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Unlimited Markets
by L. J. Bothell

The great thing about freelance writing is the unlimited opportunities you have to write –- you are limited only by your time and imagination. However, what happens when you feel you've exhausted your existing markets –- places where you’re already established, markets you can't seem to crack, publications that have folded, and clients which just aren't a good fit? You should avoid this problem altogether by marketing yourself continuously. Many freelancers tend to break up the marketing end of writing from the writing end, leaving themselves with periods of feast and famine. You need to build time into your business week to refresh your marketing database. Where specifically can you find new and well-paying markets?

For basic publisher, trade, specialty and magazine markets, start with the old reliables: writer’s magazines and annuals. These include Writer's Digest, The Writer, Poets & Writers, and the huge annual market books you can reference at the library (The 2002 Writer's Market, etc.) Look for fringe publications that might in some way publish the kind of work you specialize in, and/or expand your niche. In addition, gather market information on every publication you personally read or see in the doctor's office, at the library, at your workplace, or at a friend's house. It’s amazing how many publications don’t actively list guidelines, especially trade pubs; you can, with a little research and follow up, successfully break into some of these anyway – you just have to find them first. Can you editorialize for The Economist, get an article into Staff Digest, or pitch a concept for a parenting publication?

Next, get online. If you are computer phobic, try to get over it since the computer and Internet are fantastic resources no writer should be without. You can access online versions of print magazines to verify they still exist, check their pay rates, read sample material, and to avoid purchasing all of them. You can locate hundreds of additional paying markets on web sites which host columns and editorials, on business-related sites, and in e-zines. Also, subscribe to free electronic market newsletters; many will combine writing tips, community chit-chat, and several fresh markets. You can "meet" the editors of these fairly easily, and offer occasional articles on the writing and freelance business for varying pay ranges. Finally, use search engines (try Yahoo, Google and Excite) for lists of hard-to-find publications, university presses, and electronic newsstand sites.

You should also network. Check out writer’s associations (SFWA, MWA, RWA, HWA, Women in Communications, and so on) because they often list hard-to-find resources non-members can use, and can suggest ways you can stretch your existing niche materials. For instance, HWA (Horror Writer’s Association) might be for professional horror and dark fantasy writers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t locate related nonfiction publications and pitch article concepts to high-paying markets like Fangoria or Sci-Fi.com. Track down writer's community sites (writerswrite.com, thewriteukmarket.com, forwriters.com, writersmarket.com, worldwidefreelance.com, etc.) and scan their market databases. Look at writing and related freelance resource sites where you can post your resume and portfolio for free and search through hundreds of freelance opportunities.

Collaboration is the next step of networking. You are busy, and sometimes you miss important tidbits that can cost you a valuable opportunity. Another writer you know has them, but needs something you take for granted. Why not put your heads together and see what you come up with? Collaborate your market search efforts with one or several other writers and build a shared database. Swap info at your writer's group and make this part of the normal meeting business. Consider ways you can help each other by offering references and introductions. When you get terribly busy with a few too many assignments, you can subcontract out pieces of your work to collaborators or to emerging writers who can handle less complex assignments while you keep the goodwill of your clients and still get paid. You might also learn of opportunities to get work from more established writers – for instance, a busy author/lecturer might need a piece researched and partially written and you could get a new repeat client. Finally, consider collaborating with a local graphic designer or marketing team so you can participate on brochure and annual report work.

Pay attention to word of mouth. If you are at all involved with other writers, you can learn amazing things. For instance, you can chat with editors and other writers at conferences and genre conventions –- parties, dinners, and visits to the hotel lounge are great cozying up places. Many of them know about and actively discuss trends and hidden markets -- publications that pay for reviews, columns, and articles. You’ll hear about invitation-only publications – when possible, ask if you can submit something; sometimes you’ll get a ‘yes’. Also, get to know your local businesses through the Chamber of Commerce and local newsletters/papers. You’ll be able to learn about new businesses which are coming to town and snag opportunities to write advertising copy, draft press releases, or publish articles on their opening, progress, personnel, and so on.

Your goal should be to have a constant flow of incoming assignments and opportunities from a broad variety of paying markets (publications, corporate clients, copy for small businesses, and so forth). Use a modest percentage of your writing week on marketing - brainstorm query ideas, revisit market lists to look for new business opportunities, prepare query submissions, and keep in contact with existing/previous clients. It’s also important to follow-up with past clients in order to be the first one called for new writing and to get referrals if they have nothing on hand for you right now. There are literally hundreds of writing opportunities and markets for you to discover and pursue; remember - everything is a potential sale. Good luck!

© Copyright 2002, L. J. Bothell

L.J. Bothell is a graphic designer/writer with marketing communications emphasis who lives and temps/freelances in Seattle, Washington. Recent/upcoming writing vacations include Vancouver, BC, France, and Italy. Questions? Contact info@bastmedia.com.

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