Friday, November 03, 2006

How to Survive in Shark Infested Waters

Random thought: Is it so wrong that The Office is quite possibly the highlight of my week? Squee for the Diwali episode! I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but needless to say, more drunk John Krasinski please!

Anyhoo, wrapping up the week of Q/As with some of my favorite freelance writers. I'll be answering your questions again starting next week, so if you have a question and want to pick my brain, email me at or post it to the comments section. Today, my fellow writer friends were kind enough to offer their thoughts on how to survive the ups and downs of the freelance world and ultimately, turn a glimmer of a dream into a lifelong career.

Here, their thoughts:

-Be absolutely sure that freelance is what you really want to be. I have a good friend who, like me, was always a magazine editor, and also always freelance-wrote "on the side." When we each had kids, it was her decision to stay with a magazine job, and mine (well, after kid 2) to freelance fulltime. I could never do what she does; seems so stressful. She feels she couldn't do what I do; she relishes the office experience and doubts her ability to stick to work with all the distractions of home (TV, food, the kids, the house...). So you have to start with a foundation of REALLY knowing that working for yourself, and largely by yourself, is what you want, and that it fits with yours and your family's lifestyle and needs. I was freelance for a short time very early in my career, and it stunk. I couldn't focus or motivate myself, and I sunk into a depression (for other reasons, too, but I believe that I'd have been in a better frame of mind if I had an office to go to each day). Other things you need for a successful freelance career:

  • Good time management skills (this, for me, is taken care of by being a mom; I'm so used to cramming 40 things into each hour of each day that prioritizing gets easier).- a good business sense. You love to write, which is fine and dandy. But you can't spend hours and days and weeks laboring over every word of every piece or you won't make any money. It's craft and a teeny bit of art, but it's mostly a business.
  • The proper spot to work, whether that's a fully kitted-out office or an armoire in the dining room. If you're squeezing in your work on the kitchen table or around your kids' artwork and your husband's stuff, you won't feel as "legit."
  • A very, very very thick skin, since rejection comes with the territory.
  • A recognition that you have to find ways to work with the editors who are out there. Sure, you can cross off your list those who are egregiously awful or abusive, but the basic premise of the freelance life is that you want work, and editors are the ones who have it to hand out, so you gotta get along. That means lots of cheerful compliance and can-do attitude. That does not mean letting yourself be walked all over; you have to find and tread the line between the two. - Denise Schipani
-I have two rules for myself: be reliable, and be easy to work with. Before I went freelance, I was an editor, so I thought long and hard about the writers I really enjoyed working with. Above all, they all shared those two traits--reliability and a desire to work with me to put out the best article possible. They didn't flake out on deadlines, they didn't have egos, and they weren't offended if I came back to them with edit questions or needed a revise. Also, I knew that as an editor, being reliable and being nice--this is so Midwestern of me, but whatever--helped me move up quickly. So I took that with me when I crossed the fence and became a full-time writer, and it's helped me stand out and get repeat assignments for the publications I want to work with. I know some people hear that and they think, "doormat!" But it's not about being a doormat. I still ask for more money, say no to impossible assignments and tell editors when they're being unreasonable. I'm just not bitchy about it, and that makes all the difference in having an editor want to work with you again. - Camille Noe Pagan

-Treat it like a business. You need to deliver a high-quality service. You need to market yourself. You need to constantly look for new outlets for your work and new ways to improve what you’re doing. You need to deliver excellent service to your clients. You need to keep track of the financials. And you need to be tenacious. I always say that the rules apply to everyone but me. That doesn’t mean ignore guidelines, editor suggestions, or solid business practices. But, when I hear about how difficult it is to break into a particular publication or how competitive this business is or how it’s impossible to make a living as a freelance writer, that doesn’t apply to me. I ignore the statistics and focus on what I need and want to do. So far, so good. - Gwen Moran

-Figure out what you want to achieve and keep your eye on your prize, not another writer's. If you're a mother with young children and you want to earn enough to keep your young ones in Huggies, well screw the person who says success as a writer means bringing in $100K + a year or writing for the Atlantic. That's his definition, not yours. - Diana Burrell

