A few years ago, I was scanning the Paying Markets section of WritersWeekly and paused when I saw a magazine titled Arthritis Self-Management. As a writer specializing in health and science, the magazine caught my eye as I was looking for some new writing assignments. Without knowing anything about arthritis, I pitched the editor a story about a popular trend around patient advocates who help people with their healthcare decisions, billing questions, and insurance claims.
The editor liked the story so I pitched a second idea on long distance caregiving and she bought that one as well. I was about to send over my third pitch when the editor shared some news with all the freelancers. The magazine was being sold to another company, Madover Media. The editor assured me that I could continue writing articles and assigned me two pieces specifically about arthritis that I actually found interesting to cover.
After several months, the editor finally announced her departure. She had worked out of the original offices in New York City and the new company wanted the editorial team to work from new offices in the Boston suburbs.
With the editor leaving, I figured I would probably be waving goodbye as well. A small part of me remained hopeful that I might continue writing for the magazine, and be indispensable to the new editor. Fortunately, the editor wanted me to stay on, and continue writing stories. The editor announced that the magazine was getting a complete makeover, and would be relaunched as Pain-Free Living. The new company gave the magazine a complete overhaul, and frankly, it really needed a fresh new, modern look. The editorial focus also changed and expanded to include all pain conditions, not just arthritis.
The editor assigned me a new story, and welcomed pitch ideas. With the magazine’s expanded focus, I found myself learning about the many aspects of pain management, and came up with some interesting story ideas. The editor bought every single article – which provided steady work and income throughout the entire year.
By summer time, she reached out to the freelancers to tell us that she needed story ideas for next year’s editorial calendar. With inspiration from some of the experts I interviewed from previous stories, I developed six feature story ideas for each issue. She bought all six pitches. My favorite among them was profiling artists who suffer from chronic pain. I got to know Tara Shuey who forgets about the pain from her fibromyalgia when she paints her abstract pieces.
In addition to the feature stories, I ambitiously pitched the editor a brand new column. At the time, I was writing patient profiles for another magazine. I figured that this column idea would be a great fit for Pain-Free Living. The slight twist to the column idea was that I would write each column as first-person narratives to allow the patient’s voice to shine through. My editor was intrigued by the column idea, and even liked the suggested title: “My Story.” She decided to buy three columns for every other issue, and test it with readers.
When it was time to plan the next year’s editorial calendar, the editor decided to expand the column to each issue. I was rewarded with six columns along with six feature stories I pitched. My editor was keeping me very busy and it became quite the juggling act with my other writing commitments.
After completing a column right around New Years, I received some shocking news. The company suddenly decided to fold the magazine. The advertisements were not as lush as before but I was not aware the magazine was facing such financial problems. I knew it would be difficult to replace such steady work. This had become more than just a great freelance gig; it was extremely rewarding work. The column was my baby and, every other month, I enjoyed the challenge of identifying an inspiring person to profile.
With so much experience writing about pain and arthritis, I researched other magazines in that space, and reached out to a few publications. An editor at Arthritis Today responded, and recommended me for an assignment to profile patients with arthritis. What a perfect assignment for me! The new editor expected a lot but did not provide editorial style guidelines to follow. Needless to say, my first draft was not a home run and the editor asked me to re-write the piece. The story finally ended up in a good place but it was time consuming with a lot of back and forth. A second assignment came my way on a strange topic. Should you take an ambulance or an Uber ride during an emergency?
It was the last piece I wrote for the magazine and I haven’t written about pain topics since then. What I learned through my journey with that publication is that professionalism, consistency, and creative ideas can lead to long-term freelance writing income, regardless of editorial staff changes.
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Paul Wynn, a journalist based in Garrison, N.Y., is the author of countless articles covering a wide variety of scientific, healthcare policy and technology trends. He has contributed feature and news stories to more than 60 consumer and trade magazines throughout his career. Publications include Dermatology Times, Diabetes Self-Management, Diversion, Health, Medical Economics, Pain-Free Living, POZ, Prevention and U.S. News & World Report. After graduating from Ithaca College’s Park School of Communications, Mr. Wynn started his journalism career covering the pharmaceutical industry for Med Ad News. He is a regular contributor to the American Academy of Neurology’s Brain & Life magazine and the American Medical Student Association’s The New Physician magazine. With his wife Julia Wynn, he has written numerous travel articles highlighting some of the world’s most remarkable destinations they have visited together.