How to Write for Trade Magazines

Freelance writing is a challenging career today. Thanks to the nation’s down economy, publishers are slashing their freelance budgets, leaving a smaller number of opportunities for freelancers.

Sure there are blogs and Web writing. But writing tweets and blog posts doesn’t bring the same amount of dollars that come with writing for print publications.

It’s enough to chase struggling freelance writers out of the business.

But there is hope: Many freelancers have neglected one important writing opportunity, trade magazines.

Trade magazines serve specific industries or associations, and most every career field that you can think of is served by at least one of these publications. Trade magazines exist for the water-treatment industry, real estate business and financial-planning field. They serve people working as doctors, lawyers and restaurant owners. There are even trade magazines serving the window-washing and grease-pumping industries.

In other words, it’s a publishing sector that’s actually doing well, relatively speaking.

And in good news for freelance writers, it’s also one in which editors receive far fewer story pitches and letters-of-introduction from journalists.

The pay at these publications isn’t bad, either. Many trade magazines pay in the range of $500 to $800 for 1,500- to 2,000-word pieces. These aren’t New York Times rates, but they sure beat the money that writers can land writing for Web sites and blogs.

So how do you land work at these publications?

First, you have to find them. This is easy enough. Do a Web search for trade associations. You’ll find that most of these associations — covering a wide variety of fields — have their own trade publications.

Once you find these magazines online, search their Web sites for contact information. Many will list the names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of their editors. You might also find the names of these folks directly on the Web homes of the associations themselves.

Next, compose a letter of introduction to introduce yourself to these editors. List your experience in the writing industry. Attach some of your previously published stories or include links to stories of yours that are online. Include a paragraph at the end of your letter explaining that you’re interested in writing for their publications. Make sure to include your phone number and e-mail address so that editors can quickly contact you.

You might also want to pitch specific story ideas. This is a way to get in the good graces of editors, who love it when freelancers do the work of thinking up good story ideas for them.

Coming up with story ideas for trade magazines isn’t much different than doing it for consumer publications. Just remember that you are writing for the practitioners of an industry, not general consumers. If you are targeting a real estate trade magazine, don’t send the editor a pitch for a story on how to find a good real estate agent. But you might send a pitch about how new real estate agents can inspire confidence in home buyers and sellers.

Trade magazines remain a market that is largely unexplored by a majority of freelance writers. In today’s tough writing business, you can’t afford to miss out on the opportunities, and the cash, that trade magazines offer.