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Freelance Writing Part One

Many writers who are seeking to make an income from their writing have considered the freelance writing market, but many don’t know where to start.

If you want to begin to try to make some money by writing articles and snippets for the marketplace, the best beginning is to take a look at the magazines and papers on newsstands, in newsagents, and articles on internet sites that interest you. The more you browse, the better you will get at knowing your potential markets and being able to sell articles to them.

There are two basic approaches:

1. Write about an idea and tweak it until it is suitable for the media outlet you’re targeting, or

2. Target a specific outlet and, based on your research, come up with an idea that’s perfect for that outlet.

Getting to know what sort of publications are out there and what they require from freelance writers is obviously key in both cases.

The first thing that will strike you in any newsagent’s is the vast number of different newspapers and magazines on display - in some cases, there will be wall after wall of magazines in which you’ll find hundreds of titles. This can be daunting to beginners until you begin to see it as a treasure trove of potential. And that’s even without going online.

As you walk in, take note of how all the magazines are organised: on entry you’ll immediately see piles of daily regional and local newspapers. These will be the publications with turnovers of up to 3,000,000 copies per day, which is why they’re at the front.

Very close to these wide circulation papers will be the TV guide magazines, mass market weekly women’s, and celebrity gossip papers. TV guides still sell well over 1,000,000 and the others can sell up to 800,000 copies per week - they also have the second cheapest cover prices in the shop, next to the newspapers.

Not far from these will be stacks of glossy monthly women’s fashion and lifestyle magazines, by far the largest category because they sell up to 500,000 copies per month.

A bit further back, you will find indoor and outdoor home interest titles, food, cooking and wine magazines, which tend to sell around 100,000 - 200,000 copies per month. As you go further back, the smaller the stacks of magazines become, as they deal with more and more specialised subject matter. These have a smaller circulation. Mixed with these are special editions and less frequently released magazines that focus on interior design, fashion, weddings, babies, health, luxury travel and so on.

On another side of the shop you’ll find the same layout with the men’s magazines, with popular lifestyle titles at the front in big stacks, the specialised ones in smaller numbers near the back. Towards the back, popular lifestyle magazines will turn into sports magazines, which will become specialist sports magazines, then more specialised hobby and single-interest magazines.

Somewhere in all of this, you’ll find all the popular culture magazines: film magazines (focused on film, DVDs, art house cinema, etc.) music magazines, and computer and gaming magazines.

Please note the obvious division between men’s and women’s magazines, and, more notably perhaps for your purposes, the gradual distinction into smaller and smaller categories, which is ‘niche publishing’.

Now you can repeat the whole process online. The internet is another extremely lucrative and exciting marketplace for freelance writers - you should study and try to understand how it works. The internet, through blogs and social networking sites, presents an opportunity for anyone to be published, but what you are looking for is how to find ways of making it pay. Freelance writers need to distinguish between sites which will pay for published writing, and those that rely on user-generated content.

How should you begin to explore this vast territory?

The best, and most interesting way - and thus the way along which you will persist for longer - is to proceed along your areas of interest. Search by subject matter that is fascinating to you, and use the printed world as a guide. You will soon develop a feel for what types of titles are out there and which ones appeal to you as opportunities for your own writing.

Stay tuned for more soon.


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