Breaking into Business Magazines and Newspapers By John K. Borchardt

How can you improve your chances breaking into highly competitive national business publications such as “Fortune,” “Forbes” and “Business Week”? These magazines require their freelancers to have business writing experience. How can you get those all-important business article clips to persuade national business magazine editors to give you an assignment? Writing for local and regional business publications can enable you to get these precious clips and the needed experience.

The key is to start locally. Local and regional publications publish annual articles on subjects such as:

  • the 100 fastest growing businesses in the area
  • the 100 biggest local business in such fields as real estate and insurance agencies
  • the 100 largest minority-owned businesses or businesses owned by women

Articles cover local companies, business issues and other developments. If international or national developments are covered, it is in the context of how these developments will affect local businesses and industries. For example, a recent issue of “Business NH Magazine” included a story on how global warming could affect various New Hampshire industries. Freelance content varies from 10 percent at some weekly business newspapers to 90% at the monthly magazine “Nevada Business Journal.”

Writers generally rely heavily on interviews to write their manuscripts. Since these publications have a lot of prestige with local business leaders, it is often not hard to get interviews even with high level executives of large companies. These sources know the articles will be read by their colleagues and friends. They may also be read by potential customers. This also prompts sources to be cooperative, particularly owners of small businesses.

Some have special issues on specific subjects. These are good opportunities for freelancers. For example, I wrote an article for the “Houston Business Journal” energy issue on how some oil companies are letting academic researchers use their offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico for deep sea biology research. This was really more of a science story than a business story but it was good public relations for local oil companies had some excellent photographs different than the usual headshots that constitute much of the photography in these publications.

These magazines and newspapers are seldom looking for hard-hitting exposes. Their coverage often includes business aspects of nonprofit institutions such as hospitals and universities. Real estate and insurance are other businesses covered extensively in these publications.

By being persuasive in your queries, you can stretch the usual editorial boundaries a bit. For example, an article I wrote on using feng shui in business offices was published in the “Houston Business Journal” commercial real estate section. I interviewed local feng shui consultants and business owners using their services. Business owners said that their office redesigns increased their revenues. Houston is experiencing a major expansion of the businesses owned by Chinese immigrants and their descendents. I used this fact in my query.

Many local and regional business publications have editorial calendars that will help freelancers schedule their queries. Should there be no suggestions on how far in advance to query, the editor is often just a local phone call away to resolve this issue. Often only certain sections are open to freelancers so writers should check each publication’s writers’ guidelines. Most are weekly publications and many update their websites on a daily basis. These sometimes offer additional writing opportunities.

These publications usually prefer local writers familiar with their communities. Writers need to have good interviewing skills. While some local business publications use professional photographers or rely on sources to furnish headshots, freelancers often do have opportunities to get their own photographs published. Payment is usually on publication.

Some business newspapers are parts of chains. For example, the “Houston Business Journal” for which I have written several articles is one of the 42 newspapers in the American City Business Journals. Crain Communications publishes four business newspapers in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and New York City. Write some good articles and your editor may be willing to give you a recommendation to a member of its chain in another city. This recommendation could overcome another editor’s preference for only local writers.

Good manuscripts submitted on time and needing little editing can earn you assignments without having to query. For example, after writing several articles for the “Houston Business Journal,” the editor asked me to do a story on the fastest growing local companies based on a published list. Her staff writers were overloaded with work and she needed a manuscript right away.

Establish a reputation as being expert in a particular type of business or industry will help you get additional assignments in these fields and can serve as a springboard to assignments covering these same fields for a national business publication.

Local and Regional Business Publications:

American City Business Journals
From this site you can link to 42 local weekly business newspapers. Pay varies.
Clicking on the sequentially on the website, Contact Information and Editorial Services brings one to a list of editors with their telephone numbers.

Alaska Business Monthly
Contact information:
Pays $100 – $300

Alberta Venture
Editor: Michael McCullough
Pays $300 – $2,000 Canadian

Cincy Business Magazine
Pays $150-500

Crain’s Chicago Business
Pays $10-$15 per column inch

Crain’s Cleveland Business (covers northeast Ohio)
E-mail: clevedit – at –
Pays $10-$15 per column inch

Crain’s Detroit Business
Pays $10-$15 per column inch

Crain’s New York Business
Pays $10-$15 per column inch

Corporate Connecticut Magazine
Pays 35