-To establish a successful freelancing career, you have to treat it as a business. Learn to say "no" when your calendar gets overwhelmed with too many activities. You have to spend an ample amount of time at your desk to make it work. Sure, it's great to be able to take an impromptu trip out of town for a few days and not have to ask permission, but be prepared to check your e-mail and voicemail when you are away and pick up the slack when you return. Some people will try to take advantage of you working from home because they think that you have all the time in the world, but you do not. You have the advantage of no commute to work and you can plug away at the keyboard in your pajamas if you wish, but this doesn't mean that you're free to babysit or chat on the phone for hours on end. Also, networking is imperative! You can learn a lot by mingling with fellow freelancers. Get involved in writers' organizations, attend conferences, etc. to keep leads flowing. - Sharon Anne Waldrop

-Make sure that you have the right disposition to be a freelancer—because really, you are an entrepreneur. If you don’t have the drive to keep going every day, even when you’re not selling anything, and to keep yourself focused on marketing and coming up with new ideas, then you should find something else to do as your career. - Leah Ingram

-1) Read--everything from books on writing to the magazines and newspapers that you want to break into. Know that this often doesn't happen overnight, and be prepared to do the work you will need to in order to get your career going. 2) Go to writers' conferences. Join Web sites like FLX. Talk to other writers--but don't pick out a few who are experienced and keep badgering them. People will usually help you, but make sure you're not taking advantage. 3) Keep sending out queries. If one comes back "dinged," have another publication ready to send it to and get it out the door within 24 hours. 4) Don't take rejections personally. Remember, these people (editors) don't know you, so they are reacting to the work. And it doesn't mean that the work is bad; it's just something they can't use right now. Chances are, if it's a good query, you'll find a home for it. Send it out again and again and again... - Michele Wojciechowski

-Treat it as you would any other start-up. It takes time. This advice is easier given than followed on somedays! But truly it takes a lot of persistence and a lot of hard work and on the darkest days when you keep going.. that is what leads to success. - Monica Bhide

-I think part of it is saying to yourself, this is it. Failing is not an option. If you have in your head that if you fail, oh well, you can go back to your cubicle, you're already setting your expectations too low. With that goes treating freelancing like a real job with a real work-arrival hour. Another key to establishing a successful freelance career too, I think, is to seek out those regular gigs. For example, in the front of the book of Men's Health and Women's Health there are the "bulletins," summaries of the latest health research that are about 100 words each. Every month I write some nutrition and weight-loss bulletins, and while it's not the most fun work, it makes for a regular pay check. And then on top of that, of course, do those fun departments and features that you pitch. But those don't come monthly for everyone, so that regular paying gig is important. - Lauren Ann Russell

-Treat it like a business. Don't think of yourself as a "writer," think of yourself as an "independent contractor." A lot of things will flow from there. Also specialize in a few topics or develop something special you're known for. You have to be able to distinguish yourself and give editors a reason to think of you. This is key to getting called with assignments as opposed to having to query all the time. - Lisbeth Levine

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Buddying Up to Editors

So now you've heard how to craft an awesome query letter, straight from the mouths of writers who are at the top of their game. The next step? Making yourself invaluable to your editor. (Check out yesterday's or Monday's post to see where these gals have been published.)

Today's question: how do I develop long-term relationships with my editors?

- I meet with them. I live in Boston and most of my editors are in NYC, so a few times each year, I schedule a trip to the city specifically to meet editors, even ones who've enthusiastically rejected my ideas but who are encouraging. It maybe costs me $500 for the train, hotels, food, etc., but the trips always generate assignments that more than cover my expenses. Meeting face-to-face with editors is, in geek speak, my Killer App. Over a cup of coffee or even just talking for a few minutes in their offices, you can pick up valuable information it would take months for you to discern through e-mail. It also shows editors you're serious about your business if you're coming in from out of town just to meet with them. You get to know them, they get to know you. You're no longer to them, but a serious professional writer with good ideas who they know. - Diana Burrell, co-author of the Renegade Writer and the Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Nov. 2006) and freelance writer for Parenting, Oxygen, Sam's Club Source, the Boston Globe, and lots of other magazines and newspapers you've never heard of. (Her words, not mine!) :)

-I develop long term relationships with editors by staying in touch to keep my name out there. For instance, when I read an exceptional article in the magazine, whether I have already secured an assignment from the editor or not, I will send a quick note expressing how much I enjoyed the story and explain why. Also, when an editor gives me an assignment, this is something that we are working on together, and together we will make it shine. Teamwork is important, and a writer-editor relationship is based on teamwork. - Sharon Anne Waldrop

