Experienced features writers for magazines are aware of the importance of presenting clips to editors of magazines and periodicals. For the newbie writer who'd like to make it as a contributor, a "clip" means any published article.
You can probably guess by now why editors require samples of your previous works. If it's your first time to try to break into their publication, the editor would at least like to know that he's not wasting his time reading your query.
And when you have clips to show a magazine editor, it would be convenient for him to check if your writing style suits the publication.
But since we're talking about being a newbie freelance writer, having no clips would definitely make it hard for editors to sit up and take you seriously.
Fortunately, there are several ways to approach this problem if you really are determined. The following is not an exhaustive list, but just a few ideas to get you started:
(1.) Volunteer to write for a community, church, or corporate newsletter.
Some people frown upon writing without pay, but volunteering is something a newbie must do willingly if he wants his articles to be seen in a magazine someday.
Writing for newsletters tops my list when it comes to getting some experience because people are the life and blood of communities, churches, and corporations. I did some volunteer work before, and it forced me to network with people, which led me to develop my communication and social skills.
Having said all of these, I'd like to give you additional advice: don't bother writing for free if you're going to deliver the article in a half-baked manner because you know you won't get paid. Think about volunteering as a training ground for you to get better at your craft, and you owe it to yourself to give it all you've got.
(2.) Start a blog.
In the past decade hosting services like Blogger and WordPress have become extremely popular among online users, and for good reasons: you can choose from a variety of templates and lay-outs that look clear, crisp, and professional, and you can even have them customized to suit the contents of your blog.
When publishing your own blog, avoid posting a hodgepodge of rants and ramblings, and unless you can offer some specialized knowledge about dogs or dog breeding, don't upload random photos of your pet.
A blog works best when you choose a topic and stick to it. All of us are knowledgeable about certain topics. But an even more important aspect of blogging is getting you to cultivate the writing habit.
Stay tuned for more in my next post.