There are a hundred different types of freelance writers. Some work for retail stores and advertising organizations, others work for magazines, newspapers and newsletters, and some write for doctors, lawyers and other professionals. A specific type of writer, a copywriter, prepares copy for a wide variety of materials: ads, brochures, instruction manuals, grant proposals, press releases, media kits, feature stories, magazine articles, TV and radio spots, web sites, company slogans, speeches and many others. Some freelance writers work exclusively for magazines. They perform research, develops and sells articles to magazines and newsletters. Many specialize in a field such as the medical industry, while others prefer the flexibility of writing on a variety of topics.
KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND ABILITIES:
A strong background in English and communications in necessary. You should be creative, logical and organized. It is important that the art of writing comes easily to you so that you can prepare articles and stories to meet publisher deadlines. If you plan to do commercial work (brochures, slogans, advertisements, etc.) you should have thorough knowledge of desktop publishing, business writing and public relations. It helps to have a degree in journalism, or related field, however many writers are enjoying successful careers without college degrees.
The annual edition of Writer’s Market is an important tool in finding buyers for your magazine articles. Be sure to also consider local publications, like your local newspaper and supplements, as well as college newsletters. New writers will find that it is much easier to get published in a small, local publication the first time around. Attend writers workshops and seminars to meet others that may be able to provide valuable tips and information. Networking organizations are a great way to find new customers because they allow you to meet with hundreds of people and business owners that may need your services.
START UP COSTS:
You will need to develop a professional look for your own business cards, letterhead and advertisements complete with samples of your work and references.
Freelance writers charge by the hour, by the day, by the word, by the page or by the job. Most magazine writers establish an hourly or daily rate that helps them calculate profitability. The typical rate is $25 to $50 an hour. However, many magazines pay by the number of words in the article. An editor might offer you $450 for a 1,500 word article, based on .25 cents per word. Most publishers will pay you separately for photographs and drawings, if you provide them. Typically, new writers earn $20,000 to $40,000 annually for the first few years. After five years, most freelance writers who have established their careers are earning between $80,000 to $150,000 per year.
If you plan to do freelance magazine writing, review the current issue of the Writer’s Market. Once you have identified which publications you are interested in, write or call to request editorial guidelines and schedules. This information will help you determine how and when to submit article proposals or queries. You will market your ideas in what’s called a query letter – a letter to the editor describing your proposed article and why it will be useful to the magazine’s readers. You should create a portfolio of at least five samples that you have written to show potential clients.
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