How I Got Magazine Writing Gigs From All 3 of My Dream Markets
Carol Tice | 29 Comments

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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29 comments on “How I Got Magazine Writing Gigs From All 3 of My Dream Markets

  1. Katharine Paljug on

    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 on

      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 Hawes on

    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

  3. Penny Hawes on

    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

  4. Cheryl Rhodes on

    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 on

      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.

  5. Charlotte Dickens on

    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.

    • Editor on

      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.

  6. Daryl on

    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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