I'll be traveling to Oklahoma City tomorrow for OWFI's annual writer's conference. (Please come up and say hi if you're there!) My first pre-conference session is on "Breaking In: The Basics of Writing for Magazines," which is one of my most popular writing-related programs.
If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that I advise new freelancers to break in by pitching a story they're uniquely qualified to write. You demonstrate this in your ISG, or "I'm-so-great" paragraph of your query where you highlight your relevant knowledge of/experience with the subject.
And that is a wonderful start. Just don't make the rookie mistake of thinking that your experience is enough to write the piece. I see inexperienced writers do that all the time, and that's a major reason their queries don't sell. This isn't an essay you're writing--it's an article. That means that 95 percent of the time, you're going to do research and conduct interviews to write your piece.
Your personal experience is a great starting point, but it's only the starting point. Let your editor know you "get" it with a killer query that not only highlights your ISG but the types of sources you plan to interview/use to write the piece. Trust me--this strategy lets you avoid a common rookie mistake and boosts your chances of getting your first assignment.
Readers, what do you think? If you're new to the biz and in pursuit of your first clip, you'll find 20 queries that sold (including those from newbie freelancers!) in Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create your own Writing Specialty and Make More Money (Kindle edition).