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Build your Brand to Write for Magazines

This guest post is by Valerie Khoo from www.ValerieKhoo.com

This article is the first of a three-part series on how to build your brand through your blog and get paid for your creative output and expertise.

You love being a blogger. But you’re not that interested in spending time driving traffic to your site so you can charge big dollars for advertising or sponsorship. You just love writing—and would like to find a way to get paid for your words.

While early blogging models focused on monetization of the actual blog, this series of posts focuses on how to use your blog to monetize you. After all, your blog can be the best form of advertising—a place to showcase your writing skills and expertise so that you can make money from them.

If you’ve discovered that you love writing, it’s worthwhile exploring the world of freelance writing. And I’m not talking about writing for content mills, where the rate of pay is very low. I mean freelance writing for mainstream publications (like Wired, Fast Company or marie claire).

When you write for magazines or newspapers (online or in print), as opposed to blog networks that might pay per view, it’s typically not your responsibility to also build your audience. For people who simply love the craft of writing, this takes the pressure off having to create headlines with tantalising teases, or pack your posts with lots of SEO-friendly keywords.

So how do you add “paid freelance writer” to your bio?

Hang out your shingle

Have you actually made it clear on your blog that you’re available for freelance writing gigs? Is it on your bio or business card?

If not, how are people going to know?

Let’s take the bio on your blog. While it might feature witticisms like “Husband, father and photography enthusiast; loves pepperoni pizzas and single malt whiskey”, this doesn’t give any clues that you actually want to write.

I spoke about this at a blogging conference last year and it was a lightbulb moment for one blogger who had been trying to get into freelance writing. Already an excellent writer, her blog showcased her writing skills but her bio didn’t mentioned anything about the fact she was available for freelance work.

She added this to her bio, started telling people about it and, within a month, she was offered a freelance writing project. In addition to blogging, she’s been earning income for freelance writing work regular ever since.

Define your expertise and showcase your writing

If you want to write articles on gadgets/craft/food/whatever, make sure that your blog reflects those topics. You want an editor to land on your blog and immediately get a sense of your area of expertise.

However, if you don’t want to be confined to posts about gadgets/craft/food/whatever (because you also can’t resist blogging about how cute your cat is), then at least make it easy for potential editors to find your “professional” posts.

Use category tabs and feature them in your bio or in a prominent place on your blog. You might even consider a tab called “My best writing.”

Editors often don’t have time to trawl through the last three years of your blog to find the posts which really showcase your talents. They’re busy, so help them out and maximise your chance of getting hired by handing your best writing to them on a silver platter.

Create specific ideas for specific markets

Now that you’ve tweaked your blog to best position yourself as a freelance writer (and let’s face it, this isn’t hard … you just need to feature your best stuff so that an editor doesn’t have to dig around for it), it’s time to get some paid work.

When you approach editor about contributing articles as a freelancer, here’s what works and what doesn’t.

Bad: “Hi, I’m a freelance writer. I was wondering what kind of topics you cover? Feel free to give me a call if you have an article ideas you’d like me to write. You can check out my writing on my blog.”

Good: “Hi, I’m a freelance writer. I was wondering if you might be interested in this idea for an article.

“I know that your publication really appeals to women over 30 who are coming to terms with their first few years of motherhood. So would you be interested in an article about how women can maintain links with the corporate world while they’re on maternity leave so that they can re-enter the workforce without falling behind? I’ve include four links to posts on my blog where you can see samples of my writing.”

In other words:

1. Know the market

Show that you’ve read and analysed the publication and know what topics the readers may be interested in. If you make it clear to an editor that you’ve never read their publication before approaching them, don’t expect a response; the editor has already hit Delete.

2. Don’t wait for the editor to give you ideas for article

Editors often rely on good freelancers to provide ideas for articles. If you don’t provide a specific idea then you are, by default, expecting the editor to do the work for you. So you’ll go in the “too hard” basket in favour of someone who provides an article idea that they know the readers will lap up.

3. Make it easy for editors to see you’re a great writer

We talked about this in the second point above. Editors are bombarded with pitches from freelance writers every day. Cut through the clutter by leading editors directly to your best work.

Your brand, your writing

If your blog has ignited a love for writing—but you don’t want to turn it into a monetization machine—freelance writing is a great way to get paid for your words.

Have you landed any freelance writing gigs through your blog? How did you build your brand to make that happen? Share your story in the comments.

And check back tomorrow for part 2 in the series, building your brand to get a book deal.

Valerie Khoo is founder of www.SydneyWritersCentre.com.au which offers online courses in magazine writing. She blogs at www.ValerieKhoo.com and is author of the new book Power Stories: The 8 Stories You MUST Tell to Build an Epic Business. www.PowerStoriesBook.com.

