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How to Make A Living Writing for Trade Magazines


Many freelancers looking to make a living in magazine writing aim first for the high-profile magazines found in bookstores, the kind that can boast circulations in the millions. But those markets are quite crowded, and hard to break into. Aspiring writers must realize that their query is one of hundreds, possibly thousands, that the editors view each year.

But a whole different market exists where beginning writers can more easily make an impression. Trade magazines focus on a particular kind of occupation or industry, and boast small but loyal readerships. Virtually every line of work has its own trade magazine.

However, writing for trade magazines requires a certain degree of expertise in the field. The magazines’ target audience is undoubtedly well versed in the field already, and bored by the basics. To break in to trade magazines, you need to show them something that will surprise them, and your familiarity with the topic must be decisively established.

Editors of major consumer magazines are deluged with mail from writers who want some work. By contrast, trade magazine editors seldom receive much attention, and will never forget the freelancer who stops by. If you can make an impact, you can expect a working relationship with a trade magazine editor in short order.

Breaking In

But how do you break in to these magazines? An article on new developments in bricklaying technology may sound interesting to the average person, but readers of bricklaying trade magazines have probably heard all about it before.

Your best bet is to try for trade magazines that report on your current profession. Don’t worry that your profession doesn’t have a trade journal – a simple Internet search reveals multiple directories of trade magazines for virtually every profession.

It’s highly unlikely that any of these magazines will trust you with a major feature piece when you’re just starting out. Your best bet is the front-end pieces, where readers can expect odd tidbits of information, and company profiles that give them an idea of what successful tradesmen are doing. They are easy to write and easy to edit. Better yet, most writers ignore this kind of writing, which leaves the field uncluttered for the most part.

However, it’s important that your trade magazine articles contain more research and fact-checking that their consumer counterparts. Consumer magazine readers often skim over the articles, but it’s not uncommon for trade magazine readers to digest the magazine cover to cover. And their extensive knowledge of these professions ensures that no reporting errors will go unnoticed.

Editors hate errors. They undermine the credibility of their magazines, and undo the hard work they’ve put into the publication. You should hate them too. Make one, and don’t expect to get from that magazine ever again.


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