You probably know that to launch (or grow) a writing career, you need to pitch…and pitch…and pitch.
But pitch whom?
If you’re a magazine writer, there are too many publications out there to wrap your head around — or not enough, depending on your field. (Sheep-farming mags, anyone?)
And, as if finding good pubs to pitch weren’t hard enough, trying to find out whether they actually pay can make your head implode with frustration.
Or say you’re a content writer, blogger, or copywriter. How can you find businesses that could use your services—while weeding out the tire-kickers and cheap-os from the hundreds of possibilities?
Where to find writing clients
If you’re scouring your local newsstand to sleuth out magazines to pitch, or driving around your city seeking good business clients, head straight home, park your car and try these ideas instead.
I can hear you now: “Google. Really? How very original.”
But Google is not as obvious a choice as you would think. I can’t even count the number of times a coaching client would say something like, “I want to write for trade magazines for the flooring industry and can’t find any” — and before she’d even finished with her complaint, I would have Googled up a list of a dozen flooring trades.
The trick is to look for directories or lists instead of searching for publications or businesses one by one. Rather than Googling, say, “pet product manufacturers,” try “pet product manufacturers directory.” Chances are, someone else has helpfully compiled a nice list you can use. In this case, it’s the American Pet Products Association Member Directory, which is available to the public.
(By the way, in case you were wondering: There are many, many trade magazines for sheep farmers. Do a Google search and you’ll find them easily!)
2. Writer’s Market (but not for the reason you think)
Writer’s Market is a directory of hundreds of publications that pay writers, divided up by topic. However, the real secret is to use Writer’s Market to find publications that aren’t in Writer’s Market.
Here’s the deal: If you find a magazine in Writer’s Market that looks promising, check to see if it’s put out by a publishing group. If so, look up the company online to see what other magazines they put out; chances are, they have some that aren’t listed in Writer’s Market.
For example, some trade magazine groups publish a dozen or more magazines—and if the one you found listed in Writer’s Market pays a good rate, the other ones probably do too (though this is no guarantee).
3. Industry association membership lists
Many industry associations keep membership lists complete with each member’s contact information. If you join (which may require you to pay a fee), you’ll often have access to the list.
However, do check the organization’s guidelines to make sure it’s okay to pitch other members.
4. The Content Council
Custom content companies create magazines, newsletters, blogs, and more for their clients—and they often hire freelancers, and pay well to boot.
Lucky for us, The Content Council maintains a publicly available list of its member companies searchable by account sector (like Health or Retail), complete with contact information.
5. Trade magazine directories
Trade magazine directories abound online. I like the one on WebWire, which lists hundreds of trade pubs in categories ranging from aviation to workforce management.
Trade directories aren’t meant for writers, so once you find a pub that looks good, you’ll need to visit its website and do some digging to find the assigning editor’s contact info.
6. Right here
You read that right — here on The Write Life you’ll find info on more than 225 publications that pay Freelance Writers.
But do they pay?
By now you should have dozens of markets to pitch, but there’s no point researching and pitching a publication or business if it offers a rate of zero dollars per word (aka “exposure”), no negotiation allowed.
Here’s how to narrow the field of potential clients to the ones that are most likely to be worth your time.
1. Go for the money
Many new copywriters and content writers like to pitch mom-and-pop shops, because they think these businesses will be easier to write for. The bad news is, these tiny businesses usually can’t afford to pay what you’re worth…and the worse news is, they often need a ton of hand-holding because they’ve never hired a writer before.
Look for businesses with $5 million+ in profits, which ensures you’re reaching out to prospects that can afford to pay.
2. Check Writer’s Market (again)
Writer’s Market assigns each publication from one to four dollar sign symbols to indicate how much they pay; with the online version of the service, you can narrow your search to those markets that have, say, two or more dollar signs.
Each publication’s entry also includes more detailed information on pay.
3. Visit the Who Pays Writers website
According to their site, “Who Pays Writers is an anonymous, crowd-sourced list of which publications pay freelance writers—and how much.”
You’ll discover, for example, that Artforum has paid writers from 20-40 cents per word.
4. Ask your friends
If you belong to any writers’ forums, email lists, or communities, ask if any other writers know how much Blog X pays or whether Company Y pays freelance writers.
5. Browse the pages
Take a look at your target magazine’s content and advertisers. You can get a good feel for whether they pay (and how well) by the look of the pub and the readers they’re targeting.
Slick ads for expensive gas grills or top-of-the-line hair care products? Good. Cheap-looking design, typo-ridden articles, and random Google ads? Not so good.
This isn’t a foolproof method — there are plenty of publications that target high-worth readers but don’t pay writers — but it can be a pretty good clue.
Do you have a super-secret trick for finding and qualifying writing markets? Spill the details in the comments!