Archive for January 3rd, 2007

Ask Wendy: Your Publishing Questions Answered

wendywotr.gifBy Wendy Burt

Q: Do you think there are specific traits that make freelance writers successful? If so, what are they?

A: I’m not sure if “traits” is necessarily the right word – maybe “habits.” Believe it or not, I would not say that great writing skills are at the top of the list. I would say that it’s important to at least be a good writer, but I’ve seen plenty of people succeed at freelancing that I wouldn’t consider to be great writers. Likewise, I have friends who are arguably better writers than I am, but they don’t have the knowledge, experience or habits to make it in the freelance world. (Or at least, they aren’t applying them!)

So what do I think it takes? In no particular order: organization, tenacity, intuition, persistence, the ability to multi-task, self-esteem (to face all those rejections!) and patience. Freelance writing is as much a business as any other profession, so ask yourself what characteristics you think you’d need to, say, open a restaurant. Now pretend you don’t get any customers for the first month. Do you give up – or reevaluate what you’re doing to try to make it work? The same applies for freelancing.

Q: I keep applying for all these writing gigs that I see on the Web but I’m not getting any responses. What am I doing wrong?

A: I probably get this question more than any other. Obviously, I don’t know what specific gigs you’re applying for or what you’re sending them in terms of a resume, introduction or clips, but I can offer some general advice.

It’s important to remember that many of the more popular freelance newsletters and Web sites that list gigs may have thousands of readers, which means there could be hundreds of writers applying for one gig – especially if it pays really well. Depending on your experience, many of those people could be more qualified than you. So how do you get around that?

First, make sure your intro email is short and focused. You can attach a resume and clips if they ask for these, but use the body of the email to let them know what you are the most qualified for the job. For example: If you’re applying for a gig writing about horses, let them know that you ran a ranch for five years and are a full-time freelance writer with plenty of clips on horse-related topics that can easily be reworked to get them some pieces ASAP because you still own all the rights.

Second, be sure to do a follow-up about a week later – unless they specifically ask that you NOT follow up. Send your stuff again and just gently remind them that you are still interested.

Third, look for information on the company and use it to your advantage. If the company gives its name (many don’t!), do a GOOGLE search, review its Web site, and look for an in. (I don’t recommend calling though.) Mail them a packet with some great samples. Send them a follow-up card to let them know you’re still interested. Mention something specific from their Web site when you apply to show you’ve done your homework.

If you’re still not landing any gigs after a couple months, consider looking for some other, less-trafficked writing sites. The jobs may not pay as well, but you might have a better shot of landing a gig, which will build your clips to help you later.

Articles, books, greeting cards, oh my! Wendy Burt is a successful full-time freelance writer and editor who has more than doubled her income since leaving her job as a newspaper editor just three years ago. With two women’s humor books for McGraw-Hill and more than 1,000 published pieces, Wendy’s typical day might including writing ad copy, greeting cards, health articles, personal profiles or her marketing column for Her Business magazine. Her work has appeared in such varied publications as Family Circle, The Writer,,, Home Cooking Magazine and American Fitness. Wendy teaches “Breaking Into Freelance Writing” and still finds ample time to spend with her beautiful baby, Gracie. Visit to see books by Wendy and her award-winning dad. More info at

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