Better Luck Local! By Julie Engelhardt

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My family and I recently moved to Central California after living in Las Vegas for only 18 months. Before that, we were living in Southern California, where my husband, sons, and I had lived for years. I began my freelancing career there, finding steady work with local magazines, newspapers, and television stations. When we moved to Las Vegas, I was fortunate enough to find work with three different regional magazines, and two of them are still using my work, even though I no longer live in the state.

It seems that I’ve had better luck writing for locals than picking up work with nationals, which is better for me. I prefer working for locals, actually, because it’s easier to pitch stories to them, and I don’t have to deal with queries that may, or may not, even be seen.

But, I was concerned when I came to this small town because even though there are two newspapers that are produced here, I was interested in writing for magazines. I looked every place, even contacting publications that are only about 30 minutes from where we are living. Unfortunately, they turned me down, telling me that if I lived closer to their demographic target, then they would consider using me. This tickled me, a bit, because I’m in California and still writing for Nevada publications. Oh, well!

Then one day I took my boys to the local ice cream store, and as we were throwing out our empty containers and dirty napkins, I spied a small “freebie” magazine placed on top of the waste can. It is very local, covering information and events for our town and many of the surrounding areas. I grabbed one, took it home, and immediately turned to the page with the masthead. I began contemplating whether I should contact the editor or not. Even though I wasn’t calling a big name magazine, I still felt nervous about the cold call.

But, I let my fingers do the walking, called, and spoke with the editor. I introduced myself, told her I was a writer who was new to the area, and asked if she ever used freelancers. She said yes, and that it was odd that I called, because several of her staff people were out with the flu, and she needed someone to do a piece right away. Would I be interested? I said yes, and then asked what the pay would be. It wasn’t great, but I looked at the bigger picture and figured it would be something to add to my website. I finished the piece in a few days, and then asked what I should bill her for the work. She gave me the lowest rate, but I countered back that the piece was rather long, and that I had more than a few years’ writing experience. She agreed, and said she would pay me the “top” rate for the story.

Several days later I suggested some ideas for articles, and from that point on, she has used the majority of my ideas.The true icing on the cake came via e-mail one day, when she asked if I’d be interested in taking on the monthly calendar section for her magazine. It would pay four times what I was making for the articles. I immediately said yes. Plus, I keep suggesting articles, and she keeps using them. As an aside, for the month of July I pieced together a calendar about “Harry Potter Parties” that are being held to celebrate the release of the 6th Harry Potter book. I asked the editor if she would be interested in having my 12 year old son put together a Harry Potter quiz to be included in the magazine, and she loved the idea. She paid him $20 for the piece, plus he was used as a ‘model’ for the picture in the magazine. In the photo, he’s dressed as Harry, and he’s reading a Harry Potter book.

Julie Engelhardt has been involved with the media in one way or another since the mid-1980’s, starting with an 11-year career in local television in Orange County, California. Along the way she began her freelance career, writing primarily for local and regional magazines. After living in Southern California for most of her life, she and her family moved to Las Vegas, NV for 18 months, and now they are living in Central California, an hour south of Monterey. Julie is married, and has two boys, Alex and Christopher. You can read her website at: http://members.aol.com/writerjuliee/