Switching to full-time freelancing might happen overnight for some writers, but generally writers prepare and make a thoughtful transition. Veteran Write Naked contributor Jordan McCaw returns to share how she’s tied in her local knowledge to write for local publications.
Learning How to Freelance Full-Time One Article at a Time
By Jordan McCaw
This Day-in-the-Life of a Writer looks much different than my first one in 2016. Since then, I graduated from college, got married, and am on my way to writing full-time. I was not exactly sure what to expect from pursuing a freelance writing career, but I wasn’t expecting to be where I am now. My article writing has led me to review amazing restaurants, interview Nick Offerman from “Parks & Recreation”, and form a great relationship with one of my editors.
One of the biggest challenges I face as a freelance writer is figuring out a suitable pitch for a publication. Several of the publications I write for I’ve been involved in for months to more than a year. Most of these publications assign me the article and I go from there. That makes my job easier in several aspects, but I quickly discovered that when I wanted to find more publications to write for, I needed to pitch to them.
I’ve received several rejections informing me my pitch isn’t relevant, is out of season, or will be out of date by the time it gets published. In spite of these frustrating replies, they’ve proven to be helpful for the next place I pitch to.
Stephen King hit the nail on the head in his book On Writing when he said to write about what you know. King’s book is geared more toward fiction writing, but I bet he would agree that much of his advice is for any type of writer. I used to pitch to any place that accepted ideas, because what’s the harm in that, right? Well, the harm is wasting your time and the editor’s time. What I’ve learned is to research publications that publish articles pertaining to what I know.
Since I write mostly about art and food for publications in Oregon, I look for places in the Pacific Northwest. Northwest Travel & Life recently accepted my pitch about the best places to eat in Ashland, Oregon. I live less than twenty miles from Ashland. It’s home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Southern Oregon University. Most of my articles are based in this town. Ashland has become Southern Oregon’s most-visited city by tourists, resulting in high-end and organic restaurants catering to locals who value healthy food, and tourists who want the best.
Living so close to the town, I’ve dined in the popular restaurants––from the cheaper tamale stands to the classy steakhouse. I know what the restaurants are like, their popular dish or cocktail, and what the atmosphere is like. Not only do I have firsthand experiences in these restaurants, I also love eating at them.
My freelance career thus far has been building relationships with publications I’ve been writing for since I graduated college. These stable foundations have challenged my journalism as well as encouraged it. Only two years out of college, I’ve gone through crushing discouragement about this career path. Finding a solid publication to get your foot in the door is a triumph in itself, and I’m blessed to be able to write about what I like.
It is possible to write what you want to write about, because that’s how you should be pitching ideas to an editor. I’ve learned so much about business-owners, artists, and musicians through interviewing them for articles. My editors have taught me even more. Each article I write I learn something new, which widens my net of pitches to new publications.
Write about what you know. You’ll learn a lot more than what you knew in the beginning.
Jordan Marie McCaw is the Calendar Editor and Art Watch columnist for The Rogue Valley Messenger. She also frequently writes for Showcase Magazine, The Local Dish, The Tempo, and Southern Oregon Magazine. Her blog Recount & Reveal is released bimonthly and is about bizarre and spooky moments in history.