10 Ways To Be A Good Contributing Writer…And Make Editors Love You

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As women who have spent the past few years hustling to make writing more than a hobby and more like an actual side-gig, we’ve learned a thing or two – and we’ve also grown a lot since we first started writing. No one is perfect, and we’re certainly not claiming to be. We’ve made mistakes – a lot when we were first starting out, and we still make mistakes now. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t. But the important thing about mistakes is learning from them – and we certainly have. 

One of the most common questions asked by aspiring writers is, “How do I become a writer?” The beauty – and curse – of the Internet is that if you have a laptop (or iPad or iPhone) and a WiFi login, you can write.

But will anyone read what you’re writing? That’s another story, of course.

When someone asks, “How do I become a writer?” what they are really asking is, “How do I become a successful writer?” And, of course, that depends on your definition of success.

Semantics aside, we thought we’d share some of our personal advice for becoming a solid contributing writer and how to win over editors’ hearts everywhere.

1. Know how to network like a boss.

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Here’s a secret: a lot of writers at top-name websites and publications were hired through unconventional routes (read: not your standard “here’s my resume and cover letter” avenue.) In fact, Thirty On Tap co-founder De landed her most recent (and awesome) writing jobs simply by reaching out over Twitter. See who you know online, and who might be friends of friends. Ask for an introduction. Be polite, and be humble. A little networking can go a long way.

2. Always be pitching.

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We’re going to channel Glengary Glen Ross for a second here and draw your attention to our imaginary chalkboard. If your pitch gets rejected, don’t take it personally. Pitch something else. Try to get a sense of what types of articles the site or publication tends to run. Look for a niche they aren’t covering – something that you are good at. Be persistent (but polite) and be thick-skinned.

3. Don’t be annoying.

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We’re going to give it to you straight here. Don’t be that person who emails every single time you submit a piece to follow-up and ask when it’s going to run. If your piece doesn’t run, your editor will probably tell you. If your piece does run, you’ll see it, or, if your editor has time, they’ll send you the link. We’ve been guilty of this one ourselves once or twice – and once or twice is excusable, because we’re all human. But don’t make it a habit.

4. Proofread. Please.

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We get that the word “edit” is embedded in the job title of your “editor” but it’s definitely not his or her job to go in and add commas to every sentence where you left them out, or to change “their” to “they’re” or vice versa. No one is going to kill your piece if you have one or two typos, but if it’s riddled with misspelled words and poorly executed grammar, your editor is going to be irritated with you pretty quickly. Also…

5. …No one – we mean *No One* – puts two spaces between sentences anymore.

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Just don’t do it.

6. Keep it professional.

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This one is so important – and it’s hard because it’s the Internet, it’s 2016, you’re probably Twitter or Instagram friends with your editor, etc. But try to think of every email to your editor as a business email. A work email, even. Because it is (especially if you are getting paid.) Follow your editor’s lead. If he or she seems to be friendly and open to corresponding outside of your contributor/editor relationship, that’s one thing. But don’t be pushy, and don’t try to be besties with your editor – especially if you get the sense that your editor doesn’t want the same. Treat it as your job, and it one day might be.

7. Be reliable.

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Look, we get it. Sometimes life happens. Your cat gets sick, or your computer goes on the fritz, or you fall into a Netflix binge black hole, etc. But if you don’t communicate that you can’t meet a deadline, your editor just thinks that you’re flaking – he or she is not a mind reader, after all. And there’s nothing worse than an unreliable writer. Be communicative if you are struggling with deadlines, and be apologetic. Also, remember that even though it’s the Internet, and the Internet can feel like a big, wide world, it’s actually a pretty small world – and many of these people know each other. If you get a bad reputation as a flaky writer, it’s a kiss of death.

8. Try not to take things personally.

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It’s tough, and it’s a bit of a catch-22. Writing is sometimes at its best when it’s personal, and writers are often told to, “Write what you know.” But if you are crushed every time an editor rejects a submission, you are in for a roller coaster of emotions. Furthermore, do not let your rejection be an excuse for lashing out. Quite often, there are legitimate, clear, fair reasons why your piece did not run – and none of those reasons mean that your writing was “bad.” If you lash out at an editor for not running a piece, you can guarantee that he or she will never want to work with you again. Instead, ask for feedback – inquire what you can do differently next time.

9. Know that you’re going to have to write for free at first.

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It’s the hard truth for most artists – actors, musicians, photographers, etc. And it doesn’t seem fair at all. Imagine if doctors had to work for free? Or construction workers? Or teachers?! But, alas, such is life for the majority of people who want to make money doing some kind of art. Most publications won’t hire you as a freelance writer (or staff writer) without some kind of portfolio or measure of experience. So you often find yourself with no other choice but to contribute to websites without any financial compensation in order to build said portfolio. Swallow your pride and do it but do not settle for this to be the norm forever. Always inquire about payment.

10. Just. Keep. Writing.

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Honestly, this is the best advice we can give, and while it seems like the most obvious, it’s the most crucial. All successful writers are successful because they never stopped. Write every day, even if it’s dumb. Especially if it’s dumb. Use it or lose it – it’s the only way to climb that ladder.

Tell Us: What are some of your pieces of advice for young writers? Also, find out how you can contribute or submit to Thirty On Tap!

{featured image via we*heart*it}

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