5 Tips for Freelance Writers to Break into New Markets and Connect with Editors

Successful freelance writers share common work habits. Two of the most important are: They’re always busy. They’re obsessively searching for new markets.

Juggling these two activities is not easy, especially when the writer is immersed in difficult assignments or facing tight deadlines. Relying on one market, no matter how lucrative and steady, is ultimately dangerous. To cite the old cliché, nothing lasts forever. This is a fact of life experienced freelance writers learn early in the game. Writing outlets dry up for a variety of reasons. The company goes out of business or is merged or acquired. A new editor takes the helm and almost always brings in his own stable of writers he’s been working with for years.

This is reason enough to be constantly working at breaking into new markets. Forging new relationships with editors can be frustrating, especially in the beginning. It requires strategy, time, discipline and persistence. Here are five tips that can help you do it:

1. Identify passions, hobbies and interests
Most people have untapped talents and subjects they’re intensely interested in. Freelance writers have hobbies that could be turned into viable markets. Many DIY writers were hobbyists first. They discovered they could earn substantial money writing about the crafts they’ve mastered – teaching others who are good with their hands and mechanically inclined how to save thousands of dollars by doing household repairs themselves. It’s a lot easier and fun pursuing markets where there is already a strong affinity and a body of knowledge. And they’re already familiar with many of the writing outlets.

2. Network, network, network
One of the best ways to uncover new markets is by tapping your freelancing network. Plug into writer-association events (American Association of Journalists and Authors, Editorial Freelancers Association, National Writers Union), check out freelance writers’ blogs and Web sites, and attend media events.

3. Identify three to five markets you’d like to write for
Familiarize yourself with each one’s editorial approach and philosophy: demographics, stories, writing style, focus, audience and writers and editors (don’t be surprised if you find one or two freelancers you know or have met). Then prioritize the new markets, identifying ones you want to pitch first.

4. Build one market at a time
Avoid a shotgun approach. Conquering a new market is a time- and energy- consuming effort. Pay special attention in developing terse, selling-pitch letters. The pitch letter is a sample of your writing, so each one must be extraordinary. Remember: You’re the new guy on the block, and you are competing with an established stable of writers for the editor’s attention. Your queries are likely to find themselves on the bottom of the query heap. Be prepared to make discrete follow-up calls eight to 10 days after e-mailing a query. But don’t be a pest. E-mail first. If you don’t get a response in 24 hours, follow up with a phone call. Diplomatic persistence is the best approach.

5. Never get too comfortable
Even though you have two or three reliable markets that provide a steady flow of work, never stop beating the bushes for new ones. That not only helps you build a secure market base, but also keeps you sharp and provides constant challenge, change, and last but not least – excitement.

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