Smaller presses can be an excellent stairway to success by attracting the attention you desire from the larger publications. You might consider starting local. These writing jobs often mean a more steady income, a growing writing portfolio, and some interesting story assignments.
Writing locally also gives you the advantage of familiarity. You will be able to appeal more easily to your readers since you shop the same places, travel the same roads, and are otherwise affected by the same social and environmental issues they are.
Even though local publications often can't pay as well as larger publications and the article assignments aren’t always riveting (how many “best of” article topics can I create), the less competitive nature of the smaller market makes it far more likely that a local editor will take a chance on you and your writing skills, and then return to you for future needs.
Regularly exercising your skills of brainstorming, researching, conducting interviews, meeting word counts, and anticipating deadlines will ensure improvement. This will in turn arm you for articles you can query regionally or nationally.
So, who in your community needs your writing skills?
Local publications - Don’t assume the local paper is the only publication in need of writers. That little magazine you pick up for free in the grocery store needs writers. So does the real estate guide with articles about local happenings that arrives in your mailbox. To start, arrange an in-person meeting with the editor or write a friendly, but professional email introducing yourself. Let the editor know if you have clips from previously published work and be prepared with a few article ideas to pitch if they express interest.
Tourism organizations - Local organizations such as visitors' bureaus or chambers of commerce probably create more written content about your area than anyone else. Contact the directors to see if they need assistance creating print or web content. Be flexible and creative when considering how you can help promote the local area. You could write traditional articles (like lists of the best parks in the area), proofread monthly e-newsletters, pull together a calendar of events, write blog posts, or regularly update their social media accounts.
Nonprofits – these organizations always need confident and skilled writers. Offer to assist a local nonprofit you care about by writing and submitting articles about their work to area publications, writing financial campaign "ask" letters, updating websites and blogs, coordinating and writing newsletters, preparing press releases, assisting with grant proposals, or proofreading outgoing documents.
Start Ups - If you hear of a new business in your community, reach out and offer to write press releases, website content, ad copy, brochures, and introductory letters. You could also proofread or tighten copy they already have. Every business does better with a compelling story; be the person who writes those stories.
Don’t give up your dreams of writing for the New York Times, Good Housekeeping, or Better Homes and Gardens. Just be prepared to climb that ladder of success one rung at a time using local markets. Each step strengthens your writing muscles.
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