How to Convince An Editor to Hire You Again: Turn One Assignment Into Many

How to Convince An Editor to Hire You Again: Turn One Assignment Into Many

For freelance writers, recurring revenue is everything.

One-off assignments are a good starting point, but what you really need to form a reliable income stream is writing projects that continue over time: a company that wants you to write a blog post each week or a white paper each month, for example. Work (and pay) you can count on.

So how do you impress an editor with your first few assignments, with the goal of getting more assignments or even become a regular contributor?

I have spent much of my career building writing teams, including hiring freelance writers who contribute regularly to the websites my teams have managed. But most of those teams haven’t advertised openings for regular freelance contributors.

Why? Because we pulled from writers we already worked with, contributors who wrote a great first assignment for us, then another great assignment, then another.

How to convince someone to hire you for another writing job

When I hire a regular contributor, I want to know I can count on that writer to submit high-quality content on a regular basis. I might take a risk when assigning just one post to a writer I’ve never worked with before, but to bring on a regular contributor, I have to be absolutely certain the writer will pan out.

So how do you impress an editor to the point that they want to hire you for a recurring blogging job?

Here’s how to convince someone to hire you:

1. High-quality writing

This sound obvious, but it’s surprisingly difficult to find awesome writers. With so many writers looking for freelance writing jobs or blogging jobs, you’d think editors would be up to our eyebrows in quality contenders. But in reality, every editor I know is on the hunt for people who write well.

And here’s the thing: You don’t just have to write well, you have to write in a style that suits that particular publication. An increasing number of online publications and company blogs want to share ideas in an informal, friendly voice, not one that sounds stiff and stuffy. I’ve made the mistake before of hiring writers with excellent reputations and experience… only to find out they can’t nail that informal voice.

High-quality writing for the web also means eye-catching headlines, an engaging introduction that will hook the reader and easy-to-read paragraphs with lots of white space.

If you’re able to deliver high-quality work consistently, editors will clamor to get you on their roster.

2. Meet deadlines — every time

For an editor to rely on a writer on a regular basis, she has to be absolutely certain that person will meet deadlines, every time. Simply put, deliver what you promise. This quality is far more rare than it should be, so when you do deliver what you promise (or over-deliver), you will stick out, in a good way.

When writers don’t file posts when they say they will, editors end up scrambling for content to fill that spot, and that makes the job stressful.

Editors don’t like stress. They like writers who make their job easier.

This deadline aspect is so important that I’ve declined to work with writers simply because they missed their first deadline. Sure, emergencies happen and things come up, but if you’re working with an editor for the first time, get your work done ahead of your deadline, so you deliver what you promised even if something unexpected happens.

As a bonus, if you complete a piece and file early, that will most certainly put you on that editor’s list of writers he wants to work with again.

3. Turn in work that’s ready to publish

Take time to do little things before you file that make the editor’s job easier. Your assignment should be pretty much ready to publish when it lands in her inbox.

For example, look to see how the blog is formatted. Does it use H2s for subheads? Use those to format your post. Does each story include links to other posts on that blog? Find relevant places to add those links. Is each author bio just two sentences long? Shorten your four-sentence bio before you file, so the editor doesn’t have to ask you to do it later.

Go out of your way to adhere to those little details, because it means less work for the editor. You might not know all the rules the first time you write for a blog, but if you carefully watch all changes the editor makes, you’ll be able to make those same tweaks next time before you file the post. Your editor will notice! (More on this in the next bullet.)

On several of the blogs my team has managed, for example, posts need a two-sentence excerpt that shows on the homepage. First-time contributors don’t typically add this to the top of their posts, but sometimes, when we ask a contributor to write for us again, that writer adds the excerpt without us asking for it. The writer notices a preference and delivers it. That’s always a sign of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Learn how to edit your own copy, and deliver the post so it’s completely ready for publishing, and you’ll make your editor over-the-moon happy.

4. Be open to edits, and note the editor’s preferences

Writing is only half the job — you also have to be ready to make edits per the editor’s request. Too many writers assume their first draft is the final copy. Instead, assume you’ll need to make yourself available to answer questions, clarify points and maybe even reorganize your work to the editor’s liking.

And by all means, don’t take edits personally. Don’t get too attached to your darlings. Yes, sometimes an editor will suggest a change that does not improve your work. But most of the time, editors will make your work shine, so it’s worth your time to make changes they ask for.

While an editor doesn’t expect writers to know the publication’s preferences perfectly the first time they contribute, most will watch closely to see whether the writer makes an effort to incorporate changes on subsequent posts before they file.

