Many writers would prefer to hole up in their little garrets and write and write and write. They’d be happy to never talk to anyone again and live quietly alone with their writing.
Unfortunately in this picture, the writer starves to death.
The reality is that if you’re smart, you will develop good relationships with editors. You will behave professionally, and never burn bridges. Writing assignments can build on one another. If you make editors happy with your clean, error-free prose that comes in on time, you will be unusual. In a world full of flakey freelancers, being competent makes you memorable.
Editors talk to other editors. If your work is good, other people in the publishing industry may notice or hear about your writing. The publishing business is often chaotic. Magazines and publishing companies get bought and sold all the time. It may seem like you’re dealing with a big intimidating corporate behemoth, but even in the largest company, remember that writing assignments always come from people. Editors who like you may suddenly move to new publishing company. Odds are, they will tell their new colleagues about the “great writer” they worked with at their last place.
You want to be that “great writer!”
Remember that magazine editors are like everyone else. While waiting in line at the deli or espresso hut, they talk shop. It’s really not unusual to get a referral because one editor talks to another editor at a different publication that happens to work in the same building or the same industry. Good news travels, and the result can be money in your pocket.
So get in the habit of keeping an up-to-date, organized contact list of every editor you write to or talk with. Check in periodically. Always take notes about when you called and what you discussed. It sounds elementary, and if you’re shy (as many writers are), you’ll need to overcome your discomfort enough to talk with the people who pay you.
While you are thinking about who you know, think about all those other writers you know as well. Good writers are often busy writers. Let all your writing buddies know that you’ll take overflow work. Also tell them your specialties. Find out if you have skills they don’t.
For example, the world of technical writing can involve many different software and writing skills. By working together everyone wins. For example, suppose you have experience using Quark XPress, which is somewhat unusual in the tech-writing world. If you work with another company that specializes in doing documentation in FrameMaker, they can outsource any projects that require Quark skills to you. They get to keep their client happy and you get some work. Best of all, after you become rich and famous, you can return the favor.
Remember that what goes around comes around. In the good karma category, as a writer, you provide information, so you may end up helping people you don’t even know. This good will may come back to you later in the form of paying work.