Hands for hire

I have a B.A. in public relations and I want to do some freelance work for a magazine. How do I get started?
–G. Bell, Chicago

A degree means little in the journalism/writing world if you have no practical experience. So, the first thing you have to do is get published.

Even though your goal is to eventually write for a magazine, professional clips from any print source-newspapers, newsletters, a public relations firm, etc.-will help an editor determine your ability to put words together, your individual style of writing and your area(s) of expertise. Be sure your portfolio includes subject matter related to the magazine(s) for which you want to write. For example, an article on picking stocks will show an investment magazine editor that you are familiar with financial terminology and concepts.

With a sizable body of work, you’ll be ready to approach editors. Send two or three samples, along with the original manuscripts, if possible (so the editor can see how much of the final version is actually your creation). Include a phone number and an e-mail address. Remember, editors have busy schedules. If you don’t hear back in a few weeks, follow up with a call or e-mail.

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