How I Got My First Paid Publication as a Freelance Writer

By Susan Lewis

The first time I was published, I was so excited and happy that someone was actually willing to pay me for my work. I had been trying to get paid for my writing without any luck. I knew it could happen but I didn’t know how to correctly go about it. It seemed like everyone else was making great money and I had no clue what I was doing wrong. I had read every article I could read on the subject, but it was all a jumbled mess of ideas, opinions, and successful actions of others that I couldn’t make sense of for me.

I had done the training program at Writing Launch and I felt that finally someone was telling me exactly what I needed to do and how to do it. I felt a renewed sense of hope and confidence and began the process of correctly pitching my work.

I work two jobs and maintain two blogs, so my time is extremely limited. I don’t have the time during the day to write or do anything other than what my employer needs. My work day is usually 10-12 hours, 6 days a week, so not only do I not have the time to look for work and write, I don’t have the energy by the time my day is over. I knew if I wanted to have my dream career of not just writing, but supporting myself, I had to find a way to make it work without losing my current income.

I use the emails Jacob sends from “Freedom With Writing” as my starting point. This makes it much easier to look for pitches and in almost every email, I can find places where I want to find out more. Once I find something, I begin reading their site to get a good feel and understanding of what they publish. I have created a long list of potential work, so I also work that list every month.

Once I figured out who I wanted to pitch, I wrote an email that was short and to the point. For me, it has to be something that I liked writing about. I had done the content mills, which did teach me how to hit a deadline, but I knew that was not the way I wanted to go. Too much stress for too little pay on subjects I didn’t give a damn about.

I had articles I had written which had either been rejected or I never got a response, so I went back to them, did some editing, and looked for publications that I thought would be interested. I would then pitch them. I knew the more I sent out, the better my chances of getting a paid job.

I read the submission guidelines on one particular one and as soon as I did, I knew exactly what they were looking for. It not only interested me, but I had one article that had been rejected a few times. A large part of being paid to write is not letting the rejections bother you. If you’re lucky, they will give you feedback. I rarely got anything other than “Thanks, no thanks.” Usually my pitch went unanswered.

The first thing I learned was to follow their submission guidelines to the letter. Do EXACTLY what they tell you do to. Some will ask for a pitch and others will ask for samples and/or a link to your portfolio. Don’t try to be clever and always be professional. Thank them for their consideration and go onto the next pitch.

I send out at least one pitch a night because it takes time to put together what they are asking for, compile your pitch and double-check that you’ve included what they have asked for.

The first one that agreed to publish me and pay me simply asked for an email with the article copied and pasted into the email. I couldn’t believe it was that easy!

Here is the pitch that got me published and it was very easy and simple to do:

“I write stories and blog about my work in the past with women, along with current jobs and life. I’ve been writing for years and like to submit stories that I loved to have written. I hope you enjoy this one and thank you for your consideration.”

I copied and pasted my story into the body of the email, exactly as they requested. I received a response immediately:

Hi,Thanks for submitting. Please review the attached editorial calendar, with monthly themes and deadlines listed, and let me know where to place your essay for consideration.Best,Leslie

I emailed her back with the information she requested, gave her my short bio and head shot and that was it. I was published in their next issued and paid.

Having now been published, I used that for all my following pitches. I put the link to it on my portfolio and all my social media accounts. A big part of earning money as a writer – or any other profession – is promoting yourself and your work. Once I was published, I gained a confidence and a sense of accomplishment that has kept me going.

It is important to keep pitching and going after where you want to be published. From that article, someone who read it sent me an email to tell me how much they loved my story. That was almost as good as getting paid. They expressed an interest in an article for them, which I sent the following week. I was paid for that within a week, so being published the first time caused someone to pitch me!

There is a lot of information and advice on getting published. Of course, nothing replaces good work, but you have to do the right actions to get the work. Writing Launch broke it all down for me into easy steps and the correct sequence.

The key is to get their attention with your pitch immediately. They don’t have a lot of time and they are probably getting hundreds of pitches a day, so if you follow the steps of the training and submit exactly what they are looking for, you’ll have a much better shot at getting your piece accepted and paid for.

It has become easier and more productive for me since I first started. I keep my pitches short and to the point. I follow-up only if it is in their guidelines to nudge. If not, I go onto the next one. Some publications will get back to you and others will not. The key is to have a lot going out and doing the steps daily.

