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How to Freelance for a Newspaper

There are a lot of people freelancing through dedicated sites like Constant Content, BizReef, etc. Newspaper freelancing is a great opportunity for them to earn more money and reputation. There are a million newspapers out there, and most of them look for citizen journalists to submit interesting stories to fill their pages. Everyday, a newspaper requires a lot of content. Just imagine how many people’s hard work may go into these articles daily. Only its employees cannot fulfill this requirement; so, they always accept submissions from people like you.

The Advantages

Sun is one of the most popular newspapers in the world; thanks to its p0rn0-slang! The website of Sun, full of preppies in bikini on the home page, quite indubitably attracts more visitors. They are always on the lookout for articles by readers. If you have an enchanting, well-written story, Sun will pay you ‘thousands of pounds’, and there is no other newspaper that pays you more than it in the world. Please check out their submission page here. The New York Times, another highly read newspaper, can give you a flat thousand dollars for a 900-word article.

Another great advantage is that you get to reach out far more number of readers than you can through any other medium. A newspaper story, with a link to your website or blog can fetch you thousands of new readers for your blog.

Due to its advantages, newspaper freelancing has become extremely competitive. Electronic media has lifted this competition to a higher level, as anyone anywhere can query an editor from his bathing suit. Now, newspapers get hundreds of submissions daily. Hence, it’s not really easy to get one of your articles accepted, and only the real quality pays off.

Guidelines to Be a Newspaper Freelancer

There is quite a preparation required to succeed as a newspaper freelancer. Here are some tips you need to follow before you query your favorite daily.

1. Research the newspaper of your choice: You need to read the newspaper and its back issues and get a general idea of what sort of stories they are interested in, the language proficiency expected, and tone in order.

2. The audience: Most of the newspapers now tend to target a particular audience (regional for instance). It may even include a particular age group. If you have any news story that will interest this audience, then make haste to submit it.

3. The tabloids or special editions: Most of the newspapers have tabloid editions, or special editions that come on specific days of the week, targeting a special audience. For instance, some tabloids may target college students or better, contain articles from college students. If you are a college student, then you can definitely write an article for it.

4. Regional News: The larger, countrywide newspapers always look for regional news scoops, as a means to expand their reach. If you can provide one such story to them, it will be extremely worthwhile.

How to Approach Your Favorite Newspaper


The first step to be a newspaper freelancer is to query the appropriate editor with your scoop. The query is so much similar to a novel query letter, sent to literary agents or publishers. It’s an one-page affair, with every item left justified.

Query Format

• Your name, address, and contact details with proper capitalization on the top left corner.

• Place the editor’s name and address of the newspaper. Place them one line below, left justified. Always research the name of the editor you are querying, and never send a query to a general editor like ‘Editor’ or ‘Editor-in-chief’. You can use ‘Mr. Jim Terrific’ followed by the local address of the newspaper, where Mr. Jim Terrific is available.

• Put the date one line below.

• Address the editor with his name. Use ‘Dear Mr. Jim Terrific,’ or ‘Dear Mr. Jim Terrific:’. Colon is the best for formality.

• Place your hook line in the first paragraph. This should interest the editor to read the query further. Use as much imagination as possible in the hook, since it is what sells your query in the first place. After the first sentence hook, give a concise description of the story.

• The second paragraph should give a deeper overview of the article, with dates, places, related celebrities if any, and any related quotations.

Propose the article section or special edition of the newspaper you are willing to write the article for, and put a small resume of yourself as the next paragraph, with any publication credits. If you don't have any publication credits, refrain from mentioning it at all. Also, mention any additions such as images and the time frame in which you can submit the full article.

• End the query with an optimistic note such as “I am looking forward to your response.”

• Now, place the usual ‘yours sincerely’ line.

Here is a sample query letter for you.

Query Tips

1. The other general guidelines that apply to normal novel query letters apply here too. Such as: Don’t use caricature or embossment on your query paper, use your letterhead if you have one, etc. Read the complete guidelines for sending query letter.

2. The font and font size of the query should be as in the normal novel query letter, Times New Roman, 12 pt. Never go below 11 pt.

3. It’s always best to query by the snail mail (postal mail), and not email.

4. Never mention that you are “very sorry not having any publication credits.” The editors don’t mind your publication credits if your article has quality.

5. If you are querying through email, never use an attachment. Paste the query letter directly to the body of the email and send. Did I mention that it’s highly unprofessional to send attachments through email? Do you know that the father of WWW, Tim Berners-Lee never receives attachments in his email.

6. Make sure you research about the newspaper you are querying. Mentioning which particular tabloid edition or special articles section you are targeting makes you look a lot more professional.

7. Always query the most appropriate editor, and address him with his name. Make sure you don’t send a query to a general editor, or it will quickly make its way to the slush pile.

8. Make sure you proofread and edit the query once last time.

Hard Working Nature and Discipline

If you have decided to open a newspaper freelancing career, or even think about it as an extra source of income, then you should prepare considerable changes to your routine. This is a highly demanding field, and the editors are ruthless when it comes to deadlines.

You should naturally adapt to a hardworking nature, rising earlier and cutting short your entertainment time.

A newspaper freelancer should hold the most professional relationship with the editors, and needless to say, you should work continuously on your writing skills. Your proper relationship with the editor will help you get out of the formality of a query letter every time you submit a story. Also, it will benefit you a lot on any bigger project you are undertaking, such as a book.


Those were the guidelines for contacting a newspaper for starting a freelancing career. It can really be an extra income stream for good writers. In fact, this field is most appropriate for hard working professionals, and not only those who can write really well. Finally, one more thing: If you get a newspaper contract after reading this article, do let me know of it by commenting here. All the best!

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. These are very useful tips. Thanks for sharing. Can I submit this to again? It's a vital post that many bloggers should read. Cheers.

  2. Of course, Jen, many thanks. Submit any content that you deem as good. Thanks for the comment.


  3. Thanks for writing, a lot of this information is helpful. That said, I would challenge your assertion that sending attachments through e-mail is unprofessional. It may be considered unprofessional in the newspaper/magazine world, but I can assure you from experience that it is not considered unprofessional by some book publishers, schools, and several large corporations. E-mail attachments are common professional practice in many fields. And the comment regarding Tim Berners-Lee is not really helpful as his expertise is related to technology, and not professionalism.


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