As an editor of an online publication, as well as through working with our Writing Launch members for years, there is a big misconception that I regularly see new freelance writers make. It’s based on a simple misunderstanding.
Here’s the deal: There’s a huge difference between pitching an article, applying for a writing job, sending a proposal to a business, and submitting creative writing for publication.
Let me be super clear: The process is extremely different for those four categories. If you want to succeed in any of those categories, it is extremely important that you understand the distinctions.
At Writing Launch, we get into the nitty-gritty details of this with our members on a regular basis. However, here’s a quick overview.
First, applying for a traditional writing job, as you know, usually requires a cover letter and a resume. This is pretty standard stuff that most people know about.
However, if you want to get published in a magazine (or a blog), then absolutely never, ever include a cover letter and a resume. Just don’t do it!
That’s simply not how the process works. Instead, write a clear and concise pitch and send it to an editor – usually in the body of an email. (A pitch, in short, is an idea for an article you would like to write.)
When you’re sending a pitch, don’t write the article ahead of time. Instead, you’re simply proposing an idea. Only start writing once you have the go ahead from the editor.
If you’re looking to publish creative writing – perhaps short stories or poetry – then you almost always will be sending a completed piece ahead of time. It is extremely rare to be “commissioned” to write a creative piece. Usually, when submitting creative writing, you send a very short email, with the writing attached to the email in a separate document. The body of the email should simply thank the editors for their time, and also include a short 20 to 30 word bio.
Note: Whether you’re pitching a piece of creative writing, or an article for a publication, always check to see if they have a submissions guidelines page. If they do, read it very carefully!
What if you’re proposing freelance work for a business? This is a more complex process, as you are, in essence, selling a product. You need to think of this as a marketing exercise. A general rule of thumb is to focus on understanding the person you are selling to so that you can give them a custom solution that meets their specific needs. You can then approach them with your solution. The more accurate your understanding of their needs, the more likely you are to get a positive response.
Here’s something all of these categories have in common: Rejection.
One of the best things you can do for your freelance writing career is embrace rejection. Every successful writer I know has earned mountains of rejections from a wide variety of sources. Every time you get a rejection, simply remind yourself that even the most famous authors got many rejections. It’s just part of the process.
If you want personal help working on any of the topics in this article, then I encourage you to join the Writing Launch Waiting List here.