How to Keep Magazine Editors Coming Back

Freelance writers work hard to build up a solid portfolio of clips. It can take months or even years to build strong working relationships with editors. When a new editor or client gives you that first assignment, it’s important to nail it so that the editor is eager to work with you again – hopefully month after month.

I have written regularly for a number of publications – many of them approach me with regular assignments. In fact, my biggest client last year, which accounted for about 50 percent of my income, was a client I've never pitched once (other than an initial introduction letter). How did I get to the point where I don’t have to query certain editors?

Here is all you need to know to keep your editors coming back.

Meet Your Deadlines

At one time I found this hard to believe but there are many unreliable writers out there who turn in late assignments or just go M.I.A. on their editors. The good news is this makes it easy for the rest of us to get and stay on an editor’s go-to list of writers. Be that writer who turns in assignments on time. Score extra points if you submit your assignments ahead of deadline.

The last thing an editor wants to do is scramble to replace a writer. So maintaining communication is vital. If you’re going to be late or can’t complete an assignment for any reason, be sure to communicate with your editor.

My editors know that when they give me an assignment it will be in their inbox by the deadline. And I know that by being consistently reliable I am greatly increasing my chances for future assignments.

Don’t Fuss Over Edits

Busy editors don’t want to put up with ego-driven writers who fight them about every small editing request. Whenever one of my editors asks me to make changes to an article, I gladly do it. I have no creative attachments to the articles that I write, so editing is a breeze. Besides, I’ve never had an editor make an unreasonable editing request.

Take my advice: Stay on the editor’s favorite writer list by making editing a no-fuss affair.

Follow Directions

Don’t take creative liberties with article assignments. Most of my articles are for trade magazines and I must follow the specifications given by my editor for the article. Writers who turn in stories off-topic and miss word counts don’t get offered future assignments. Editors like to do minimal edits. If they have to totally rework your story every time, don’t be surprised if they stop calling.

Know Your Reader

Always keep your readers in mind when writing articles. When writing for consumer publications things like age, race, geographical location, and income are all important reader characteristics to keep in mind. If you’re writing for a business audience, what are their business problems and how will your article help them overcome them?

If you can write specifically for the publication’s audience, you’ll be an editor’s dream. A trade editor recently told me that a writer who understands her publication’s target reader is more valuable than a writer with lots of experience.

Keep these tips in mind as you’re building your portfolio and you’ll soon have lots of repeat business from happy editors.

How do you maintain relationships with editors for repeat assignments? What tips would you give a new freelance writer to help them make a long-lasting impression with editors?

Profile image for Denene Brox
Denene Brox has been a freelance writer for more than six years. She’s based in Kansas Cityand specializes in career development and health topics. She is also the webmaster of Freelance Write Now, a site that teaches beginners how to get started in freelance writing.

6 thoughts on “How to Keep Magazine Editors Coming Back”

  1. AMEN, Denene! All of the above is true. As a former magazine editor, I’ve had the writers miss deadlines, go AWOL, argue changes, and write what they damn well please instead of writing what fits within the magazine’s focus and readership. All of the above gets you a reputation – one you don’t want.

    Give them good, clean copy and know that once you hand it over, it’s no longer yours. Let them edit as they see fit (within reason – don’t let them introduce errors).

  2. Couldn’t agree more. When it comes to writing for a magazine, your ego just doesn’t matter. I have had my articles cut in a way i didn’t much like, but hey the money more than made up for that. The fact is that there are so many writers out there clambering for magazine writing jobs, that you need to set yourself apart. especially here in the UK where the top magazines consists of just a few titles. getting your article in one of them (as I have done) takes plenty of negotiation and some good luck.

  3. Another hearty AMEN from this former magazine editor, and you’re 100% right about the benefits of a query-free stream of work.

    I would add is that you need to tailor your communication style to the editor’s individual preferences. Some like constant communication, regular updates, or cc’s on emails to key sources, etc., while someone with a “just send me the story” style will react poorly to what they perceive to be too much handholding. I was in the latter group, and it drove me absolutely nuts when a FLer would be constantly calling or emailing with questions or updates….but, now I have a few clients that LIKE that kind of thing, so I’ve learned to adapt my style to it.

  4. I’m a newbie freelance writer who hasn’t done much but write for content mills. I’m thinking of stepping up and giving magazine writing a shot. I’ve bookmarked this article for future reference.

    Thanks a lot, Denene.

  5. @J.J. Lancer, Best of luck to you in writing for magazines. It really is a very satisfying to see your name in print! Glad the post was helpful.


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