Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Freelancing for Newspapers

by Katie Hines   

If you’re a new author, or simply looking to tighten your writing and get paid (not much) at the same time, writing for newspapers may be for you. It has been my experience that most local newspapers in smaller communities are looking for writers for a variety of feature stories, which can lead into op-ed pieces and even weekly columns.

I got started writing for a newspaper when our local paper posted a notice, stating they were looking for new authors to write for their “Living” section. The living section of most papers encompasses gardening, plays, columns by Dear Abby and Billy Graham, the editorial page, local community happenings, and so forth. Most papers have an equivalent to a living section, and it is here you can score your first writing gig.

When I answered the ad, I was armed with a sample of my writing. Since I’d never written for a newspaper, I wasn’t sure what to submit, so I decided to go with a humor piece I’d written about my kids morphing into aliens when they reached the ripe old age of 13. Now here’s the easy part: I didn’t have to go any further than my computer, because the editor’s contact was an email address. I simply created an email and attached my article.

With something like this, don’t get all hung up with crafting a wonderful query letter or slaving over your email. You’re simply answering an ad, and are pleased to offer a piece of writing for his consideration. That’s it.

How long should you wait to hear from an editor? As with publishing houses, newspaper editors are busy folks, and for the most part don’t spend a lot of time with emails. I found out that my article was accepted when I opened the newspaper and saw my article, “The Aliens are Coming” right next to the article of my new best friend, Billy Graham. How cool was that? I kept submitting, and they kept publishing.

I will tell you that I did not receive any compensation for the first article, or the next several articles. And the several after that. What I did receive was valuable experience in writing under a deadline and crafting articles that were around 500 words, which was the length of articles they were looking for.

Next month, I’ll tell you how I ended up with a monthly humor column and writing for real money.


  1. Katie,
    Thanks for sharing this. I used to write for a local section in a newspaper, but received no payment. A friend started out that way and eventually received payment for a column in a monthly community paper in her area. This paper was a product of the same newspaper firm. I look forward to hearing your next story.
    Linda A.

  2. Katie, Great information. I think I'll try a couple of local papers. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. It is a good idea although I know our little town doesn't accept freelance very often instead giving all the assignments to their staff. Still it never hurts to try and submit, send a list of topics or ideas and see what happens. Thanks for sharing. The important part is to never get discouraged.