As long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. A novelist, a columnist, working in journalism-it didn't matter to me, so long as my bread and butter was earned through writing. As so many other aspiring writers, my initial enthusiasm for writing was met with resistance from nearly everyone, and for good reason. Making a living writing can be a difficult path to take, and it seems like only the lucky few can get their writing in front of the right people in order to make a financial difference.
That is why I am writing to tell you about how I have become a columnist/freelance writer for a major newspaper in a year and a half using an unconventional method.
Pitching to Editors
Beginning in June 2008, I was laid off. Instead of moping around (although I did mope for a few weeks), I decided to start a column called Frugal Confessions. I took a few weeks to write six sample columns, and began to submit these to several newspapers. All were met with rejections, though one editor said that I was headed "in the right direction". I was discouraged, but not enough to quit.
One day I decided to call the major newspaper in the area I was living in to pitch my column. The editor pointed me to their blog section of the website, and told me that anyone can start a blog on their newspaper. As a writer, of course I was not ecstatic about blogging for free with everyone else, but I knew that if I could prove myself, then there would be the chance of becoming a columnist.
I began my Frugal Confessions blog in March 2009 and posted consistently for around three months. After six months, I called the editor once more and had him look over my material. He decided to promote me to a featured blogger, and told me to keep up the good work. Still no money-but great progress. Several months later, a new website was started within the Chronicle called Mom Houston, and they liked my material enough that they snatched me up for their website. I now could keep my original link from the Chronicle featured blog page, but also have a link on this new website.
Pitching with Material and an Audience
Once more I contacted editors, but this time it was with a history of consistent writing and a growing audience made up of their readers. I contacted the editors who had snatched my blog up for the Mom Houston Site and they began to pitch my articles to the Chronicle print version. They initially needed to edit the articles because writing for a blog and for a newspaper are two very different things. For one, you cannot link to other's articles and websites in print. For another, printed newspapers have much less space than on blogs.
I eventually got into the groove of the type of articles that the print version of the Chronicle are interested in, and have had great success in pitching articles to the editors and having my articles published ever since.
By starting a blog first, and proving to the editors of the major newspaper that I was a solid, consistent writer whom their readers were interested in following, I was able to begin my career as a freelance writer. This took determination and persistence on my part, as I had to take responsibility for what I wanted and share my goals with people who were in decision-making roles. Once they knew what I wanted, and they wanted to keep me, it was a no-brainer to begin selling my work as a freelancer.