When I began the journey to become a working writer, I took a freelance writing course taught by Kathryn Fanning at the local library. Week by week, I learned from Kathryn how to study the markets, identify what topics I was qualified to write, query magazines with the article ideas, write and submit my work.
When I told our pastor I was looking for articles to write, he showed me a small denominational magazine that was looking for profile pieces. He suggested I interview
and write a profile of a lady legendary for her church and community service who had died. Yes, my first published piece was about a dead woman! But that also was the first magazine that paid me for an article. Granted, it wasn’t a lot of money—I think my first sale was $60.
Yet as I opened that little magazine with my byline tucked in our mailbox, I remembered the wise saying, “Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.”
During the two years before I started my first nonfiction book, the experience gained while freelancing proved invaluable. Adapting the content from Homelife: The Key To Your Child’s Success At School produced 10 articles that were published in national magazines (and for a bonus, included a photo of the cover and author bio at the end, which I asked for).
So while making additional income, the articles I wrote for Family Circle, Guideposts, Better Homes and Gardens, CHILD, Focus on the Family and other magazines promoted that first book and subsequent books I wrote. Those articles also led to being invited on TV and radio shows like “NBC News” and “Focus on the Family” and live national webchats. Using this simple strategy kept my books in print long after the publisher had gone on to publish other people’s books.
In addition, several times publishers called and said, “We were just looking for an author to write a book on this topic and read your article in so-and-so magazine. Could you expand it into a book for us?” Once you have a good track record with magazine editors—by meeting deadlines and being gracious about criticism—you may likely get requests to write other pieces for them.
Visit local bookstores and check out the magazine rack. You may be surprised at the variety of new magazines that relate to women or men, cooking, faith, health and fitness, family, parenting, and a myriad of hobbies and interests.
Then look at the digital magazine market where they are lots of opportunities to hone your freelancing skills. You can offer to be a guest writer on blog sites. You can also repurpose, re-slant and recycle your material that’s been published elsewhere. Caution: that doesn’t mean writing the same words with the same title and just sending it to another publication. Study different types of rights so you know what rights you’re selling.)
So let me encourage you: jump into freelancing for magazines. Learn as you go. Study the markets in Writers Market, on bookstore racks and online. It will bring more fun and adventure into your writing career, and you never know what doors it will open.
Cheri Fuller is a popular speaker and bestselling author of 48 books with combined sales of over 1 million, including several award-winning books. Her books have been published in 80 countries, providing hope and encouragement to people around the globe. She’s written hundreds of magazine articles and Internet columns and was an parenting/education writer for Family Circle magazine. Her articles have appeared in CHILD, ParentLife, Guideposts, Better Homes & Gardens, and other publications. Cheri has spoken at writer’s conferences around the country, is a co-founder of Write Well Sell Well, and loves to pass on her wisdom and experience on building a writing career.