“I want to start freelancing, but I don’t have any clips. What should I do?”
It’s a common problem that comes up in the adult-education classes I teach: What do you do when you don’t have any clips? Don’t worry, I assure my students – no one was born with clips, and editors know this. The most effective way to overcome a lack of writing credentials, I tell them, is to write the story that would not be written if not for you.
Story proposals such as these, based on a writer’s personal experience or professional expertise, have a far greater rate of success. Why? These stories offer a unique point of view that won’t be found anywhere else. They are personal, so they are original. And perhaps most important, they offer a compelling reason to buy the idea from you regardless of whether you’ve been published before.
Some cases in point:
- Rick, a world traveler and baseball enthusiast, sold his story on watching major-league stars play winter baseball in the Caribbean to the Boston Herald. It was later resold to the Christian Science Monitor.
- Richard, a retired fire chief, sold his story on public speaking for fire officials to a magazine called Fire Engineering. Written as a service article, it offered tips for firefighters involved in community outreach.
- Susan, the owner of a gardening business, sold her story on plants that thrive in an urban environment to Fine Gardening. The layout included a pictorial guide to recommended varieties.
- Elizabeth, a mother of two young children, sold her story on how her son’s serious vision impairment went undiagnosed to a magazine called Western New York Family. It was a cautionary tale to which any parent could relate.
- Melanie, a freelance chef, sold her article on the history of Central European pastries to Pastry Art & Design magazine. The story included recipes for readers to make.
All of these writers were previously unpublished, and, as you can see, followed a similar path to writing success even though their subject matter varied greatly. By following their example, perhaps you can achieve similar results. So ask yourself: What story do you have to tell? That’s the one that you should try to sell.
—M.T. Schwartzman covers Alaska tourism and the cruise industry for consumer and industry publications. He also teaches adult-education classes on writing and publishing.
Want more freelancing articles like this one?
Sign up for our newsletter to receive FREE articles, publishing tips, writing advice, and more delivered to your inbox once a week.
Looking for an agent?
Download our free guide to finding a literary agent, with the contact information and submission preferences for more than 80 agencies.