Skip to main content

5 Ways to Land Freelance Writing Assignments

Find pitch-perfect hooks for articles on virtually any topic by targeting anniversaries.

I love anniversaries—and not just the one I celebrate each June with my lovely wife. Newsworthy milestones of all sorts can mean big bucks for savvy freelance writers. Over the years, I’ve landed numerous anniversary-based freelance writing jobs from magazines large and small. The key is to uncover the happenings other writers may not be privy to—and have something fresh to say about them.

Here’s how to do it.

—by Don Vaughan

1. Study up, and know what’s going on when.

Most writers pitch ideas pegged to traditional holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead, ask yourself: What big, unique anniversaries will occur this year and, even more important, next year? This kind of advance planning can pay off in a major way.

The U.S. government provides a good overview of upcoming holidays, major anniversaries, and historic dates of interest online at usa.gov/Topics/Reference-Shelf/Calendars.shtml. An Internet search of “anniversaries + [specific year]” can also reveal many potential article angles. The bigger and rounder the number of the anniversary, the hotter the hook. Target these findings first in your queries, because well-known anniversaries are where the competition will be toughest. Then …

2. Explore your personal interests.

We all have things we’re passionate about—and a lot of them have pitch-worthy anniversaries. One idea I wouldn’t have found on usa.gov: I’m a big fan of writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, so I knew early on that 2012 was the centennial anniversary of the first appearance of Tarzan in All-Story Magazine. I pitched various ideas pegged on this seminal pop-culture event to an array of magazines and so far have received three assignments: a 12,500-word oral appreciation for Filmfax; a profile of Burroughs for Famous Monsters of Filmland; and a feature on Tarzan movies for VideoScope.

I’m also a big military history buff, and recently came across a mention of the Navy Experimental Diving Unit on The History Channel. I did a little digging and found that 2012 was the 85th anniversary of NEDU’s founding. I pitched a story to Military Officer magazine. While the unit’s history and accomplishments were certainly newsworthy, it was the article’s anniversary-based hook that sealed the deal.

3. Cast a wide net.

This is a rule of thumb in most aspects of freelancing, but especially with anniversary pieces: You never know who’s planning to cover what, or what special issues are being cooked up that your piece might fit nicely into. I pitched different aspects of the centennial anniversary of Tarzan to everyone from Boys’ Life to RT Book Reviews. I knew I wouldn’t get assignments from them all, but I increased my chances by pitching broadly and appropriately. (Besides, I’ve found that even rejections can open the door to future proposals.) Whenever possible, target both local and national publications—and cater each pitch to its specific market.

4. Avoid low-hanging fruit.

By that, I mean the stereotypical ideas—the first ones that come to mind—that every hack will be pitching related to a specific holiday or anniversary. Instead, find an innovative way to spin the topic that will make your pitch stand out from the others. Rather than pitch a standard profile of Burroughs to Filmfax, for example, I decided to interview famous artists and writers about their appreciation of Burroughs’ works. The resulting article was a unique tribute that also provided me with the opportunity to talk to creators I’ve long admired.

5. Pitch early.

Because of lengthy editorial lead times, most magazines want anniversary-related queries at least four to six months—if not more—in advance. If you’re unsure of when to pitch, consult the publication’s submission guidelines or ask the editor how far out they work. (Also, request the magazine’s editorial calendar for the coming year; it could give you more great ideas regarding appropriate anniversary pitches.) The most successful writers pitch early, and pitch often.

This article on freelance writing gigs, by Don Vaughan, first appeared in the Rule Breaker's Issue of Writer's Digest. Click here to order your copy.

Want to learn more?Expand your writing knowledge with these great writing books & videos:

************

Follow me on Twitter: @BrianKlems
Enjoy funny parenting blogs? Then you’ll love: The Life Of Dad
Sign up for my free weekly eNewsletter: WD Newsletter

brian-klems-headshot-150

Need a gift for Father's Day (especially for dads with daughters)? Consider:
OH BOY, YOU'RE HAVING A GIRL: A DAD'S GUIDE TO RAISING DAUGHTERS

Lora Senf: On Trusting Children With Middle Grade Fiction

Lora Senf: On Trusting Children With Middle Grade Fiction

Author Lora Senf discusses how one chilling text message led her to writing her new middle grade horror novel, The Clackity.

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Katrina Leno: On Writing Around an Idea

Critically acclaimed novelist Katrina Leno discusses the process of bringing her childhood memories to magical life in her new young adult novel, Sometime in Summer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A New Podcast Episode, "Your Story" Prompt, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our latest episode of "Writer's Digest Presents," the new "Your Story" prompt, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Here are the top live streams, podcasts, and YouTube channels as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

You might have heard the term, especially if you’re in online fandoms, but what exactly is fan fiction? Managing Editor Moriah Richard explains.

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

Short story writing can be a gateway to writing your novel—but they’re also fun and worthy stories in their own right. Here, author Dallas Woodburn shares 5 ways to use short stories to grow as a writer.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.