- I started out and spent many years as an editor, so my answer is slightly different. Being on the inside for all those years means (a) I know a lot of people already; and (b) I often can "tell" what they want, so I have a quicker track to building and maintaining relationships. That said, once you have worked with an editor more than once, the best way to keep the fire burning is to basically follow good business practices. If they want a bit of something extra on a piece, be the writer who'll take care of it. If you run across something that might be of interest (a study, a store, a book, another article), pass it along. Respond promptly to calls and emails. Don't make excuses. Meet deadlines. Come up with titles and coverlines. Say "thank you" when an edit makes your work better. Lots of little things add up. - Denise Schipani

-Query often and well. Find common interests and share knowledge with them. Make them feel like they are your most prized client. - Amy Paturel, columnist for AOL and contributor to Health, Cooking Light and Women's Health

-Keep in touch: check in once every few months with new pitches. Never get snippy with he or she even if you're annoyed by their asking for four revises. The easiest way to get out of a relationship with an editor: never send ideas and have an attitude. - Lauren Ann Russell, contributor to Women's Health, Men's Health, Self, Fitness and YogaLife

- Deliver. I’m surprised at how many editors say that writers routinely miss deadlines, drop the ball on assignments, or are really difficult to work with. If I’m having trouble with an assignment or deadline, my editor is the first to know. If my editor needs something in particular, I bend over backwards to deliver. If I see a tidbit of information that might be useful to my editor, I pass it along, even if it has nothing to do with anything on which I’m working. Basically, I do whatever I can to make my editor’s job easier and, as a result, have built solid relationships. - Gwen Moran

-I stay in touch with my editors regularily and make sure I send them an email with info that may be of interest to them for either their magazine or personally (I know one editor who was getting married in DC so when I saw a new DC Wedding guide, I sent it to her and she was grateful.)

- Work with them, not against them. Turn in clean copy on time. Don't go too far over the word count. (My goal is no more than 10 percent over, and usually a little less than that.) - Sandra B. Hume

- I make it my goal to make their life easier for them. I've been an editor in my career, so perhaps that's easier for me. But I know if I can do some of their job for them, they'll keep calling me. The other part of this equation is making them look good to their editors. If they know you'll make them look good to their higher-ups, you'll be at the top of their list. - Chicago-based freelancer, Liz Levine

-By keeping in touch, being available when they call me for assignments—or if I’m not available, referring them to a professional colleague who can help them out—and turning my stories in early, if at all possible, and, at the very least, on time. And if I can’t make the deadline, calling to let them know it will be a few days late. This is a professional courtesy that too few writers remember.

Also, I understand that I won’t click with every editor I work with, and some editors—especially at quarterlies or custom publications—don’t make assignments all the time, or don’t like to have the same byline in issue after issue. These are the realities of freelancing. Also, make yourself known to a certain editor as a writer of (fill in the blank). You can’t be everything to every editor, so if editor A at magazine A knows you as a profile writer, and editor B at magazine B knows you as a service writer, you can better focus pitches to that editor—and he/she will have a better sense of what kinds of stories to assign to you, should he/she need a writer.

Again, I’ll give conferences a plug, and I’ll offer this anecdote. At last spring’s ASJA conference, I attended a panel on which an editor I’d written for in the past was speaking. Before the panel began, I went up and reintroduced myself. I didn’t try to pitch him, just wanted to re-establish visual contact with him. Three months later he phoned me, because he was in a jam and needed a writer fast to pull together a piece. He remembered seeing me at the conference (and told me so), and that’s how I got the assignment. But that’s not even the happy ending. Since then he’s called me two more times, and he’s referred me to another editor at his magazine. She just gave me my first assignment. All told, that quick greeting at the ASJA conference netted me more than $2,000 in work. - Leah Ingram

-Be professional. This is basic stuff, but meet your deadlines. Help as much as possible, but don't allow yourself to get walked all over just to please an editor.

If you're not working on something for that editor or if the editor isn't assigning for a while, check in from time-to-time with a general e-mail--make it short and make sure to mention that you're available for work.

