Alyse Chirello has been a full-time freelance
writer for eight years. She proudly works from home where she lives with
her husband and two daughters. Ali has written for top clients as a
copywriter and ghostwriter.
WOW: Ali, welcome to our Premium Markets Newsletter!
We’re thrilled you’ve decided to share your experience on freelance
writing. So, let’s start at the beginning. How should a writer prepare
herself to enter the freelance marketplace?
Ali: Thank you for having me. I’m honored to offer some advice to new
writers here. Starting out in the freelance writing business is tough. It can
be overwhelming, but you must remember that you have the world at your
fingertips. I have clients from America, Canada, The United Kingdom, and
have had others in many other countries. Becoming a freelance writer is
amazing. I do suggest picking up some books on writing and reading
through them. One of the writing books I have been buying every year is
The Writer’s Market. It’s a must have for any writer and even has tips for
beginners now. Keep in mind that things are slightly different on the
“streets” of freelance writing than in the writing books. There is a lot of good
advice to be had in writing books, but you will not experience it fully until
you get yourself into the business. It is not until then that you truly begin to
understand how everything works.
In preparing yourself to enter the freelance marketplace, you will need a
high-speed Internet connection, a place to work, a schedule, support from
your spouse, and most of all, you will need to write. The writing comes first,
then the sale, and then more writing. We also tend to worry far too much
than we should. Just write, market, and sell. Try not to worry about details
WOW: I like that advice, “Just write, market, and sell. Try not to
worry about details too much!” I worry all the time, so I’m going to
take that advice to heart. We know that a writer’s bio and resume is
an important asset to a publication, but what if she doesn’t have any
published clips yet? What should she do to build her platform?
Ali: This is the ultimate beginner’s question. It seems so confusing, but
the answer is quite simple. You need to build your own samples. Write some
essays and articles on topics you know. Use these writing samples to show
off your writing skills to potential publishers and clients. Once you get your
first published clip, then you can begin to add to your bio, resume, and
WOW: That’s a great, practical idea. So, as we learn from example,
what was the very first freelance publication you were accepted to?
And what did your query letter entail?
Ali: My very first publication was in Women’s Health & Fitness. It was an
essay called “Make me a Princess…Someday”. I submitted the essay to
several women’s publications (without consulting their guidelines!) and
waited for a response. I expected all rejections as that was what I was
getting from all of my submitted work at the time. Plus, I really didn’t like
this essay that much. I was shocked that it was accepted and published in
the back page of Women’s Health & Fitness. Seeing my name on that glossy
paper and the check in the mail was excellent.
The essay was about feeling ugly and the pressure I felt from the media to
be skinnier, prettier, etc. I wanted to feel gorgeous, but at the time I didn’t.
That is where this essay came from.
WOW: Sounds great, and congratulations. What a great first
publication! In your opinion, when you write query letters, what do
you find is the key ingredient that entices an editor?
Ali: The first line must shock, inspire, induce laughter, sadden, or scare
the editor. It must interest her enough to read on and want to offer you an
assignment. Otherwise, save time and a stamp, and don’t send it. I like to
use statistics, interesting facts, or a question.
WOW: Do you have a query letter you could post here for us to learn
from and see a good example?
Ali: Since most of my work consists of essays or completed articles, I
don’t have anything at this time. I am working on quite a few queries right
now and highly recommend How to Write Irresistible Queries. It is one
the books for writers that I keep on my desk at all times.
WOW: Thanks for that great book recommendation! After an editor
accepts the query, what does a writer need to consider? (e.g.,
Should she create a contract? Or specify her terms?)
Ali: The writer should expect a contract. If she doesn’t get one, she
should ask for one. If she still doesn’t get one, she should offer her own. You
must know how much you will get paid, what rights the publication is
buying, when the completed article is due, if there is a kill fee and how
much, and approximately when it will be published.
WOW: A list like you just provided is very helpful for new freelance
writers to make sure they have all the terms they need before
working for a publication. Have you ever been accepted to a
publication only to have your project killed?
Ali: Not yet. However, I had written an interesting story about a mother
of three who went back to college in her mid-thirties. It was inspiring. The
publication I was writing it for was new and never got out a first issue. I still
got paid for the piece, but it was disappointing.
WOW: For WOW!, you’re teaching the online class: “Get Paid to Write: Become a Freelance Writer! Your Complete Guide to Freelance Writing Basics”. Please tell us how this class will help writers get
Ali: I created this class because I wanted to help new writers. I felt that
there wasn’t a real step-by-step class out there to help new freelance writers
go from “Where do I start?” to “I’m making money writing!” in 10 weeks. I
wanted to take new writers from the beginning to becoming a writer in my
class, and that’s just what I do. I have several former students who update
me on their successes in freelance writing. It is wonderful.
WOW: How very encouraging that you hear from former students
about their successes. Your class is working! Tell us how your
book, Paying Markets for Writers, can help freelancers. Where can
interested writers purchase a copy?
Ali: Paying Markets for Writers is perfect for writers who want to easily
locate writer’s guidelines that are online. The entire book is filled with about
a thousand guidelines, and the links go straight to the guidelines—not the
home page where you have to search for them yourself. It is for sale at
PayLoadz for $9.99, but you can get it for free by signing up for my class.
WOW: Sounds like a great resource. Where can freelance writers go
to get help on business aspects? (Such as taxes, health insurance,
contracts, and websites that provide resources etc.)
Ali: There are so many resources for writers. My blog, Writing Pays,
offers some tips on writing, jobs, contests, videos, and more. The book
Writer’s Market now has lots of advice on all of these issues for writers. I
recommend every writer buy this book.
WOW: What kind of information can writers find on your sites to
help them navigate the freelance waters?
Ali: I created Writing Pays to help new writers as well. I have guest
blogs, writing jobs, writing contests, videos about writing, and tips.
WOW: Do you have any motivational/inspirational tips you can share
with our freelancers?
Ali: Stop worrying and keep writing! Often times, my students are so
worried about having their work stolen or something else that it hinders their
writing. Many of the worries new writers have are irrelevant, although you
should ask a mentor if you are concerned. However, don’t ever let any
worries hold you back from writing.
WOW: I love your advice—yes, worrying can really get in the way of
creativity and brainstorming. And what does worrying do? Nothing
but waste time. I need to keep telling myself this! Since this column
is called, “Meet Your Mentor,” we have to ask, do you have a
mentor? And, what does being a mentor mean to you?
Ali: My mentor is my husband. If I have a problem I need to work out, I
go to him. I call him the idea man, too. He often helps me with
brainstorming ideas for articles, stories, books, and more. Mentors are so
important in life. Mentors help guide you in your career whether it is an
issue with payment or an ethical dilemma. My husband is a great mentor for
me, because sometimes I need to see my career from the outside.
I love being a mentor to new writers, but I think I learn more from them
than I could ever teach them. It’s fantastic. The class is a way for me to
share my experiences with new writers, so that they can forge their own way
into the freelance writing market and work part or full time. As a full-time
freelance writer for eight years, I have a lot of advice to offer.