Adventures In Freelancing: Editor Chat with Tracey John

After going on about my own long-winded way of getting into the world of writing in the previous AIF, I figured it would be a good idea to get one of my editors to comment on other ways for new writers to break into the freelance game. I sent an email to Tracey John who runs things over at the Goods section of UGO.com, the section I work for on a daily basis (check the Writing Links section up there on the right for examples). I first met Tracey back when I was an editor for ToyFare and she was writing for us. A little while after I got laid off, she found herself in an editor spot and I was looking for freelance work and it worked out perfectly. Like she says in the next paragraph “networking ftw!” Hopefully this interview will help some of you get on your way to writing for fun and profit. I think this will be it for the “how to get into writing freelance pop culture” section of the course for a little while unless someone has some more questions for me, which means more of these will focus on the day to day of being a writer as well as some of the benefits and pitfalls of the gig. Hit me up with questions or comments in the section or email me at tjdietsch AT SYMBOL gmail PERIOD com.

Does UGO.com accept unsolicited emails/work from unknown freelancers?

JOHN: It depends. I can’t speak for the other editors, but I do accept unsolicited pitches (no completed works, though!) from unknown freelancers. However, I rarely receive good pitches from out of the blue. The best pitches I get come from friends or friends of friends, which helps in terms of weeding out any substandard writers. If someone can refer you to me, that’s your best way in; I am more likely to look at your pitch if you’re recommended by someone I know. I have a few writers who came to me this way. Networking, ftw!

What do you as an editor look for when looking for a new writer?
I look for great ideas, clean and concise copy, and last but not least, punctuality. In fact, it won’t matter how talented you are or what great ideas you have if you can’t turn in your work on time. If you need more time to work on a story, it’s usually not a problem — but always let me know first. Otherwise, I’m wasting time chasing you down for it.

Another thing I look for: attention to detail. This goes beyond spell-checking. That means writing solid headlines (or at least trying),  providing the correct image(s) and properly tagging your article; basically, making sure you’ve got dotted i’s and crossed t’s. A little extra effort goes a long way!

What advice would you give for a hopeful writer trying to contact editors?

Pitch, pitch, pitch. I get quite a few e-mails from potential writers, even ones who are referred to me. They present past work and say how they’d like to contribute to the site, but they don’t provide me with any actual pitches. I need ideas! I can’t think of them all by myself. I don’t have a ton of assignments waiting around to give to writers, especially if you aren’t a regular. So when you send me an e-mail with your resume and clips, you should send a few article ideas as well. This will not only show me how creative you are, but also if you’ve even looked at the publication or website.

If a writer doesn’t have clips from a known website, would you look at personal blog posts or possibly college newspaper clips?

It would obviously help if your work has been published at other magazines or websites; it means you’ve worked with a professional editor before. However, if blog posts and college clips are all you have, by all means send your best ones! Along with pitches, too!

Does UGO take on interns? If so, where should potential candidates look for those listings?

UGO accepts interns every semester for college credit. We do post an ad for interns occasionally, but you can also check this page — http://www.ugo.com/corporate/jobs — for more specific information. If the intern shows enough initiative and know-how, we even let them write for us.

You yourself were a freelancer for a while. How did you get started?

I majored in Media & Communications and wrote for my college newspaper. Then I wrote for a few music magazines and websites (for free) while I held a full-time web production job. I kept writing articles and conducting interviews in my spare time. Eventually, an assistant editor position opened up at the same workplace where I was web producing. I showed them my clips and got the job. Ever since then, I’ve worked as both a full-time freelance writer and a full-time staff editor at various publications and websites. Oftentimes finding a writing/editing gig comes from networking and luck, but working hard, persistence and using your abilities to the fullest will always make you stand out above the rest.

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