Find Your Way As A Freelancer

Writing Magazine – July 2024

My first published magazine piece was a word-search puzzle in 1989. They sent me a postal order for £3.50 as payment. (It was a long time ago!) Although I was experimenting with other forms of writing during my late-teen years, this was the first time someone had accepted and paid for any of my writing.

Until this point, I had not considered writing for monthly publications. Instead, I’d focussed on bigger projects, like stage plays and books, completely ignoring a market of thousands of magazines, all of which need a lot of new words every week, month, or quarter.

Writers can see the results of their writing efforts relatively quickly when writing magazine articles, because many monthly magazines work three or more months ahead, allowing for a shorter time period between having the initial idea and getting paid for it when compared to bigger projects like books. Weeklies work on a shorter lead time.

I began writing articles for the magazines I enjoyed reading, like my local county publication, and some of the walking magazines. I sold a few and realised article writing was a great way for me to indulge in my writing and make some money. Even though I was working for a high street bank at the time, my writing business was born.

Perhaps what it also did was give me confidence in my writing. I could legitimately claim I was a published writer. And it helped my writing business in many ways. My published articles became a track record that helped me secure many of my non-fiction book contracts.

Hobby Business

Although Dene Bebbington ( has written two horror novels, Stonefall, and Zombie Revelations, he also enjoys writing articles. Even though he refers to his writing as a hobby, he still takes a business-like approach to it.

“I bought a copy of Writing Magazine, which I’d spotted in a shop. After reading a few issues, I attended one of their non-fiction writing courses and that gave me the foundation to start writing for magazines you find on the newsagent shelves.”

As magazine articles are quite short, you don’t need to do as much research to write an eight-hundred-word article as you would for a non-fiction book. This means magazine writers often write about a broad range of subjects.

“I began writing because I had something to say about serious subjects,” says Dene, “since I have a somewhat analytical mind, and doing that made me realise I enjoyed writing itself. Writing for mainstream magazines is great since I get to learn about a diverse array of subjects, and I always try to improve the quality of my prose.”

Steve Roberts ( had always dreamed of being a writer, but it wasn’t until he took early retirement that he began thinking about what sort of writing he wanted to do.

“My first thought was to write a book, but I soon realised writing articles made sense as I could hopefully write them and get them published quickly, bringing some money in while I thought about other projects.”

And even though he takes a business-like approach to it, Steve says, “It never really feels like work, more like a hobby for which I get paid.”

Anniversary Articles

He clearly enjoys his work, because he’s had over 1,500 articles published since he started in 2012.

“I like the fact that virtually every article is different. There’s a genuine sense of achievement in finding something an editor wants, which might be something that’s anniversary related, and then delivering the project and seeing it published.”

Magazines plan months in advance, which is why anniversaries make great article topics. Even though the front cover says June, writers may have written the articles in January, or earlier. Even so, the articles will all have a topical hook linked to June.

“A fairly recent example,” Steve explains, “was spotting the RNLI was celebrating its 200th anniversary in March 2024. I ended up writing eleven articles, including two for magazines that had not published me before.”

It makes business-sense to be on the lookout for new potential markets all the time. You never know when you may come across a new outlet for your writing.

“On the writing course,” says Dene, “I learned about magazines such as This England and Best of British that I was unaware of, and that gave me a starting point. Browsing the titles on the shelves of a big newsagent also helped, plus there are websites where you can find current titles, including those not in the shops.”

Steve also finds browsing online and in newsagents useful. “I search the Internet for potential magazines and also look in shops that have a good magazine selection.”

I always pop into a newsagent whenever I’m visiting somewhere new. Newsagents stock the publications most relevant to their local customers, so I usually find magazines I’ve not come across before.

And magazine streaming websites like Readly ( and Pocket Magazines ( offer thousands of magazines from the UK and around the world for a small monthly subscription.

Constantly Changing

The magazine market is constantly changing. New magazines launch, and sometimes this fills a gap left by another that has since closed.

Dene has noticed this recently. “The biggest change is the loss of several titles that were good markets for a freelance feature writer. Just last year, Evergreen and The Countryman ceased publication. Also, payment rates have mostly remained static in the last fifteen or so years, and in some cases have gone down a little!”

Steve also acknowledges that the article market is changing.

“I’m surprised so many print magazines are still in circulation, given the move to online media, the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and so forth. Some magazines have discontinued, including some that I was writing for, which was both sad and disappointing on a personal level.”

However, Steve also explains that sometimes a change can lead to more opportunities.

“The loss of some regular columns has made me look again at other magazines I might write for and a recent pitch to a new magazine for me has resulted in the editor requesting a synopsis, so hopefully, that will bear fruit.”

Another reason for closely monitoring the ever-changing markets is because a new editor often brings in changes. Sometimes these may be gradual, subtly taking place over a year. Or, there may be a sudden change between two issues.

This happened to me recently, when a new editor dropped a section of a magazine to which I’d regularly contributed over the past ten years. And in Spring 2024, the new editor at The People’s Friend introduced a new style and look to the publication which is popular with both fiction and non-fiction writers.

Regular Writing

Finding new markets, analysing them to get to know the readership, and then pitching some ideas to an editor all takes time. We only get paid for writing articles, not for doing research, so it makes sense if we can write regularly for the same publication. For most freelancers, this means securing a regular column.

This is possible, as Steve has discovered.

“I managed to get something published in one of the county magazines, and it snowballed from there, really,” he says. “The editors of the different magazines in the same group are aware of what’s going into the other magazines, so they all become familiar with the writers who are succeeding in getting their work published around the group’s publications. Once I had a regular column in one, it became easier to pitch for regular work with some of the others. I’m currently lucky enough to be writing these regular columns in four magazines within the group.”

Opportunities like that only come about after editors have got to know you. It’s only by pitching ideas regularly, and delivering high-quality work on time, every time, that they learn to trust you.

When that trust exists, that’s when an editor may approach you and commission an article exploring an idea they’ve had. That’s also how I secured my first press trip.

I’d successfully pitched and supplied several travel articles to a publication over a period of about two years. Then, out of the blue, the editor emailed and offered me a place on a press trip, commissioning me to write a piece about the destination.

It can take time to get to this stage, but think of it as an investment. Dene suggests a couple of tips to help new magazine article writers along their way.

“If a magazine’s website has a search function, check if they’ve covered your proposed subject in the last few years before pitching. A common cause of rejection is that a magazine has already covered your subject, or has someone already working on a piece about it. Also, make sure you can supply images—either your own or those you have permission to use. I often use public domain and Creative Commons licensed images.”

Over time, writing articles can lead to a profitable writing business, not only financially, but in experiences too.

Articles may not have the longevity of bigger projects, like non-fiction books or novels, but they can provide your writing business with the quick wins, the motivation, and the opportunities to take your writing business to the next level.

Business Directory – Article Advice

Dene’s Top Tip:

“Find suitable magazines and read at least one copy to get a feel for what subjects they cover, then learn how to pitch to the editor. Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get a response—it happens all the time, even to established freelancers. Reading copies of Writing Magazine may also help with freelancing tips.”

Steve’s Top Tip:

“Don’t be put off by rejection. Try to make your pitches stand out if you can, maybe with an unusual angle. And if you don’t get a response the first time, send a follow-up maybe a month later. Half of my articles from follow-ups rather than the original emails.”