How to Fake Your Way Into More Freelance Writing Gigs
Last week I got an email from a lady who said her name, Joan, pegged her as an older writer — and did that mean she was stuck writing for Mature Living magazine?
I get this question a lot, and I’d like to set my readers straight: Editors typically don’t care about your age, gender, sexual orientation, marriage status, parental status, or anything else.
All they care about is that you can come up with ideas that are relevant to their audience and write the articles in a way that resonates with this readership.
Cases in point:
- I wrote for the parenting magazines — American Baby, Parenting, Toddler, and more — before I even thought I wanted to have kids. (Many of the editors at Parenting also had no kids.)
- I’ve written for Men’s Fitness, Men’s Health, and Details. Do I look like a man to you? (Don’t answer that.)
- I wrote for magazines aimed at kids, such as Odyssey, Zillions, and American Careers for Kids, when I was in my late 20s — far from being a kid.
- In the early 2000s, I wrote for a magazine for African American computer users. I use computers, but I’m Caucasian.
- I’ve written for credit union executives, print shop owners, restaurateurs, nurses, college students, engineers, janitorial business owners, and more. I’ve never been any of these things.
If you wrote only for people in your own particular demographic, you probably wouldn’t be writing enough to make a living.
Here’s how you can expand into markets you have no personal experience in:
Mine Your Background — And Then Expand on It
If you have a background in an area, such as marketing, raising healthy kids, cooking, science, or dog training, brainstorm ideas in those topics. Then — and this is the important part — think of any possible market that would want articles on your topic, even if those publications target audiences you’re not a part of.
For example, say you’re a 45-year-old Caucasian man with an interest in marketing. You could slant and pitch your marketing article ideas to general business magazines, but also business magazines for women, Hispanics, MBA students, and so on.
Study the Markets
Every market type has its own style of writing, and each publication within that type may even have its own variations on that style.
For example, you’ll find that many of the health magazines aimed at men have a very edgy and even slightly raunchy style, with a big helping of funny. Many of the women’s health magazines, on the other hand, tend to be written in a light and mildly humorous way. And, surprisingly, the writing in the kids’ magazines doesn’t talk down to children; the sentences may be a little less complex than those in grownup publications, but the publication’s writers know that kids are smart and savvy.
Once you’ve absorbed the different styles of the different publications, you can use this knowledge to create pitches that resonate with the various audiences.
Resist the Urge to Come Clean
Whatever you do, don’t come out to the editor as a non-man/Ph.D./Asian/parent/young woman/whatever. You don’t need to spill your guts over this. If you can come up with a fabulous idea and present it well, most editors won’t care if you’re a 146-year-old green alien from Mars.
And by the way, Joan — the older names are coming back in style!
How about you — have you ever written for a readership you don’t belong to? Please tell us all about it in the Comments so other writers can learn from your experiences!
Stick figure by my son T. It’s a male writer writing for a female readership. Thanks, T!