Media Professional Development

5 Ways to Break Into Freelance Writing

Before I became a dietitian, I had been as a longtime magazine and web editor. I assigned and edited health and nutrition content at publications, including Prevention, Health, Parents, Weight Watchers Magazine, and WeightWatchers.com. Throughout most of my editorial career, I also went to school at night to become a dietitian. Finally, I made the transition to private practice, which is when I focused even more on my freelance writing career. I write a weekly blog for WeightWatchers.com plus regular content for FoxNews.com, FoodNetwork.com, Runner’s World, and many other publications. I also launched a media coaching business to help other dietitians make an impact in the media.

When I meet new RDs, they often ask me how to break into freelance writing, which is why I’m sharing a handful of my top tips. Try them, and your pitch just may get accepted to the publication of your dreams. Connect with me on social media to let me know about your successes.

  1. Think of a must-publish idea. Editors look for ideas that are unique, fresh, and attention grabbing. They conceive a lot of article ideas themselves, so they want to see pitches from freelancers that they haven’t thought of already. Choose an angle that the editor can’t refuse. If you’re interested in writing an article about protein powders, don’t pitch a generic “all about protein powders” article. Rather, focus on an intriguing angle, whether it’s investigating whether protein powders are safe for athletes, whether they’ll help with weight loss, or unexpected ways to use them in baking. Adding in new research can give your pitch a boost.
  2. Check whether the story was published before. An editor will reject your pitch quickly if you propose an idea the publication already published. If you’re pitching a website, search the site; it will take only a few minutes. Pitching a magazine? Go online and do an article search by topic and/or peruse their publication’s archives that span a few years back.
  3. Write in the publication’s voice. Your goal is to show the editor that you’ve done your research and that you understand the publication. Get a feel for the publication’s voice by reading published content. Then write your pitch in that voice—whether it’s academic and serious or girlfriend-to-girlfriend.
  4. Sell yourself. Include a brief bio at the end of your pitch. Emphasize your expertise and provide a link to articles you’ve written or PDFs of clips from print publications. If you’re still working on publishing your first article, include a link to your blog. An editor will want to see examples of your writing.
  5. Pitch to the right person. Although this tip is last, it’s perhaps the most important one. Send a brilliant idea to the wrong person and it may never get passed along to the right editor for consideration. In most magazines, you’ll find a masthead in the first few pages, and this will list the editors of the publication (and usually the web editors, as well). You’ll want to pitch someone with a title of assistant editor, associate editor, or senior editor (or health editor, nutrition editor, or food editor, if a publication lists those titles). Your research doesn’t stop here: Check the type of content an editor handles. You may find this information on a LinkedIn profile, and you also can search for articles the editor has written to see the type of content in which he or she is creates.

Pitching takes perseverance, so keep at it. The more pitches that get accepted, the more writing examples you’ll have to show future editors—and the greater your chances of getting published.

— Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is the owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, New Jersey. She shares her nutrition expertise with millions of readers on FoxNews.com, FoodNetwork.com, WeightWatchers.com, Parade, Runner’s World, and other publications. She’s also the cocreator of the Master the Media e-course, which helps registered dietitians make an imprint in the media. Keep in touch with her via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

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