While it may seem like freelance writers are all graduates of journalism school who spent years working the beat at their local newspaper to earn their chops, that is only occasionally the case.
The articles you read in your favorite local and national publications come from all sorts of backgrounds and only have one thing in common: Talent.
But it isn’t just the classically trained Brenda Starrs who can do this job. Poets can actually make great freelancers and have the language skills to make their work shine.
Is freelance writing a good fit for you?
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you dive in:
- Do you enjoy researching topics or ideas to enrich your poetry?
- Do you have a decent grasp on grammar (regardless of whether you utilize it in poems)?
- Do you find yourself writing about multiple topics in multiple ways?
- Do you have hobbies or interests you want to write about but never make it into your poetry?
- Are you organized, hardworking, and able to meet deadlines?
- Are you discouraged that poetry contests seem like the only way to make an income from writing?
- Are you looking for a career that utilizes your talent and provides flexibility to still write poetry?
- Do you read magazines and feel you have something to contribute?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you are likely already headed toward freelance writing.
Becoming a freelance writer takes motivation, inspiration, and discipline.
You may be closer to this new career than you think.
How to get started as a freelance writer
Here are some tips to help yourself start thinking of yourself as a freelance writer and a poet:
1. Use your poet’s eye to come up with unique story angles
Poets pick up on small, interesting details that others overlook, and this attention can be used to your advantage as a freelancer.
Write down your story ideas, along with interesting details and poetic touches that come to you.
2. Research topics
Once you have an article idea, investigate that topic to develop so your idea can be well fleshed out for your future editor.
Research is also a great way to find out how a topic has been covered before, so you know your idea is fresh, and to see if there’s anything happening in the world that relates to your story idea. This is called pegging. If you can peg your idea to something relevant, then editors will have a better chance of fitting your article in.
3. Research publications
Pick up your favorite magazines, getting a copy of Writer’s Market, or checking out the opportunities listed on The Write Life to find out the name and email address of the correct editor. You may need to do some sleuthing and call the magazine to make sure you have the most up-to-date editor information.
4. Start writing to editors
You need to write a professional letter, called a pitch, to explain your idea and why a particular publication is the best place to publish your article — and why you are the best person to write it.
This is where your poetry skills will come in handy. Show your editor how great a writer you are, but don’t overdo it. Remember, sometimes the best poetry is simple and subtle.
5. Keep educating yourself!
There are a lot of resources available to help you learn about writing for magazines and newspapers, depending on what style of writing you wish to pursue.
Many of the places you already search for poetry opportunities also offer opportunities for freelance writers; some of those resources may be looking for writers themselves.
Remember, your poetic voice is what makes you unique. Don’t suppress your biggest asset as a writer. Embrace what makes your work stand out on the page, and have fun with your new career.