll be flexible enough to manage the moves.
Studies in both the UK and US show that by practicing yoga regularly, health benefits can be gained for a myriad of problems from irritable bowel syndrome to boosting bone growth and even lowering blood pressure.
Hatha yoga is usually the best choice for beginners and is a gentle way to ease into the discipline, especially if you have not exercised for a while. There are many different styles, however, from the more vigorous Ashtanga through to Iyengar, reported as being practiced by Madonna.
This article will include a round-up of the most popular forms of yoga and what to expect at your first class, matched against the various health benefits that can be gained.
I will interview an expert from the British Wheel of Yoga and include comments from a practising yoga teacher.
I can also include case studies.
The surprising health secrets your feet can reveal.
Love them or hate them your feet may be hiding some surprising secrets about the state of your health. They may be, quite literally, the furthest thing from your mind but paying them some attention with a regular examination by a qualified podiatrist can reveal underlying conditions anywhere in your body, from malnutrition to kidney failure.
Ann Smith, a qualified podiatrist for over 20 years says, “People sometimes think I am psychic as I can often tell from certain signs on the toenails that a person has had a recent illness.”
This article will include:
Interview with Ann covering:
• What a podiatrist does
• Health conditions that can be revealed by an examination of the feet
• Other benefits of having regular foot examinations
• Tips from on how to look after your feet
Crossroads – The Legacy
It may be over 27 years since the television series last aired on our screens but it has left a legacy that is still going strong today. Crossroads Care, a charity which supports carers is now one of the biggest organisations in the UK and its Coventry and Warwickshire branch has recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Penny Collard is Chief Executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire branch. She became a young carer for her disabled brother in the days when the term ‘carer’ was relatively unknown. The experience ignited a desire to make a difference and she has dedicated much of her life in support of carers and the disabled.
Crossroads Care was born when a young disabled man called Noel Crane contacted the producers of the show after watching the story of one of the most popular characters, Sandy, who became wheelchair bound after a car accident.
Noel told the producer that his experiences differed from those portrayed in the soap and his feedback was used in the episodes that followed. The soap’s producer then asked the television network to fund a pilot scheme which would help carers in Noel’s home town, and a donation of £10,000 was made. A small group supporting carers in the town has now grown into a nationwide network of 76 branches and today employs 5,000 people who provide support to carers all over the UK.
Penny has worked for Crossroads Care for the past 25 years, she says, “Caring is a full-time job for many of the people we work with and it can be extremely challenging. We do a lot of training for carers and it can be practical such as knowing how to move a person safely without harming yourself, or it can be helping the carer to understand the condition their loved one has.”
This article will include:
• Interview with Penny Collard who was awarded an MBE last year for services to disabled people.
• Case studies of carers helped by the charity.
• The story of how the charity began could be included in a sidebar.
I am a freelance writer based in Warwickshire. I have written features for both local and national publications including Coventry Telegraph, My Weekly, Right Start, Childcare, Sew Hip, Four Shires and more.
I’ll welcome any feedback and can be contacted on ………. or by email.
Thank you for your time.