You could use access   to a difficult-to-find source (something I have done) or access to a celebrity   who doesn’t give interviews often. When I first started, I was   spending almost 80-90% of my time pitching. Diversification   is something freelancers should look at. If you get hired,   it will be because you have a story to tell that only you have   access to   because of your location. Jane: One of the   complaints I hear from freelancers is that online writing doesn’t pay. You might have technical knowledge about a   subject that   most writers don’t. But I’ll also add that I have been able to use my   journalism   experience to break into the content marketing field and the top   agencies and markets in that field continue to pay $1 per word or $200-300 per   hour to writers who can demonstrate expertise and experience in specific   industries. Mridu: In my experience, whether a publication will   pay well (or at all) will come down to how it’s funded. What do you   wish you had known about making freelance writing pay when you started out? $1 a   word.)
Specializing in a subject or region can also be   helpful. Most writers are pretty intimidated even   thinking about pitching these   publications. The way to break into top publications as a new   writer is to give them something unique, something no one but you can offer. Mridu was a   successful freelance journalist for twelve years before starting The International Freelancer. Definitely. Last week, she released   a list of 70+ publications that pay $1 a word or more (or a $500+ flat rate). If you dream of a full-time freelance writing career—but have felt discouraged by the largely negative messages about how difficult it is out there (many of which come from freelancers themselves), then allow me to introduce you to Mridu Khullar Relph of The International Freelancer. Could it work as a pitch for an agricultural magazine? I do find that original reporting is almost   always going to be something that’s valued and we’ve seen that shift recently   in the minds of consumers. I was told I couldn’t do it from   India. When   considering the practice of professional full-time freelancers, how much time   would you say is spent working on pitches (and researching pitches or   publications) versus the actual writing and revising? By that I mean that I’m a big advocate of making sure you do your research   before pitching   and approach ANY magazine with your best ideas, even the local   ones, even the ones that don’t pay as much. (I talk about   that here.)
I’m now more focused on books but in 2014,   which is the last year I was making my entire income from freelancing, I would   have pitched less than 20% of the time. That’s important to remember. And here’s the way I think you’re going to be   able to do that as a new writer: Come up with ideas editors can’t say no to. I’ve worked with nonprofits, national governments, and big   organizations working in the fields of agriculture and solar technology and   been paid incredibly well for that work. I was told that if you   wrote stories about social issues, you wouldn’t get paid for that work. While obviously you’d want to do your research before pitching,   and approach such magazines with only your best ideas, what else can a writer   do to be taken seriously by   such publications, especially early in their   career? I wish I hadn’t listened to all the experts and   the advice about starting with local publications and the “realistic” advice   about freelancing not being a viable career. I feel like it might be a mistake to categorize   markets as deserving of higher or lower quality pitches based on what they pay. I was told   you could chase the awards or the money but not both. You have a   good number of A-list magazines on your list of 70 publications   that pay $1 a word—such as New York Times magazine, Oprah, The Atlantic, and so   on. So   they grow organically and often take time to become high-paying markets, if at   all. That an editor in New York may not have heard about,   for instance? That’s just one example. If you have any freelance aspirations at all, be sure to visit The International Freelancer. Always be willing to put your best   work out there and not skimp on any part of that effort because when you   do   your best with absolutely every pitch and every assignment, you’re adding to   your learning and your clips. She   put together this list in defiance of everyone who says it’s “impossible” to make a living as a freelance writer and to provide a helpful resource to the wider community of freelance journalists and writers who are looking for ways to earn more. As one   becomes more   established, do you think less time is spent on pitching and researching   publications (because you have relationships in place)? (We forgot to add them to our list, but they too pay approx. She built her career from New Delhi, India, writing for top US and UK publications, including The New York Times, TIME magazine, The Independent, CNN, Forbes, ABC News, The Christian Science Monitor, GlobalPost, and more. She is   currently based out of London. (My   highest-paying assignments have been about human rights issues.)
The hardest thing for me, personally, was   learning to trust my gut and to allow myself to follow my own path, even if   that meant that I had falls along the way. Online publications such as Ensia, which I’ve   written for, will often pay   for well-reported, well-researched stories, for   instance. Can you comment on the types of online writing that   can and do pay, versus those that don’t? Do not be intimidated! That   isn’t true in my experience, although I can understand why that   belief is widespread, especially when good online   publications fold (e.g., The   Toast) for lack of funds. While I love the   startup and issue-based feel of many online publications, they are typically   run by people passionate   about a topic and who have access to limited funds. Mridu was kind enough to answer my questions about the freelance life. (More on that here.)
I think that’s key to talk about, too. When you   send that pitch, you won’t get hired because of your credits. It   happens more frequently than you think. For me, it is both. Or   what lesson was the hardest to learn? The appetite for them seems almost   endless, but perhaps for   that reason personal essays, unless they’re going in the   back pages of national magazines, aren’t incredibly high paying. I didn’t have any work and I wasn’t   writing the best pitches, so I was sending out five pitches a day as a matter   of practice. If it’s a   big   enough trend and growing, could it work for a news publication? This list we’ve published is all about   $1-a-word publications and as someone who is incredibly passionate about   telling stories   from the developing world, I have found that news magazines,   online markets, and consumer publications have been a fantastic source for   feeding that passion. I was told it was   impossible to make a decent living with it. I routinely negotiated double the initial pay I was offered simply   because I was a journalist in India working for US and UK publications and   translating East to   West was something I did well for my clients and I was   often one of the handful of people doing it. Right now, personal essays are   everywhere and writers love writing them. In terms of the kind of writing, I think it   often comes down to supply and demand. Once that’s done, I advocate to my students   that they stop overthinking the whole thing and simply start getting their work   out there. She’s won several awards for her journalism, including being named Development Journalist of the Year in 2010 by the Developing Asia Journalism Awards for her work on wastepicker women in India. If you’re a writer in Ohio, is   there a new trend or   farming technique that you might be able to report on that   has national relevance? This was partly because of   relationships with editors   but it was also because I had introduced content   marketing into my business and I was getting a lot more regular and high-paying   assignments from those clients. Unique ideas that they don’t have access to. Many of my students have started off getting   paid $500 or $1 a   word for their first, second, or third assignments. Because now I am proof that it doesn’t   have to be love or   money.


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