When I first started writing my initial plan was to do anything I could to make enough money so that I could say I was living off my writing.
This involved a lot of freelancing both locally and internationally. Pay for freelancing is quite low, so to make a living I really needed to hustle. Writing a good magazine article involves research and often involves interviewing people. This all takes time. In the end, you might find you’ve put in ten hours on an article that you’ll only be paid P400 for (In Botswana it will be even less). That works out to P40 per hour which is no where near a professional rate. This was frustrating but then I came up with a method that improved things, I called it mapping.
The key to successful magazine freelancing is deciphering the exact target market of a particular magazine. You can do this by carefully observing the adverts in the magazine and the types of articles it has. This will tell you what age group, sex, racial group, interest group, and economic status the magazine is targeting. You must have this information before querying an editor or else you’re likely to get a rejection.
Just a reminder, internationally, most magazines want you to pitch an idea first, this is called querying. You send a query describing the article you intend to write, how you will approach it, and how long it will be. In your query you should be sure to mention how your article will benefit the magazine’s target audience and why you are the best person to write it. The editor will then say yes or no. If it’s a yes, you’ll get a contract and then you can proceed.
So to implement my mapping technique, you first must know the magazines you want to query and who their target reader is.
Next get a blank sheet of paper, I prefer big- A3 at least. Decide on your broad topic. Let’s say it’s diabetes. You write diabetes in the middle of the paper. Now do a bit of research around the topic so that you understand it, not in depth, just enough to understand the issue.
Now you look at the magazines you want to query and you brainstorm ideas around diabetes- specific, targeted ideas considering the target reader for the magazine. You draw lines out from the main topic with your specific topic written on the lines. Once this is done you can now begin to write queries.
Let me give you some examples. Let’s say your magazines are Drum, True Love, Parenting, and Men’s Health. Your ideas might be:
Drum: Is our Traditional Diet Causing Diabetes?
True Love: How Diabetes Can Affect Your Love Life
Parenting: Teaching Your Kids How to Avoid Diabetes
Men’s Health: How Diabetes Can Affect Your Ability to Perform
By doing this you immediately come up with a handful of queries from an hour or so of researching instead of having to research five different topics each for an hour. This reduces the time you spend on each article therefore upping your rate even if the editor won’t.
When you begin to get acceptances for your queries, your research will overlap. You can sometimes interview one or two people and use different aspects of the interview in five or six articles. Again reducing the time you spend on an individual article and therefore increasing your efficiency and per hour income.