Be personable. If you've worked with an editor for a while, he/she may mention personal stuff--family, work, an upcoming birthday. If so, write it down and remember to ask how little Johnny's ballgame went. It's just like developing relationships with people in an office environment--even though we may be in other states/countries.

Be yourself. If you're being fake and trying to kiss up just to get work, the editor's BS detector will go off loud and clear. Think about it: would you want to work with a phony? Nope... - Michele Wojciechowski

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kick-Ass Queries

So...are any of you guys as close to vomiting as I am? If I see one more Kit Kat around my house, I'm going to lose it. Unfortunately, my husband insisted that we didn't have nearly enough candy (most likely because he'd eaten half of it), and now I'm saddled with a two-month supply of mini-candy bars. Which normally, wouldn't be such an issue, but this present moment, after eating 50 of them in the past 12 hours, means that I might barf.

Anyhoo, following up to yesterday's "how to break in" question, we're rolling on to query letters, which many of the freelancers suggested are the key to knocking down new doors. So, along those lines:

Today's question: How do I write a kick-ass query letter?

-Know the magazine and know the section that you're pitching. If possible, know something about the editor--for example, I've found that some editors want long queries, but some, even if they're new-to-you, only want a couple of paragraphs. Make sure it's engaging. The query should grab the reader by the scruff of the neck in the first paragraph and make the person want to keep reading to see what happens. - Michele Wojciechowski, Maryland-based freelance writer and humorist. To receive her weekly humor column, Wojo's World (tm), via e-mail, contact her at

- The key to writing a kick-ass query letter is to leave the editor saying, "Wow -- this writer not only knows my magazine but she cares enough to send a query that will leave me with no unanswered questions." The editor should be able to visialize the layout of the article by the time he/she has finished reading the query. One thing, though, that comes with experience, is to know the questions that editors will ask. For instance, if I am pitching a medical topic, the first thing I will be asked is if there are any new studies or findings on the topic or if there is a new book coming out. Also, a query should be written in the voice of the magazine. For instance, a query I send to Women's Health is going to have a tone different than a pitch for the health section of Woman's Day. - Sharon Anne Waldrop, contributor to Parents, Parenting, Health, Women's Health, Glamour, Alternative Medicine, For Me, and All You

- Model it on the stories you see printed. Think of a great cover line; that's your title. Even if that title doesn't get used, at least you're thinking about it, and that will be noticed. - Sandra B. Hume

-Making sure you read it out loud before hitting the “send” button. (Yes, I query by email pretty much 99% of the time.) Also, remembering those old tents of journalism—the five Ws and the H—and ensuring that your query includes them all. Finally, being clear about why this query is right for X magazine and why now. - Leah Ingram,

- A great intro gets the editor to keep reading. For me, that means writing in the voice of the magazine, and doing something that hasn't been done a zillion times before. Also, I always include any relevant research, so the editor knows I've done my homework on the topic, and I outline who my experts will be so the editor knows I know what I'm doing. - Camille Noe Pagan, camillenoepagan, contributor to Glamour, Health and Prevention, among others

- I think a query letter will give your editor a sense of your style.. so make it look good. I dont write long letters - just quick and to-the-point letters with relevant information. In some cases, it makes sense to interview a few sources before hand to get some good quotes. - Monica Bhide,, contributor to AARP-The Magazine, Health, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Town& Country Travel, Departures, Washington Post and the New York Times

- I say this from an editor's perspective: a kick-ass story idea would have a hook that would only fit in that magazine. It would have a title and a deck, and maybe even a coverline. It would be written in a style that matches the magazine. - Denise Schipani, author of the Mommy Confidential column in American Baby, and contributor to Parents, Parenting, Parent & Child, Women's Health, Woman's Day, and Redbook, among others.

- Know your audience, know your query (e.g. don't be wishy washy), and include concrete examples. This might mean doing research before you pitch, but it'll pay off. - Jen A. Miller,

- Show the editor how you’d approach the piece. Find new information, research or trends. Tell her something that she doesn’t know, or that her readers need to know. Write a killer lede. (If it’s good enough, you might have just saved yourself some work on the piece.) The more work you put into the query letter, the easier you make it for the editor to decide whether this is a good piece for her – and whether you’re the writer to take it on. - Gwen Moran,, contributor to Woman's Day, Family Circle and Entrepreneur, among others

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

How to Crack the Code

Continuing with the Q/A with some crackerjack freelance writer friends, today's question is:

How do I break into a new-to-me magazine or market? Here's what they said. (For their top-notch credits, check out yesterday's post.) Oh, and Happy Halloween! I plan to spend the rest of the week gorging on my son's loot. :)

Oh, a few more fabulous words of wisdom on how to ask for advice from my pal, Linda Formichelli, co-author of The Renegade Writer.

