Localize Writing and Cash In

Thursday, May 03, 2012
Dreaming of your big break? Waiting to see your byline in The New York Tmes or Washington Post? Maybe seeing your name grace the pages of Cosmo or Ladies’ Home Journal or Sports Illustrated keeps you motivated.

Until you break into those national markets, smart writers localize and cash in.

Think regional publications, local websites, area newspapers.

I was lucky. When I began freelancing full-time, I broke into a national sports and fitness magazine. Within two months of my initial conversation with the editor-in-chief, I received contracts for three feature pieces.

And, I received payment up front.

At the same time, I knew if I wanted my writing career to grow, I would have to work hard and find other publications to supplement my income.

Besides, it never hurts to have a steady income stream.

How did localizing help?

I landed a steady gig at a regional newspaper, a state-wide magazine publishes a couple of my articles each year, and I launched a newspaper column geared to small weekly newspapers.

Don’t overlook the neighborhood newspaper or budding website promoting a local business. You can snag local writing gigs by keeping these points in mind.

  • Develop your expertise. I’m a history nut and I enjoy current events. I’ve parlayed my interests into multiple magazine and newspaper articles, photo layouts, blogging gigs, and website writing.
  • Establish relationships. So, you don’t know the editor of the local press? Go introduce yourself! Network!  I didn’t know the editor or staff of a regional magazine, but once I pitched a story and spoke with him on the phone, I made a point to learn the hierarchy of their editorial staff. Now I know not to send a query to the assistant editor. I would not have know that if I hadn’t taken a vested interest. 
  • Fine-tune your pitch.  Don’t count out any ideas. A friend who is an avid reader landed a book column in a local newspaper! One trick that helped land a steady assignment was analyzing what was covered in-house and what work was farmed out to freelancers. Once you see what needs a publication has, you can adapt your platform to fit their needs.

I still haven’t ended up in The New York Times or the Washington Post, but I will eventually. Each article I investigate for a local market builds my resume and adds exemplary clips to my portfolio.

What local markets have you pitched?

by LuAnn Schindler. Read more of LuAnn's work at her website. Graphic by LuAnn.


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