In my new ebook, Notes From a Hired Pen: Where to Find New Freelance Writing Clients and Turbocharge Your Career, I wrote about five places to find potential clients:
- Consumer Publications
- Business to Business Publications
- Business to Consumer Publications
- Colleges and Universities
I did this because when I talk to freelancers struggling to find work, or who want to replace clients they have but hate, I point them in these directions. Often categories two through five are a revelation! I can see why. These opportunities aren't in our faces every day, but building work outside of just "this thing I can buy at the airport" can lead to a broader, more stable, and more profitable freelance life.
I would like you to buy the ebook of course. It's $10! But If you can't afford it, or think I'm lying, I did a fun exercise for you. In October, I saved every single piece of mail that showed up at my house. I also saved emails that I thought might have involved freelance writing work. I've taken the best prospects and sorted them into these five buckets with the hope of showing you that, once you start looking, potential sources of work are everywhere.
I'm not saying that all of these places hire freelancers, or you'd want to work with them if they do. This sample is also skewed by who I am, what I like, what I buy, and what I do. But I did this to show the sheer volume of opportunities out there (and I've done this before, but why not do it again!)
I did leave out what seemed clear advertising i.e. catalogues, credit card offers, etc. I'm also including non-profits in "Business to Consumer" since, well, it's easier that way. You should also check the ethics guidelines of who you write for if you do journalism work (which yes often extend to freelancers entirely, but that's another conversation for another time). If you're unsure if you could use a doctor from a hospital as a source when you wrote for that hospital's affiliated medical school's alumni publication (for example) just ask your editor.
Entertainment Weekly, Popular Mechanics, The Retrospect (our local weekly paper here), Tarbell, Defector, Washington Post, New York Times, Wirecutter, Pop Culture Happy Hour, New York Times, Washington Post. I got some of these in the mail, some via emailed links, some via targeted newsletters (that I signed up for!) I rarely make the distinction between print, online, or newsletter anymore. As long as they pay me fairly, they're good to go as a potential client.
Business to Business Publications
Government Technology. I wrote about this company more in depth in the ebook, but for the good of the newsletter: I get this magazine because I write about technology, and because I find it fascinating. The last time I spoke to the folks at e.Republic, which also publishing Governing, they didn't use freelancers for journalism work. However, they said they hired writers to write sponsored content, which in this issue are plenty: "The Constituent-Centric Experience" for WhyLine; "How Local Governments Can Get Ahead of Their Threat Opponents," for CAI, "The Bridge Builders: Government and Education Affairs" for SHI – and the list goes on. Also, Government Technology is just one type of publication e.Republic puts out: they also have newsletters, podcasts, all sorts of stuff. Do they use freelancers? It may be worth finding out.
Business to Consumer Publications
Virtua Heart Talk. This is a 10 page "magazine" from a local healthcare system that includes a patient success story, how to tell if you should go to your primary care doctor, urgent care or ER; "Key Steps to Better Blood Pressure Control" and other health-related articles that, of course, showcase their experts and promote their cardiology practice. I have written for these in the past. They can be a steady stream of income, where the sources are handed to you since they know who they want to feature.
REI Give the Gift of New Traditions. While I'd normally toss this as a catalogue, it does include a piece called "My holiday tradition: Fall camping, food, familia." Plus, I know REI has Uncommon Path, a B2C publication, that hires freelancers (I had a conversation with their editor but declined to work with them because it was a conflict of interest).
Karen Kane: Fall 2021 Collection. Same thing as above. This looks like a catalogue but has a story about Wyoming, recipes, a "day in the life" with Karen Kane, and a feature on women who work for the company to highlight that 70% of their management team and two-thirds of their employees are women. They too have their own lifestyle website.
Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities. I wrote for this magazine once, so now I apparently have a lifetime subscription – not complaining! It's lovely. I enjoyed writing for them but the rate at the time was a little bit lower than what I was looking for.
American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. Conferences present a lot of opportunities for writers. I was there in 2019 because an online magazine paid me to attend some of the sessions and then write about them. You can also write for the organization putting on the conference, or for those presenting there. For the 2021 conference, I wrote six news releases for a hospital client, about abstracts that their physicians presented. Before the pandemic, I put any major medical conference happening in Philadelphia on my calendar. I may go back to that once I feel safe going to a conference again. There's just a lot of opportunity.
Donation requests from non-profits. If you've donated money to a charity, you probably get these requests. If you've paid money to go to a museum, you might be on their list too. The ones I have here range from single letters to mini magazines to a letter with an invitation to a fundraising gala. Mass General even set up a website just for its giving campaign, with its own set of feature stories. Sometimes freelancers write those, and they don't necessarily pay peanuts (one of the non-profits who mailed me is The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Not exactly a small time museum). If you're interested in this kind of work, seek out the person in charge of development or gifts or "planned giving." They may hire writers themselves (I've written directly for a college development office) or ask marketing for an assist. You might have to ask around to find the right contact, but it can pay off.
Real estate flyer. This is an oversized postcard about a house for sale in my neighborhood. Not all real estate folks hire someone to write for sale home descriptions, but some do. I know someone who made a big chunk of her income spicing up these kinds of listings.
Colleges and Universities
Medicine Iowa. I write for this one! It's a publication for University of Iowa Healthcare, but I'm slotting it here because I'm hired by the medical school for this work. This is also why I encourage you to think beyond just the main alumni magazine when scouting out colleges and universities for work. I made a big marketing push towards medical schools in 2018 because I knew there wouldn't be as much competition, and because this is my specialty (way back in the stone age, I worked for a medical school). If you take ballet classes, look up dance schools. If you've worked in construction, how about engineering schools? Most have their own publications, even if it's a website or newsletter and not a glossy magazine like this.
Rutgers Today. This is a daily newsletter that I get in my inbox, well, daily (or at least on weekdays). It covers things happening at Rutgers, from the Rutgers point of view. It's like a daily version of the alumni letter, but of course they cover a broader range of topics than can fit in just a print magazine.
The Lamp of Delta Zeta. I was in a sorority, and they have a magazine, so I get it in the mail. This looks a lot like a college alumni magazine, which in a way it is.
Like I said, there was more than just this (I saved 133 emails!) but these are the ones that stood out.
If you are a member of the Association of Healthcare Journalists, I will be talking about opportunities beyond consumer bylines in a panel with two editors on December 8 at 3pm ET.
I know I usually do recent bylines/what I'm reading/what I'm watching at the end, but I am also crushing to hit my pre-thanksgiving deadlines, and I'm still wobbly from the half marathon I ran on Saturday, so next time!