- Spend some time really studying the magazine and be sure you know what they have run in recent issues — you might even mention a recent story in your pitch (if it’s relevant). Find out who handles the section you’re pitching and fire away! And be relentless about follow up. If I think a story is perfect for a particular publication, I’ll follow up with the editor every few weeks until I get some sort of response — even a “no.” - Amy Paturel

- Come up with fabulous ideas and pitch, pitch, pitch. Tie that first pitch into a query letter so the ed gets a feel for who you are and what you're about. Oh, and don't cry when they don't respond or reply with a cold, "Thanks, but no thanks." Just keep pitching. That new-to-you ed needs to recognize your name when it pops up in his or her inbox. Not as the psycho wannabe writer who throws any old idea at them but the writer with good ideas that is soon sure to come up with the GREAT idea. - Lauren Russell

-Read, read, read. Read the magazine and try to get a sense of who their audience is. If they have any information on demographics, editorial calendar etc.. that is very helpful in writing pitches. -Monica Bhide

-Plain and simple: write the best query of your life. I don't send out tons of queries like many other writers do; I only send out the ideas that I know are really, truly good and that I know I can sell somewhere--if not at the magazine I'm querying, then somewhere else. I would rather send a few quality queries than 50 bad ones, because if a magazine is new to you, that query is all the editor knows about the quality of your writing. (Good clips don't hurt, but bad writers can have good clips if the editor was willing to do the clean-up work.) - Camille Noe Pagan

-I’ll give the ASJA conference another plug, along with the Magazine Writers One on One conference in Chicago. Both are excellent ways to get the inside scoop on what editors are looking for from freelancers, because they will tell you this right from the podium. Why waste time perfecting a query for a section of a magazine that you come to find out is staff produced? Since conferences only occur once or twice a year, the rest of the time I would suggest focusing on magazines that you like as a reader AND the sections you enjoy as a reader—again, assuming they’re not staff written. For example, I’m a Family Circle subscriber, and the magazine used to have a column called “Women Who Make A Difference.” It was the first place I turned to whenever my magazine arrived in the mailbox—I was raised by a mother who believes strongly in giving back—and it was the one place I wanted to see my byline. It took about two years of pitching but eventually I sold a piece, which appeared in an October 2004 issue of the magazine. - Leah Ingram

-Follow-up has proven to be one of my most rewarding practices. And not taking ANYTHING personally, ever. It's never about you. - freelance writer Sandra B. Hume

-My best tips on breaking into a new-to-me magazine is to have several ideas in mind when I send the first pitch. Then, if my idea is turned down, I already have another query waiting in the wings to send to the editor right away. Also, I feel that persistence, without any signs of desperation or being annoying is important. There is a fine line between showing an interest in writing for a specific magazine and being too aggressive. Editors are extremely busy. Although selling my article or essay is a priority for me, it is not top priority for the editor and I respect his/her needs to complete tasks other than reading my query and getting back to me. If I don't receive a response to a pitch within two weeks, I e-mail a kind note to the editor that says, "This e-mail is just a quick follow-up to inquire if you have had a chance to review the query I sent you on XX-XX-XXXX. A copy is below for your convenience." If I know that a magazine's response time is lengthy, then I may wait a bit longer before following-up. - Sharon Waldrop

-I study the magazine and figure out what section I'd like to break into. Then I keep on the look for story ideas that will fit the best. I try to have a couple of ideas ready, that way, if the first one gets "bonked," I've got another one to send while the editor is still thinking of me. - Michele Wojciechowski

-Persistence and patience. And more persistence. Also, a feeling of "what the hell." Don't worry so much. Just get it done, and press send. - Denise Schipani

-A knock out query. It can cover the fact that you might not have clips. I've also had success with letters of introduction and following up with ideas. - Jen A. Miller

-Traditional advice is to read the publication, or at least go to the web site, and I think that’s very basic and useful. It’s also helpful to review six months’ of topics in that pub to be sure you’re not pitching something that’s in the current issue. That said, I know others who have queried publications they’ve never seen before and gotten assignments. I believe it’s about the query or intro letter. Show the editor what you can bring to the table – new information, research skills, a track record in a particular area. I always try to do my homework before querying.

