Starting a career as a freelance writer for magazines is a lot like getting a meal at a fast-food restaurant. Decisions need to be made, action needs to be taken and patience needs to be shown. Ordering fast food is not scary, but for most, starting a freelance writing career is. I am here to tell you it doesn't have to be.
What'll You Have
The first thing you need to do when getting to your favorite burger joint is to make a decision. You have to figure out what you want to eat. You are not going to say, "I know I want to eat, but I am not really sure what I want. Maybe I want a cheeseburger. No, no, I want a chicken sandwich. Well, I don't know-can you just get me something?"
The same is true with your writing career. You can't spend your life staring at the menu thinking, "Maybe I'll write for magazines or maybe I will write for newspapers or maybe I will just let everybody know I want to be a writer and they can call me if they need anything." This won't get your very far. You have to make a decision about what it is you want. "I want to be a travel writer or I want to write for Sunset magazine." And then stick to it.
Once you decide what you want to eat, now you need to be specific. You can be the type of person who takes your food to the table and picks off all the stuff you don't want or you take the time upfront to place a specific order and get exactly what you want. "I would like a cheeseburger with no onions and just a little bit of ketchup."
When you make the decision to become a freelance writer, affirm your new career choice. Be specific and shoot for exactly what you want. "I want to be a sought after travel writer for national magazines and make $30,000 a year."
Now take the necessary steps to make this happen. Read articles, study the markets and immerse yourself in this world. You need to become an expert in this area so you will be confident in your writing and editors will be confident in your abilities.
While You Wait
When you place a special order at a fast-food place, it usually takes a little longer, so you have to be patient. The same is true with your writing. Once you have taken that step of sending out queries, you have to wait for responses from editors. To help with this waiting game, keep writing. Continue researching new ideas, write more queries and send them out. To help yourself stay on track, decide on the number of queries you want to send each week and honor that number.
Out of Order
What would happen if while you are waiting for your order, the person behind the counter says, "I am sorry, our shake machine is not working. Can I get you something else to drink?" Would you take this as a personal attack? Would you think they thought your original idea of ordering a vanilla shake was ridiculous? Would you feel hurt and rejected? Probably not. You would try something else.
Let's say you get a letter from the editor you sent your query to and she says, "Thank you for sending us your idea, but unfortunately we cannot use it at this time." You have a couple of choices here. You can take it personally and feel hurt and rejected. OR you can try something else. There are many markets to query. If one says no, find another one. Editors are not out to get you; they are just doing their job. They have a vision for their particular magazine and not all great ideas will fit with their vision
Time to Enjoy
After all these decisions and waiting, your order is finally ready. Now you can enjoy your meal and satisfy those hunger pangs. In freelancing, this is when the editor calls or emails telling you that the query was great and to go ahead and write the article. It is time to jump in and satisfy your need to write and to create a piece to make the editor happy. Remember to stick to your word count, the topic and your deadline. If problems arise along the way, stay in communication with the editor.
Become a Regular Customer
Imagine that you continue to visit this same fast food restaurant. Eventually you would be able to walk in, greet the employees by name and say, "I'll have the usual." They will get you exactly what you want and you didn't have to go through all the work to order.
The same thing can happen in your freelancing. Your goal should be to become a regular contributor for a certain magazine. The way you do this is to continue querying and writing for the same publication. As long as you write quality pieces that meet deadline and word count, the editor will be happy. Eventually you won't have to write a full query, you can just call or email the editor with a short pitch and get assignments that way.
So, what are you waiting for? Step up to the counter and place your order for one freelance writing career.