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Monday, January 28, 2013

The Best Market for New Freelancers to Pitch (It's Not What you Think)

I'm often asked what the "best" market for a new freelancer to pitch is, or whether I'd recommend certain markets for a writer who's just getting started. Well, there is such a market, but it is dependent on who you are and what your experience and background are. 
In short, the best market (or markets) for a new freelancer is you can write for more than once. 
Here's what I mean--there are two basic ways to go about pitching an idea. One is to come up with an idea first, and then try to find a potential market for it. That’s what I used to recommend for new writers. The second method is to find a market that you want to write for, and then come up with potential ideas for it.
Today, I suggest that writers use the second method. Here’s why. Marketing, especially when you’re a new freelancer, takes a huge amount of time. If you can find a market that you can write for multiple times, you cut your marketing time. It’s much easier to sell an idea to an editor you’ve worked with before than to someone completely new.
I learned this lesson the hard way. I was so focused on coming up with saleable ideas as a new freelancer that I wound up doing a lot of “one-shots,” where I would write about one subject for one market and then move on. So, I wrote one story on a charity car show for The Lion magazine, and then moved on. I wrote a profile for a magazine called Accent on Living, and moved on. I wrote a story for Editor & Publisher, and moved on. I sold a piece to a (now defunct) health website…and moved on.
You’re getting the idea, right? Each of those stories took a lot of time to pitch, plus I had to research and write them afterwards. By never writing for those markets again, I wasted my time.
My career took off when I started to focus on markets that reflected more of my interests. For example, when I started freelancing fulltime, I was planning my wedding. Then, and as a newlywed, I had lots of bridal-related ideas. Well, I didn’t write just one story for Bridal Guide. Because I came up with more ideas, I got more assignments. And then my editor started approaching me to assign ideas she’d come up with for me.
When I sold a piece to For the Bride, another national market, the same thing happened. Yes, I was still pitching, but now I was a known entity to my editor, and she responded more quickly than she would have to a complete stranger—and also reached out to assign ideas she had come up with to me.
  So forget about selling one idea to one market. So start with markets you can write for more than once, and work with the goal of writing for that publication multiple times. That tip alone will make you more efficient (and smarter!) from the start. 
 **What about you, readers? Did you look for markets you could write for more than once as a new freelancer? Or, like me, did you look for an idea first, and then locate an appropriate market for it? 
  For more advice about freelancing, check out my latest book, Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. And if you're a new freelancer, stay tuned--I'm going to announce THE book that will take you from unpublished to published and paid!


  1. I certainly made this mistake earlier in my career as well. I published stories in Boy’s Life (which is geared towards boy scouts and I don’t know anyone that age so it’s hard to come up with stories) and Pregnancy (never having been pregnant myself, again, it’s hard to brainstorm fresh story angles). Though did some variety and cache to my portfolio but focusing on longer-term markets is a better overall strategy. The other downside to doing a lot of one-offs is that you can start getting added to tons of PR lists on topics you will likely never cover again.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience, Susan! And you make a good point about annoying PR pitches, too. :)

    Readers, I apologize for the earlier blog post looking kind of screwy; I fixed it so it's not running over into the right margin. :)

  3. I'm restarting my freelance writing career after a long hiatus due to the problem you described. I gave up after not being able to really make a living. Now I am trying again and it's nice to know that this is a somewhat common problem with writers. I am still coming up with tons of ideas before pitching to magazines. But I am only selecting ideas from my idea bank that fit with magazines I want a long-term relationship with.