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.
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