If you pay attention to movies and television shows that feature people living in New York City, you will see that an abundance of characters are “freelancing”. A freelance writer is an independent contractor who writes for a publication. Freelance writers can write for magazines, newspapers, and online markets. Using a freelance writer allows the publication to publish a variety of voices with different points of view and experiences, but also saves the publication money; since they are paying the writer per assignment and are not providing benefits.
As a freelance writer there are numerous markets ready to hire you. The online market is growing everyday as more and more websites pop up. These websites need content for the website and many of them have e-newsletters that are sent out on a weekly or monthly basis. Newspapers, both local and national, routinely rely on freelancers; although in this industry the term is known as “stringer reporters”. Since newspapers have strict deadlines, if a story suddenly pops up and the staff writers already have other assignments, a freelancer will be called. Assignments can be given out on short notice and the work can be hectic, but writing for a newspaper is a great way to open doors to bigger opportunities.
Many people dream of freelancing for national magazines, and they do hire freelancers. This can be a tough market to break into, since so many people are vying for a limited number of jobs. It is best to start out with smaller regional or trade magazines and once you have several “clips”, copies of your published work, you can break into the national magazines.
Typically, a freelance writer will think of a story idea and write a brief synopsis and send it to the publication’s editor. This is called a “query”. Different publications have different guidelines for accepting queries; some will accept them via email and some will only accept them via postal mail. If you are going to send one via snail mail, enclose a self addressed stamped envelope; if your material gets rejected the editor will send you the rejection slip in your SASE. Rejection is a big part of a writer’s life. Remember, they are not rejecting you. They are rejecting your story idea. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are a bad writer, it just means it is not the right time for that particular publication to publish that type of story.
Pay rates vary wildly in the freelance world. Some publications pay upwards of $1 per word and some pay one cent per word, and some do not pay at all! As a beginning writer, you will be earning fees on the low end of the scale, but as more of your work is published and you gain experience, you can begin asking for more money.
Contrary to what Hollywood portrays, you don’t have to live in New York City to enjoy a career as a freelance writer. If you want to work from home and enjoy writing, you can have a successful career as a freelancer, even if you live in Small Town, U.S.A.