If you are starting a career in freelance writing or journalism, here is some advice to scribble down and paste on your wall:

Always keep your editor happy.

After all, it is your editor who decides if you get published and therefore paid. But keeping them happy doesn’t mean sending flowers or opera tickets. Instead, just write what they want, how they want it, and when they want it.

Here are ten simple steps to keep your editor happy – and keep you in the business of online writing.


 1.     Meet the Deadline

Nothing screams ‘unreliable’ like missing your deadline. If you are a new writer or just working on a topic outside your expertise, be realistic with how long it will take and manage your time appropriately. Read here for advice on time management for journalists.

 2.     Write What the Editor Wants

This one is really quite simple. If you are asked to write an article on “The Top Five Tips for Getting Rich”, don’t write a 2000-word essay on the social implications of making lots of money. Ensure the content and style match what the editor asked for.

 3.     Chunk It

Reading from a computer is hard on your eyes. Most people simply scan through an online article and look for things that catch their eye: pictures, hyperlinks and lists.

To draw a reader’s attention, separate the text into small chunks of information. Use bullet points or numbered lists like this article does.

 4.     Proofread Your Article

The last thing an editor wants to see is obvious spelling mistakes and confusing grammar. You will save them time and you will look professional just by taking this step.

Hint: if your spelling, punctuation or grammar skills are poor, try reading your article aloud, or get a friend to read it.

 5.     Wow the Editor With Your Literary Skills

An editor likes nothing more than being excited and enthused by your writing (in addition to receiving it on time and not seeing grammatical errors, of course). Writing with flair and creativity makes you will stand out among writers; it may also increase your chances of securing commissioned work.

 6.     Check Your Facts, Do Your Research

Stating, “A new species of blue elephant has just been discovered!” will not please your editor when they find it’s a Photoshop scam. Use reliable sites such as Google Scholar or ensure you have at least two sources that can verify your facts.

 7.     Use Keywords

Keywords are typed into search engines to find relevant information on a specific topic. By incorporating keywords into your article, you are making it searchable, and therefore visible, online. Remember, there are millions of articles online, so yours has to stand out in all ways.

Similar to chunking your article, inserting links can help grab your readers’ attention. Include links to reliable and relevant websites or even related articles on the same site like this.

 9.     Pitch Your Ideas to the Editor

Carefully study the style and content of particular webzines you are interested in writing for, and then pitch your article ideas to the editor. This will show that you have done your homework, understand their target audience and are brimming with ideas for publications.

10. Be Professional and Positive

Finally, as a writer, you may receive negative reviews or have articles rejected. Remain professional in your responses and try to stay positive.

After all, even the great writers like Rudyard Kipling have been rejected: “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.” – San Francisco Examiner, 1889.


About the Author:

Magazine Journalist Esta ChappellLiving in China, Esta Chappell writes articles on everything from noodles to eco-tourism. However, her passion for insects and her background in ecology and tertiary teaching have set her up to write on all things environmental. When she’s not at her laptop she is in the mountains, backpack strapped on and camera in hand, snapping the cuddly, creepy and crawly.

Esta recently completed the Magazine Journalism Course at the Writers’ College.