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By: Athena Jacob

Freelance writing can be one of the most rewarding careers, both financially and spiritually. It can also be somewhat overwhelming when flipping through Writer’s Market. Although it’s a very good resource it’s often misused by the beginning freelancer. In this article, I'll help you find out what you might have been doing wrong and then we'll correct those mistakes.

Find a Niche

It’s always easier to do something that you love. If your passion is living green or saving the whales, there’s a market for you. You’d be surprised by how many writers pick several different subjects and then become overwhelmed by upcoming deadlines and demands.

Even picking a subject because it pays well doesn’t really make the material fun to write. I was once guilty of this myself. “Ooh, Mathematical Mysteries is paying one dollar a word.” This is very bad if you are like me and hate math.

What helps a lot is if you make a list, limit it to about ten niches, and then choose your top three. Once you find your chosen niche or niches, you’ll soon be getting paid to do what you love.

Don’t Despise Humble Beginnings

Ever dream of having something printed in Cosmopolitan  or National Geographic? So do thousands of others. Don’t be discouraged.

Starting with a humble beginning will give you the training and experience that is required to pursue top notch magazines. The best thing to do when having little to no experience is to write for trade journals, small online magazines, and be a guest writer on blogs or other websites.

Why Write for Trade Journals?

  • With trade journals you can have little or no experience.
  • Contrary to popular belief, they can pay just as well as big press.
  • It’s still somewhat of a hidden market, making it less competitive.
  • They look great on a resume.

Guest Posts -- Are You Kidding Me? Write for Free?

  • With so many great blogs out there, the possibilities for a writer are endless. Bloggers especially need help writing new content.
  • This will at least give you published clips that you can show to a potential client.
  • Even popular blogs want content help and this is a great way to get your work out to the public.

Have no Fear, the Query Letter is Here

There is big controversy over using a query letter to gain attention from an editor.

Most magazines, trade journals, and bloggers don’t always require a formal query letter for submission.

Just in case they do, there are just a few key points to go over. I did, at one time, hate even the idea of a query letter. Once you understand how easy it is, it becomes a lot less intimidating. One thing to keep in mind is an editor is busy and they want you to get to the point.

  • Inform the editor of the ideas you have.
  • Keep the publication's readers in mind.
  • Know the tone of the magazine -- funny, serious, reflective, etc.
  • Keep it short and professional.

What other tips would you share with freelance writers looking to build a portfolio? How did you kick off your own freelance writing career? Tell us about it in the comments.

About the Author

"While fairly new to freelance writing, Athena Jacob is an avid reader with an interest in journalism and writing fiction. Barely a day goes by that you won't find her with a book in her hands. She now freelances full-time but still actively pursues her true passion in writing -- poetry. To read some of her poetry, check out Writing Rapture, her new writing blog."

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