I simply follow what I learned in the training. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I just have to do the steps consistently and not complicate it. It’s a simple process that needs to be done.

Susan Lewis is a freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction short stories. She also writes effective content for business and non-profits. She maintains several blogs and is an advocate for human rights and for those who have been silenced and works to be their voice. You can find her on LinkedIn here. 

35 comments on “How I Got My First Paid Publication as a Freelance Writer


    I am grateful to all the members sharing their success journey. It encourages me as a newbie in writing that by the end of this training, I will have laid out a solid foundation in writing.

  2. Frederick Blum on

    Success stories are helpful for providing examples in faith that it can be done. I am in a place at the beginning of time from where I can see the goal but the road getting there still looks to be murky and unclear. With Susan’s story, I am able to decipher how the vehicle I must use functions and what I must do for it to drive in the right direction. As with any worthwhile goal in life we choose, it all starts with having self confidence and the willfulness to proceed.

  3. Ashley Smith on

    G’day Susan, it was interesting to read all that and then see that your area of work is probably what I want to do. I have been writing stories of my life that I think will fit the different call outs for pitches from the Freedom with Writing because that’s what I am most comfortable writing and the closest thing to my fiction writing. I had been thinking this was not going to be a good way to go, but in fact I think I just need the confidence to see that as my niche and go with it.

    Thank you

  4. Suman Diwakar on

    The case study of Susan is very inspiring. It is very important to follow the guidelines, rejections are a part of writer’s life ,and it is important to maintain a level of optimism to submit our articles by editing and making small changes that would appeal to the reader/publication.
    It is encouraging to learn a peer to peer experience and success here at Writing Launch!

  5. Hemisha Shah on

    Listening from a fellow Writing Launch member is helpful and insightful. I know I’ve started in a right direction now after hearing your experience. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  6. Maryanne Gathemia on

    Thanks for the advice and it does seem a simple matter of pitching over and over and putting in the hard work. I have done content mills which is very frustrating and i have been trying to break into the freelance writing space where you can earn enough to pay the bills and even have some left over so this is very insightful.

  7. Jean-Robert Clervoix, jr. on

    I am starting to really appreciate all the case studies after each session. the above piece of Susan Lewis’ experience resonate with my past and current issues trying to bring my life’s work to inspire, inform, educate, with an inspirational poetry book under my belt yet it felt like I was going in circles.

    Today, I understand that it is not about the quality of my work although well appreciated in numerous events and speaking engagements yet I know the rules to formally pitch is crucial.

  8. Nicole Taylor on

    Very encouraging story, thank you. I too have learned deadlines from content mills but I’m so tired of writing about topics and people that I have no interest in, and for so little pay. Never be able to pay the bills from a content mill. This course is starting to fill in the gaps that I found myself in on trying to get started. Seems to me it’s my own fear of failure that’s holding me back. I hope my confidence continues to grow as this course evolves.

    • Patricia Sills on

      The main point is as with every profession, hard work and determination. Wanting it enough to give up tv or such.

  9. Victor Iwobi on

    Great encouragement for newbies like me. I can see the need to brace up in the pursuit of getting published and paid in my chosen niche. Thanks for the elaborate picture.

  10. Cathy Park Kelly on

    Hi Susan

    Thanks for this, very interesting. Have read a few of your articles on Medium and am now following you on Patreon! Yay!
    Keep writing!


  11. Pamela Deaton on

    I love your approach that is so straightforward. It makes me think I too can attempt this! Thanks!

  12. Diana Grippen on

    Great ideas and clearly organized process. Create a blog and have examples of your writing ready to share and submit.
    Work with consistency. Keep on sending out a pitch. I am beginning to understand how to work.

  13. Jeanne Meger on

    Will have to read this story a few times to get the full gist of it in mind. A good teaching tool for newbies like me. The simple process seems too simple. But it worked. Having an article already done is a plus. And getting a rejected article published just by finding where it filled a need is a double plus.
    Thanks bunches Susan Lewis.

  14. Karin Bauer on

    Thanks for the information. Ive been struggling to find where I can get paid for writing. I submitted articles and had them published but did not get paid for them. I did it to get my name out there and get noticed. For the work involved i would like to get paid for my work however I enjoy writing and getting my name out there.


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