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Comments

  1. Jason says:

    “Good: “Hi, I’m a freelance writer. I was wondering if you might be interested in this idea for an article.
    “I know that your publication really appeals to women over 30 who are coming to terms with their first few years of motherhood. So would you be interested in an article about how women can maintain links with the corporate world while they’re on maternity leave so that they can re-enter the workforce without falling behind? I’ve include four links to posts on my blog where you can see samples of my writing.””

    I disagree…the language here is not good at all.

    “so would you be interested…”

    1. Remove the “so” or at least ad a comma

    Instead start it with “Here are four articles that would be of particular interest to you…” Be active, not passive.

    2. Don’t ever give a topic abstractly – editors want to see that the work is done – you’ve written the article.

    3. Don’t make run-on sentences in your email – that translates to a writer that makes run-on sentences in their articles! Instead, make them bullet points

    • Valerie Khoo says:

      Hi Jason

      Thanks for your comments.

      Re your point 2: While some editors may like finished copy, many editors are happy to receive story idea pitches. This gives them an opportunity to shape the article with the freelancer, in case they want to tweak it in a certain direction.

      I’ve made in excess of six-figures in a year by emailing editors pitches only. I never write the full article beforehand. I gauge their interest first because I can then adapt the angle to what they want if it will suit.

      Hope that’s useful.
      Valerie Khoo

  2. Hi i was actually thinking of freelancing and being a total newbie didn’t know how to break into this field. However your post told me how to do that. I have a blog and i just know how to break into freelancing now. This way i need not pitch others for employing me.

  3. anon magazine writer says:

    Well, magazine writing, at least on the editorial side, is not a “great” way to get paid for your words if you only want to write. You have to be extremely well organized at collections. A great many magazine publishers delay payment to writers. The standard wait is months, but occasionally I have not gotten payment for more than a year, even more than two years. And that’s the ones who do intend to pay their writers Even large magazines go bankrupt, leaving you unpaid forever. For you, this may seem too obvious to mention. However, for writers coming from the blogging side of things, where they’re used to sending out an invoice and getting paid in 10 days, it should be stated upfront. Too many people seem to go broke while awaiting that nasty “payment on publication.”

    • Valerie Khoo says:

      In my experience, “payment upon publication” used to be the norm. And I agree that this wait is painful and ridiculous. Now, I find that publishers are moving towards a “payment on invoice” model. The wait is usually four to six weeks. So it’s not as quick as 10 days. But if you write regularly then you end up with a steady cashflow.

      Just like in any business, there are those who pay on time and those who don’t. Over time, I’ve identified those who are slow payers and those who are prompt. I stop working for the slow payers and focus no the prompt ones.

      Also, I’ve joined a number of informal freelance writing forums and groups, where we share information about who the slow payers are – then we collectively avoid them!

  4. Ben Troy says:

    This is a one-stop resource on how to promote, and goes far beyond what most consider reputation management. Excellent article, Valerie

  5. Great post for anyone trying to become a free-lance writer. Sometimes putting it out there is half the battle when it comes to picking up gigs.

  6. Mi Muba says:

    Writing for blogs is really a low-paid job; in this situation your tips to be promoted as fullyfledge writer for magazine and newspapers is really a great help for blog writers.

  7. I AM a paid freelance writer, at least I have been many times in the past, and I do not mention anywhere on my blog that I’m open to it. Duh. Thanks so much for the great advice!

  8. Valerie, Create your specific idea. That’s a good catch. Indeed, one of the key aspect to consider at online. Thanks

  9. This post is quite encouraging for free-lance writers. It is worth the read from time to time as it is an excellent resource for not only beginners, but also the experts in the field. Thanks a lot for the good write Valerie.

  10. I like the idea of not waiting for the editor to give you ideas for article. It is very obvious that a good writer will have ideas beforehand. This will enable the editor beware of the fact that he is dealing with a professional, or at least someone with a passion. Thanks a lot for the post, @ Valarie.

  11. one of the aspect i hate about the magazine and paid writing, that you are bound to time limit. so before hoping into paid writing, please ask yourself “Are you ready for it”?

  12. Daniel Jordi says:

    Fantastic post, I was wondering how I could start making money with my blog without advertising and before I have a massive audience to get product sales. This is a great way I think and I will start getting in contact with editors and publishers in my space asap.

    Thanks a lot!

  13. Pansy says:

    Wow, awesome blog structure! How lengthy have you ever been blogging
    for? you make running a blog look easy. The total look of your
    web site is magnificent, let alone the content material!