What Writing for ELLE Magazine Taught Me About Freelancing

It all began with an email. On an otherwise ordinary day, I opened my email inbox to find a message with the subject line “October ELLE.”

I clicked on the message to find correspondence from an editor at ELLE magazine who wanted to know if I would be interested in writing an article for the magazine for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

At first, I was certain I was being Punk’d (Remember that show?). But after finding the editor on LinkedIn and other sites I realized this was real. I realized I had just been asked to write for a magazine in the top 3 of my byline bucket list. I was so excited I ran laps through my house for a solid minute before I calmed down enough to share the good news with my husband.

The article was hard work. I had to interview several sources and the assignment required a quick turnaround on the first draft and the revision. But I did it. The article — For Breast Cancer, 40 is the New 50 — ran in both the October issue of the magazine and online.

The experience taught me so much about freelancing. Here are three of the most valuable lessons learned.


How I Outline Articles Using Post-It Notes

If you walk into my home office on any given day you’re bound to see brightly colored Post-It notes tacked to the door of the room’s closet. In early 2019 this became my way of creating an outline for my articles.

Sure, I could just jot down an outline in a notebook or type up one in a Google or Word document — and for years that’s what I did. But one day I was really struggling to organize my thoughts for a story and I knew my traditional method of outlining wasn’t going to cut it.


3 Reasons Why Freelance Writers Should Blog

The other day I was chatting with a friend who is also a writer and she told me that she felt she owed her writing success to me. While I was very flattered by the statement I assured her that was not true.

This friend has had a lot of success. She’s had her work published in literary magazines galore and is currently slaying the freelance copywriting game, too. She also edits books and is working on writing a book of her own. But her talent and tenacity made all this happen — not me.

My friend, however, said that many of the opportunities that she’s had and the community of supporters that she has built happened because of her blog and she said she never would have started blogging had I not encouraged her to do so years ago.

Her words made me so happy. I preach the gospel of blogging to anyone who will listen because I, too, have built a wonderful tribe of women writers who have my back and have had several writing opportunities land in my lap because of my blog. And it’s so nice to know others are reaping the benefits of blogging, too.

Related Reading: How to Start a Blog

Blogging has definitely boosted my career as a freelance journalist. It helped me get the attention of magazine editors who offered me my own column. And sometimes editors even pay me to republish my blog posts in their publications.

Here are 3 other reasons why freelance writers should blog.


What’s the difference between a blogger and a journalist?

blackburn institute

On August 27 I had the honor of returning to my alma mater, the University of Alabama, to serve on a panel at the Blackburn Institute, one of the nation’s most unique and dynamic leadership development programs for college students.

The panel I was on was called “How to Find the ‘Truth’ in the Shifting Media Landscape” and was all about how to discern fact from opinion in a world full of blogs. podcasts, alt-weeklies and more.

Despite my experience as both a full-time and newspaper reporter and a freelance magazine writer, I was there mostly to represent the world of blogging.

During the panel discussion an audience member asked, “These days how do you determine if someone should be called a blogger or a reporter?”