For example, if I use track changes to add subheads to a writer’s post, I watch the next post he files to see if he added them himself. If I ask a writer to trim a post to 500 words, I hope she’ll know to do that with the next post, without me pointing it out.

In other words, editors like to work with writers who learn quickly and are smart and thoughtful enough to incorporate feedback. This not only shows your ability, it also demonstrates that you respect my time, just like I respect yours.

Time to ask for a regular writing gig?

Once you’ve proven just how great of a writer you are and how easy you are to work with, don’t be afraid to ask your editor whether she could use your work on a regular basis. But make sure you’ve strutted your stuff first!

Don’t be that writer who asks for a regular column before they’ve even written one post. I typically expect a writer to file at least three or four times before committing… and 90 percent of the time, that writer does not turn out to be the type of contributor we’re willing to invest in. This post-by-post trial period saves me from spending money on writers who don’t turn in the quality we need, and it also helps me spend less time editing blog posts that aren’t up to par.

Once you’ve proven yourself, let the editor know you’d love to contribute more often. Some blogs want regular writers to contribute once a month, while others might look for posts from regulars twice a month or even once or twice a week. This varies according to the company, so don’t be disappointed if a once-a-month column is all the editor can offer you.

If you’ve written for the editor several times and they still don’t bite when you ask for a regular gig, it’s probably due to one of these factors:

  • Your writing isn’t good enough. Keep practicing, and follow the advice above.
  • The editor doesn’t have space for another regular contributor.
  • The editor doesn’t have the budget to pay you regularly.

Even if you don’t score recurring work, it isn’t a waste of time to ask. Budgets and writing teams are always in flux, and if the editor truly likes your work, he’ll keep you in mind the next time an opening comes up.

Good editors have high standards. But if you check all of these boxes, you’ll put yourself in the position to land a writing gig — or two or three! — as a regular contributor.

Have any questions you’re dying to ask a blog editor? Go for it in the comments!

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via Olena Yakobchuk / Shutterstock 

Filed Under: Blogging

30 comments

  • Rosy says:

    HI Alex,

    This is really perfect post

  • Lungile Mangena says:

    Hie Alex
    Thanks for the post it is helpful.
    I have a question may you kindly help: let’s say you are employed by a national newspaper and you are Bureau chief, an editor has instructed you to write about something else which may seem less important but you want to write about a suspected Ebola case. How do you convince your editor to allow you to write about the pressing issue on Ebola

  • Gems says:

    Composing the perfect blog post. I enjoyed the formula. This has been an extraordinary perused.

  • Hi Alex:
    I somehow missed this post when it first came out, but I’m very glad to have seen it now. I’ve been a freelance writer since 1999, but only started blogging about six years ago. I now manage (or try to manage) two blogs. I haven’t been as consistent as I should be, so I’m still learning and building my blogs. I am always willing to learn more about blogging, especially becoming a contributor to other blogs.
    I am learning more of the terminology, especially when it comes to making blogs SEO friendly. I was confused by the term H2s for sub-heads. Could you explain that?
    Could you also direct me to read some of your blog posts, or posts written by your contributors so that I can become familiar with your style?
    Knowing what a publication’s style is, and knowing how to make the editor’s job easy definitely makes a huge difference in landing more writing gigs. I try to always do both.
    Thanks for these great tips. I am sharing them with the bloggers in my writing group.
    Cheers,
    Christine Peets
    Napanee, ON, Canada

  • thank for the tips on blogging

  • Hi Alexis,

    I loved this post… you were very informative! I had a question for you… if an editor requests a draft of your post but doesn’t specify how they would like the draft… what’s the best format? A pdf? Word? Google Docs? If the post includes pictures (as all my posts do since I blog about home decor) should the pictures be included in the draft or only the text?

    Thanks for the opportunity to pick your brain! I know every editor is different but I thought a few guidelines would help!

    Betsy

    • Lisa Rowan says:

      Hi Betsy,
      Lisa here, pitching in in case Alexis doesn’t get a chance to answer your question.
      If an editor doesn’t give me specific instructions, I usually submit both a Google doc and a Word doc. I wouldn’t recommend a PDF since it’s usually harder to edit those. As for photos, I recommend attaching them all/sharing a Google Drive folder with descriptive file names. Pasting the photos into your draft can make it hard to place the images where they need to go in the final version.
      I hope my experience is helpful!
      Lisa
      TWL Editor

  • Ronn Jerard says:

    Thanks for the informative and valuable points, Alexis. I plan to keep writing, learning and following you on The Write Life. Thanks for being there.

