With the way things are going on right now around the world, freelancing way of working is proving to be the best option available for businesses to thrive. Becoming a freelance newspaper writer is not hard as long as you put in time and effort to make it work out.
The good news is, you can get paid a minimum of Ksh. 3,000 for each of your article that is published.
In this blogpost I will share with you the steps to becoming a freelance contributor to your local newspaper and getting paid for your work even while still studying your journalism course or any other course in college.
The steps I am going to share with you today on how to become a freelance writer are the ones I personally used to get my articles published on The Standard and Nation weekly pullout magazines in Kenya.
Before I begin this article, I have a disclaimer for you about freelance newspaper writing/contribution.
Its Not Walk in the Park !!
You have to be open to write as many articles as you can as you will be sending them as ‘unsolicited manuscripts’ and its at editors discretion to either publish it or not publish it. So irrespective of how good your writing is, no one can guarantee you it will be published.
On the other hand, based on the number of content that the editor receives, they may find your article worth publishing and that will be the beginning of your journey as freelance writer.
With this Said, lets now dive in on how to get started.
Step #1 Do Your Research
You must have interest in writing for the newspaper in order to start. Journalism and mass communication students have an upper hand here. I did freelance writing for the newspaper before I joined the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication to pursue a course in broadcast media. At the time, I had taken a correspondence course from Writer Bureau UK. It was one of the most difficult courses I must say as it required that I go out and interview people to get the story and submit it as my assignment. At the time, I was a bit nervous.
But first, I had to know my market. Where was I going to sell the articles I wrote?
Research involves subscribing to the newspaper you want to write for. Do study the paper for a period of time depending on its publishing frequency. During your period of research, study the paper page to page. Your study is for the purposes of understanding the following elements.
What’s the tone of language they use? Do they use very advanced English grammar or do they tell their stories using simple language that is understandable by everyone. When you know this, you will be in a position to write in their language. When you do so, the probability of your work getting published is high.
What kind of stories do they publish apart from news. Do they have a special pullout magazine targeted at a different market niche? e.g Business, travel and culture, children, comedy e.t.c. This should be your main focus. Knowing this will help you narrow down your writing approach. If, for instance, you interact with children in your day to day life, you will find that its easy for you to write articles about children.
Also, when planning to write a feature article for the paper, you will be in a position to plan for it. You will have a high probability of getting published instead of writing random articles that may or may not get published.
Once you have understood the language and the kind of stories the paper or magazine you want to write for publishes, you are now ready to hit the road and start your freelance writing journey that pays handsomely.
Step #2 Start Writing Letters to The Editor
This is the first step that you will take. It’s the simple step that you will be taught when you join a media school to study journalism. In a nutshell, here is how it goes. Let’s say you have an interest in writing about construction and architecture. After you have completed step #1 above, send a feedback to the editor about the recent article they published in their newspaper or magazine. Tell them what you learnt by reading the article and your view on what was discussed in the magazine.
The editor is always happy to hear that the information they are sharing on their paper is positively received by readers.
Step #3 Check the Next Issue To See If Your Letter Was published
A newspaper editor receives several emails daily thus they will not reply and tell you that your letter was published. Its your responsibility as the contributor to confirm that for yourself. The aim here is to get as many of your letters to the editor published as possible.
Step #4 Cut Out The Best Letter Highlights
Depending on how you subscribe to the newspaper -best one recommended being print- cut out your published letters that were highlighted by the editor on top. Buy a scrapbook and stick the letters in order for your records. If you have subscribed to the paper digitally, take screenshots and use free tools like keep notes to create a scrapbook of your published work.
At the time when I started freelance writing, there was a monthly magazine called Drum East Africa. They published readers’ letters and rewarded the best letter writer with a basket of goodies. Two of my letters were the best and I got the basket of goodies. I was really excited when this happened.
When you succeed with this step, you are good. Now go on to the next step.
Step #5 Start To Write For Children And Magazines
Compared to other genres, writing for children is quite easy. You use simple language that is easy to understand. Also, the number of words needed are not much. If you can take pictures, the probability of your article getting published is high.
While in college, I found it easy to write for the weekly children’s pull out newspaper magazine. Sometimes, I wrote folktales and other times I wrote feature articles. For each article, I was paid a minimum of Ksh. 3000. That was good money considering that I was still in college.
NOTE: If you are interviewing children, it’s good to seek consent from their teacher if in school or their parents to avoid problems in your freelance career. Also, they will help you spread the word to other children who might want to be part of the children’s stories. At this point, you may use your college ID when introducing yourself.
Please check out these 101 excellent technical writing examples to learn more.
Step #6 Register With The Union of Journalism And Get a Press Card
Press card is a very powerful tool that can take you places. High ranking government officials and business people will be more welcoming when you show them a press card.
It is issued by media council in Kenya and is universal. Please find out the issuer of a press card in your country if you are not a Kenyan.
In this case, wherever you go, you will be posing as a freelance journalist writing for the newspapers you pick. For instance, if you are writing an article for the standard newspaper, you will introduce yourself as follows;
“My name is Cheptiony Mutai. I am a freelance writer. I am currently working on an article about ”[name the title of what you are working on] and would love to get your view on the same.”
This is a simple way of introduction. In turn, you will get a straightforward answer of either ‘Yes‘ or ‘No.’
Step #7 Let ‘Persistence’ Be Your Motto
Do the same thing over and over and over again until you succeed. You may find yourself sending 5 articles in a week and only one gets published. Don’t let this discourage you. Be persistence in your pursuit.
At the end of it, you will begin to see more and more of your work on print. And your smile on your way to the bank will be more alive.
Step #8 Writing For Newspaper Means Being A Daily consumer
This cannot go without saying. When you start writing for the newspaper as a freelance writer, you must in turn purchase every issue you have sent an article to see if it was published.
If it was published, it means you will be paid for the work. Many times at your early stages, you must follow up with the paper in order to get your payment. In such instances, you will be asked to present evidence of published work.
Step #9 Get Used To Article Spinning
If you send a feature or article to the newspaper and it doesn’t get published, spin it and retarget it on another publication. Spinning a story or an article means rewriting it from a different angle. E.g If it was a feature about a freelancer who is also an entrepreneur and you had focused on the freelancing side, spin it and focus on the business side then send it to a different prospective publication.
And that’s it. If you faithfully and patiently follow the steps I have shared above, you will succeed.
Now that you know how to package your content; it’s time to begin your journey as a freelance writer and eventually get paid well.
The world of freelancing is much fun when you know what you are doing and why you are doing it. Also, when you know the markets available for your work, its even more exciting. When are able to catch the editors attention each time you send them stories, they will be excited and will look forward to more of your articles.
You will be surprised one day to receive a call from them asking you if you are available to go out for an assignment. This means, getting published is assured.
Did I miss any step to becoming a published freelance newspaper writer? Please let me know in the comments section below.
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Until next next time, bye bye and take care.
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