When you think of writing for magazines, chances are you think of consumer magazines--the "glossies" you see on newsstands. You may be overlooking an even bigger section of the magazine publishing industry--trade magazines. (My recent survey of more than 100 fulltime freelancers found that only 13% are currently writing for trades.)
Trade magazines serve a specific niche--they're aimed at people who work in a particular trade or industry and are typically sold only on a subscription basis. While a few don't pay, most have rates ranging from about $.20 to 50/word and higher. The editors aren't inundated with queries the way consumer mags are, and they're usually looking for people who have some knowledge of their industry--and can write.
One of the best parts about writing for trades is that once you have your foot in the door, your editor is likely to come back to you again and again. A single query to Chamber Executive, the magazine for the ACCE, led to a three-year relationship (until a new editor took over). A letter of introduction to IGA Monthly again led to several dozen assignments. Another bonus? Often your editor will provide you with the sources she wants you to interview, which slashes your research time. And I've found that edits tend to be minimal, which boosts your hourly rate.
To locate trades, check your local library for Bacon’s Magazine Directory, Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media, and The Standard Periodical Directory. Bacon's lists more than 55,000 markets; the later two, more than 70,000.
When pitching a trade, I suggest you use an LOI, use industry lingo, think about the audience of the market, and show that you're up on the business the magazine is about. A well-written letter of introduction is likely to pay off if the editor needs writers, so if you know about a particular industry, why not consider branching into this overlooked market?