  • Murigi Wainaina says:

    Thanks for this information. I started freelancing a few moths ago and I am still trying to find my footing in this field. I have done jobs on iwriter, fiverr and elance. My clients have praised my work and rated it highly but as widely known, the compensation is well… For this reason I have a strong desire to work where my effort will fairly be compensated. Given a chance, I would like to go through the process outlined in the post with the hope of establishing a long-term writing relationship with a company/individual who will appreciate my work through a good pay.

    I am a medical professional who write both fiction and nonfiction. I have three novels available on amazon Kindle and Createspace (print on demand paperback). I recently published a health-related ebook on the same platform. My author page where the books can be found is: amazon.com/author/murigiwainaina.

    Although I can essentially write on any topic, I want to initially work on the health niche incorporating both conventional and alternative medicine including the whole nutraceutical industry. I would be very happy to know how to get into the system and hereby offer myself for trial.

    I am a fast learner reliable and a very easy to work with person.

    • Sounds like you’re on the right track, Murigi! I’d keep doing what you’re doing, continue to build up your portfolio and go after higher paying gigs and clients. You will get there!

  • Richard Huckle says:

    Being a closet MSP, and a writer that just enjoys banging hell out of the keyboard, this question must surely be asked?
    Are the ladies better at blogging than us guys?

  • Hey Alexis

    My H-4 visa restrictions will be lifted soon, meaning I can start earning soon, which is both scary and EXCITING!

    Time to get serious about my writing career….

    Thank you for these fabulous insights

    Kitto

  • Alexis

    Writing The Perfect Blog Post. I liked the Formula. This has been a great read. I learned some basic terms: SEO and the 6 suggestions. I’m working on my Mothers, and my own Memior. Hers triggers my own memories. An interesting journey.

    These short bits of information have been a wonderful help to keep learning. Learning to write like my boss, and his or her boss was the formula for long-term success in a navy career (E-1 to CWO3).

    Thank you

    Marty

  • Meredith says:

    Thank you for writing this post! I found it very insightful and helpful. I’ve been blogging for a year now to try and sharpen my writing skills and would love to blog full time and become a contributing writer for other blogs. I love the Write Life site so much, I’m going to feature it in one of my up-coming posts!

  • Hi Alexis,

    The distinction you make between writing well and blogging well is an important one: When I started out as a content writer in 2011, I had already been a freelance writer for 13 years, so deep down I thought my new employers should be grateful for my presence. My digital marketing manager put in a pin in that particular bubble pretty swiftly! Having written almost exclusively in a formal, journalistic manner, I had to learn to balance the informative with the conversational in my posts. Four years later, I’m still learning.

    Thanks for some great tips.

    Aoife

    • Hi Aoife — Cool to hear someone else has experienced this, because I often get doubt thrown back at me when I suggest they’re two different styles! Writers (and often editors) assume if they can write in one style, that will automatically translate… but it takes some practice.

  • DIANE says:

    Thank you so much for the information you posted. I have been a published writer since the 6th grade, too long ago to comment on what year. I am gaining knowledge at a fast pace. I can write on almost anything just with a muse and I’m on my way.

    I have two books started one on its way to being published. A book of short stories about how different it is living in the north in comparison to the many encounters which have taken place in the south. The one which has met with so many reviews is the story about my addictive son who showed signs of addiction early on.

    I would like to start a BLOG about Codependents because addiction is so prevalent in our society.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Diane Farris-Howard

  • I am really glad that this email popped up in my inbox today. Perfect timing. As a fairly new freelance writer, I have been exploring the best avenues to not only find writing jobs, but quality writing jobs. Posts like this one are precisely what I’m looking for. Thanks for a great post!

  • Lisa Rowan says:

    I’ve found that not jumping into a recurring work agreement is good for both the editor and the writer. If it’s my first time writing for a publication, I get to learn a lot of things: how long it takes for me to research and write in the style of the pub; what it’s like to work with the editor; how long it takes to get paid. The first assignment is a great test for both sides, and you can take it piece by piece from there.

  • Alexis,

    Thank you for the excellent tips. I hadn’t previously considered blogging for hire, but now that you’ve brought it to mind, I can see how viable it could be.

    I also maintain two blogs and partner for another, so the tips you shared are helpful to me both as a potential contributor and a potential editor.

    Best wishes,

    Carrie

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