How I Got Magazine Writing Gigs From All 3 of My Dream Markets

Freelance writer dreams of great magazine writing gigsSince I became a freelance writer, most of my work has been in my favorite niche — the equine industry.

Along with web copy, newsletters, tweets and Facebook posts for trainers, big horse shows, and venues, I write articles and blogs for a few regional horse magazines.

But I had a few dream magazine writing jobs on my bucket list. My dream was to write for the biggies, the national horse magazines that all horse people know. Three topped my bucket list: The Chronicle of the Horse, Dressage Today, and the United States Dressage Federation’s Connection. They’re the Triple Crown of a dressage geek’s reading list.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I’ve now sold articles to all three magazines — within a 10-day period. How did I move them from bucket list to client list?

It was actually a simple process. I followed four basic steps.

  1. I reached out. I found a person in my niche on LinkedIn who posted a lot. She seemed upbeat and friendly, so I contacted her and asked for whatever advice she would be willing to share. She recommended I become a freelance member of American Horse Publications. Not only did I join, but I made plans to attend their annual seminar, which was just a few weeks and a few hundred miles away.
  2. I was prepared. At the seminar, I was ready to meet and greet (even though I’d rather stand in the corner and people watch). I had my elevator speech and business cards ready.
  3. I listened. To everyone. Writers, photographers, editors — all had something for me to learn. When I attended their speed networking session with a handful of juicy editors, I asked what they were looking for and tweaked my elevator speech accordingly.
  4. I followed up. The fistful of business cards I’d collected wouldn’t have done me any good sitting in my messenger bag. Even if I didn’t have an article to pitch right away, I sent a brief email.

The pitching process made easy

When I pitched The Big Three, the responses were all different (but successful). For The Chronicle of the Horse, I pitched one idea, and was assigned a completely different one, on spec. I took it, wrote a great article, and it sold.

For Dressage Today, the idea I pitched was the one I got a contract for — a profile of a large, popular dressage show for which I’m the volunteer coordinator. I provide an insider’s view, including photos (for which I’m paid extra). Everybody wins.

Here’s the followup pitch that got me the gig:

I enjoyed meeting you and having a chance to speak with you at the Speed Networking session at the AHP Seminar in Charleston.

To give you a brief recap, I’m a freelance writer and dressage rider from Virginia, currently on hiatus from showing, but very actively involved in volunteering. One of my main volunteer positions is as Volunteer Coordinator for Dressage at Devon. I’d be interested in doing a piece for Dressage Today about an “backstage look” at Devon: “Dressage at Devon – Behind the Scenes at an American Classic”.

Being the Volunteer Coordinator, as well as in charge of the Dressage at Devon newsletter, I have a unique perspective and access to what makes Devon such a special show — (including being the first dressage competition to be awarded Heritage Status by the USEF).

May I write about Dressage at Devon for Dressage Today?

It was a matter of timing for the USDF Connection article. I pitched covering a seminar on sport horse judging, being offered by the USDF. The editor was planning to write the article herself, but something came up and she was unable to attend. Because we had met at the AHP Seminar, she accepted my pitch.

Your takeaways? Keep reaching out. Make connections. Be prepared. Ask for advice. Listen and follow up. All it took to start this process was one InMail on LinkedIn. Who can you contact today that may help move some of those bucket list jobs into your freelance writer’s portfolio?

Ever get a dream writing gig? Tell us how you landed it in the comments below.

Penny Hawes is a freelance writer who shares her Virginia home with her husband and several cats, dogs, and horses. You can check out her website at The Horse Writer and catch her blog, The Horsey Life.

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25 comments on “How I Got Magazine Writing Gigs From All 3 of My Dream Markets
  1. Penny,

    This is so smart! So much of my networking and client research is done online that it’s easy to forget about meeting people in person. It can make such a difference, though, when potential clients can put a face to the name and resume. Thanks for the reminder!
    Katharine Paljug recently posted…How Did I Get Here?My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I have made so many great connections in person that have done huge things for my writing business, and virtually in person, on Skype. Anyone can comment on a blog or retweet your stuff, but when you meet people in person at a conference, it’s at a completely different level of connection.