Follow up. I know some folks are reluctant to do that, and I don’t advocate being a stalker. However, many times an e-mail will get lost in the shuffle or an editor just hasn’t had time to review it. I’ve gotten many assignments after following up a few times. Also, I know some folks give a two- or three-week deadline and then pull the query. I’ve had queries sit for months and months with publications I wanted to break into. I tailor my queries pretty specifically and I have lots of ideas, so it’s usually not a big deal for me to work on the editor’s timeline. - Gwen Moran

Monday, October 30, 2006

How to Approach a Mentor

As promised, I'm devoting this week to letting some fellow freelancers chime in with savvy advice on a variety of questions that I posed and that they were kind enough to answer. We're kicking off with a subject that I raised last week while discussion competitiveness: the right (and wrong) ways to go about asking an established writer for help. Many of my own sentiments are reflected in their answers, so I won't spout off here, but needless to say, these gals know of what they read on!

What's the best way to approach you for advice? What turns you off?

"I prefer being approached by e-mail. Phone calls interrupt the flow of whatever I’m doing, but I can put an e-mail aside and answer it more thoughtfully, link to resources, and generally be more helpful when I answer e-mail. I usually give a list of 'homework' to new writers – I’ll refer them to some books, web sites and resources that I’ve found particularly helpful, then tell them to come back and ask me anything they like after they’ve read those. I never hear from many of them again. However, those that do the home work and return with questions are those I know are serious about building careers as writers and I’m happy to help in whatever way I can. I had some very generous writers give me tips early on. To me, it’s just paying it forward.

Some don’ts: Don’t ask me for editor contact info right off the bat, especially when that information is just as easily found by calling the magazine or looking at the pub’s web site. Don’t use my name without my permission. Don’t expect me to do the homework for you – this business is about research and finding information. If someone can’t be bothered to read a book or visit a web site, how will that person be able to research a story? It’s hard work, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

And, sure, I appreciate a “thank-you,” but it’s not something for which I sit around waiting. A simple “thanks” in an e-mail suffices. I don’t need engraved notes or flowers." - Gwen Moran,, contributor to Woman's Day, Family Circle and Entrepreneur, among others

"I'm peeved when people will ask me advice on someone's behalf, such as "my kid would love to do what you're doing. Would you talk to her?" If it really mattered to the kid, she would talk to me herself. Phone call or email works, and say thank you." - Jen A. Miller,

"I don't mind helping newbie writers. But I can't formulate someone's approach for them, or invent talent, or provide a made to order career for someone. I don't mind ONLY when the person has specific questions to ask, after some legwork has already been done. Asking for nonspecific advice would be like walking into Home Depot and saying, "I want to remodel my bathroom," and then clamming up and expecting the poor Home Depot worker to do it all. Instead, you should say, "I've started planning my bathroom remodel. ARe there books or magazines you guys have that could help me narrow down material choices? What aisle are the plumbing fixtures in?" My point is that newbies should be able to ask experienced writers for a push in a certain direction, but not FOR the direction itself." - Denise Schipani, author of the Mommy Confidential column in American Baby, and contributor to Parents, Parenting, Parent & Child, Women's Health, Woman's Day, and Redbook, among others.

"I like to be approached by aspiring freelancers because I love the business. However, my time is limited because I am busy with my own deadlines, marketing myself, and raising a household of children with endless wants and needs. There are books on the market that explain how to get started better than any info I have to share. When someone expresses an interest on getting started, I refer them to Ready, Aim, Specialize by Kelly James-Enger and The Renegade Writer by Diana Burrell and Linda Formichelli. Both books are excellent and are helpful to both new and experienced freelancers. These two books, along with my membership to Freelance Success ( are responsible for getting me where I am today. Once I send someone in the right direction to do their own research -- and after all, a writer needs to know how to reserach -- I welcome them to contact me if they have any questions or want some advice. I will always remember the people who put me on the right track to get started. " - Sharon Anne Waldrop, contributor to Parents, Parenting, Health, Women's Health, Glamour, Alternative Medicine, For Me, and All You

"I usually don't mind new writers asking me for advice. I do mind when they ask for specific contacts at publications and want to use my name. I've worked hard over the years to establish relationships, and that's what they will need to do too. I do get irritated when I've spent quite a bit of time helping someone, and then he/she doesn't even say thanks. You need to have good manners to get ahead. I don't need writers to throw rosepetals at my feel, but I thank-you e-mail would be nice.

