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How To Become A Freelance Writer For A Newspaper: A Brief Tutorial For Beginners

Every freelance journalist would love to get a contract with a newspaper. It’s like a dream job. If you are a beginner and would love to break into this field, this brief tutorial is just for you. There are some things you need to do before starting out.

  1. You need to conduct thorough market research. In this stage you analyze the newspapers you want to be accepted by and see what kind of work they publish. Is it fiction, real-life articles, non-fiction, humor or a combination of the above? Do they accept freelance work or do they only use their own journalists in-house on contracts or full time employment? Also become familiar with their style, language and topics.
  2. You need a convincing pitch. This is basically where you are selling yourself and showing them you are the writer they need to hire. You can’t pitch too hard nor too soft. It must be just right. Don’t overload an email with all your benefits and skills for example. It will be a turnoff. Keep to a few important details such as a headline of the story and a tagline to give a little more info. Provide a brief summary and let them know in a few lines where you’ve been published before. Don’t add large attachments.
  3. Don’t stalk them or bug them every day. Once you have given your pitch, wait at least a week before you follow up with the editor. Always be honest and don’t exaggerate. They will likely check out all references and you don’t want to blow your chance. Don’t seem super desperate to get the job. Being on time is an essential for any freelance journalist, so be smartly on time with everything!
  4. It’s your job to come up with story ideas and pitch them to the editor. Never ask the editor what they want you to write about.
  5. Timing is everything. Determine if you have an urgent story or if it’s one that has a little leeway for timing. For non-urgent stories, call the news desk at a time when it’s the least busy, for their convenience. For urgent stories, call as soon as you can so they can make a decision before the big news of the story dies down.
  6. Try starting out during the summer months. These are the times editors dread the most because so many people are on holidays and they may be short of writers. The same thing can happen during the big yearly holidays, so they also offer more opportunities to get on as a writer.

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