  2. Penny says:

    Hi Tanya,
    Thanks for requesting the clarification.
    The person I contacted posts quite a bit in groups to which we both belong.
    Best,
    Penny

  3. Tanya Adams says:

    Congratulations on making into your dream pubs! I’m happy for you. When you say that the LI connection you approached posted a lot, do you mean she posted a lot in a group you were both a part of or is she posting the journal entries you can now do on LI?
    Tanya Adams recently posted…Are Promotional Items Effective?My Profile

  4. I hope that typo insurance policy also covers commenting in the wrong place! 🙂 I’ll get the hang of this eventually.
    Charlotte Dickens recently posted…Keeping the Writing LifeMy Profile

  5. That’s a relief!!
    Charlotte Dickens recently posted…Keeping the Writing LifeMy Profile

  6. Good post.Freelance business is mainly depend on relationship.congratulations penny for such a informative post.
    venkatesh i khajjidoni recently posted…What Should Every Freelance Blogger Do Before Earning DollersMy Profile

  7. It’s all about relationships. Great post, Penny and congratulations for getting into your dream pub!
    Mridu Khullar Relph recently posted…How to Make an Extra $1,000 This MonthMy Profile

  8. Penny Hawes says:

    Congratulations, Willi. It’s a great feeling to be able to say you write for a nationally recognized platform, which in turn, gives you further credibility. Love those upward spirals!

    Best,
    Penny
    Penny Hawes recently posted…Don’t Try This at HomeMy Profile

  9. Penny Hawes says:

    Hi Cheryl,
    I’m often reminded of the old saying that ‘the only way to make a small fortune in the horse industry is to start with a large one’. Most of us are involved with this niche because of our passion for horses and horse sports. (I’m at Dressage at Devon this week, and writing this at 11 PM. I’ve been up since 5 doing my job as the Volunteer Coordinator all day… in the rain).

    In addition to writing for horse publications, my business plan also includes growing my “stable” of clients to include more trainers, riders, farms, tack shops and events for which I provide social media management, newsletters, website copy, etc. Having somewhat diversified streams of income not only helps financially; I get more ideas for articles be learning about my new clients’ businesses.

    Best,
    Penny
    Penny Hawes recently posted…Don’t Try This at HomeMy Profile

  10. Penny Hawes says:

    Thanks for your comment, Daryl. I think a pitch is not only better received, but also easier to send when you’ve had a face-to-face meeting with an editor. I’d known about these three publications for years (decades, in the case of the Chronicle), but only actually sent the pitches after making the connections with the editors at the AHP Seminar.

    Best,
    Penny
    Penny Hawes recently posted…Don’t Try This at HomeMy Profile

  11. Cheryl Rhodes says:

    The very first magazine I was published in was a local horse magazine, The Gait Post. That was the encouragement I needed to move forward and look at writing for other publications.

    The thing I learned over the years are that horse magazines are kind of like everything else in the horse industry: they don’t pay that well and sometimes not at all.

    Good advice using contacts and getting to the AHP seminar and putting yourself out there.

    • Editor says:

      Cheryl, It’s important to know your floor when it comes to pay for your writing.

      I remember Kelly James-Enger, though, talking about how sometimes the lower per-word or per-article rates can translate into higher hourly rates because you’re writing on a topic you know really well and that won’t require a ton of revisions on your part.

      We all just figure out what works for us to keep our careers moving forward and our hourly rate moving up.

  12. Anthony says:

    Congratulations Penny! Way to get out there and also to follow up and take advantage of the opportunities you created.

  13. P. S. Probably the first thing is to remember to reread my posts for errors, which I did not do apparently. Oh well 🙂
    Charlotte Dickens recently posted…Keeping the Writing LifeMy Profile

  14. I beginning the learning process for becoming a freelance writer. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about networking and querying. I hope to put what I’m learning to good use. Your post seems to be a good “how to” for getting a dream writing job. Thank you.

  15. Dave Burnham says:

    Great post and a good reminder on how important networking is. Thank you.

  16. Willi Morris says:

    I followed up Arianna Huffington after she spoke at a conference. To my surprise, she replied and now I’m a contributor.

    Congrats on getting in to your dream publications!
    Willi Morris recently posted…WordPress Blogging (and Panel Moderating!) TipsMy Profile

  17. Scott says:

    Great article on the importance of networking (and following up). I recently started networking with the mindset that I will likely NOT gain clients from meetups. But I’m getting my name out there and if I do land one new client it’s well worth my time.
    Scott recently posted…Search Engine Optimization: Part 2 – Internal SEOMy Profile

    • Editor says:

      Scott, I also love networking for getting new perspectives. You can talk to real people about the real problems they are facing in their businesses — then translate those into writing gigs.

  18. Amal says:

    Hey Carol,
    Really loved reading it. And thanks for introducing The Writer’s Pitch Clinic 🙂 Cheers!
    Amal recently posted…Are You Afraid To Be Brave & Take Actions?My Profile

  19. Daryl says:

    Cultivating relationships is key to connecting to growing your freelance business, especially when trying to break into areas where you may have never worked before.

    I think that’s something that people often overlook. A pitch means so much more when you actually know the person *behind* the pitch, as opposed to it being another random email from a stranger.

    Thanks for the reminder Penny!
    Daryl recently posted…August 2014 Freelance Writing Income ReportMy Profile

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