And while I am okay with helping new writers, I do have work I'm doing. One thing that bugs me is when I can't get back with someone immediately, and I keep getting e-mails asking either if I got the first e-mail or when I will get back to him/her. I feel like screaming, "I WILL, BUT I'M ON DEADLINE!" Ahhhh...that feels better." -Michele Wojciechowski, Maryland-based freelance writer and humorist. To receive her weekly humor column, Wojo's World (tm), via e-mail, contact her at

"Probably the BEST way to get some free (well, almost free) advice is to attend a mentoring session at the ASJA conference, which is held each spring in New York. I’ve volunteered as a mentor in the past, and I’ve also run the entire program, helping to match would-be and beginner writers with established ones. In addition, paying for a subscription to Freelance Success allows you to establish relationships with professional writers (via the message boards) and gives you access to them for asking and answering questions." - Leah Ingram,

"I don't mind giving new writers advice, but I have found myself becoming more hesitant to hand it out to those I don't know because so few people even bother to say thank you (which is a pet peeve of mine--how hard is it to email those two little words?!).

Also, I'm so much more likely to open up to you about my experiences if I know you've done some legwork yourself. If you haven't even done a google search on freelancing, that tells me you're not serious about it, so why should I share information that took me years to learn?

Oh, and this sounds weird, but it happens all too often: if you want advice, don't insult me in the process of asking for it. For example, at an event a few months ago, an acquaintance of mine grilled me on freelancing for half an hour, only to announce, "Ultimately, I want to be a real writer, like Augusten Burroughs or James Frey--not what you do." (I couldn't make this up!!!). I was so taken aback that I walked away without saying another word. " - Camille Noe Pagan,
camillenoepagan, contributor to Glamour, Health and Prevention, among others

"I always enjoy hearing from new writers and dont mind helping them at all as long as they are ready to help themselves -- what I dont like is people who write to me and expect me to give them the keys to the magic kingdom! There are no keys. Writing, like any other profession, is hard work and requires dedication and commitment. I get a lot of emails asking me for editorial contacts, so I ask you -- if I (as a complete and total stranger) called you out of the blue and asked if I could use your name to apply for a job would you give it to me? Take the time to read up some basics and write for specific advice. I am always ready to help." Monica Bhide,, contributor to AARP-The Magazine, Health, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Town& Country Travel, Departures, Washington Post and the New York Times

"I don't mind he or she approaching me at all. Sure, if that person has never even attempted to seek out a $5/story gig at their local newspaper and "wants to know how to do what I do," then I'll be thinking Ooookay. But my experience with this has been a writer who just moved to NYC (I knew her already) and who wanted to know what to expect in freelancing, resources, etc. I suggested us meeting at a nearby coffee shop because it was so much easier to just get it all out in an hour (before I went I also wrote down Web sites, books, etc. for her) than chatting about it via e-mail or phone. Bottom line: If you're a fledgling writer and want expert advise, do you homework beforehand and have specific questions prepared. Offer to meet this person for coffee or send an e-mail asking if the "expert" would mind telling you about a few things. That person may prefer e-mail." Lauren Ann Russell, contributor to Women's Health, Men's Health, Self, Fitness and YogaLife

"E-mail is usually best for first contact. I’m happy to help new writers and am usually very detailed in my responses. What drives me crazy though, is when I craft a very thoughtful (and long-winded) response and never hear a peep from the person again — not even a thank you." Amy Paturel, columnist for AOL and contributor to Health, Cooking Light and
Women's Health

"I hate it when there's an assumption that you have all the time in the world to help out someone new, especially if they know nothing about the business. Remember, as freelancers, we only make money when we're working for paying clients. I hate it when there's no "thank you." If advice or a tip I shared made a difference in someone's life, I'd really love to hear about it. Sometimes I'll hear years later ... it would have been nice to know." -Lisbeth Levine, Chicago-based freelance writer