If you've always wanted to pen articles for magazines or newspapers, then this is the business for you. As a freelance writer, you can specialize in a particular industry or area of interest, or you can play the field, writing about anything that catches your fancy. There are thousands of magazines devoted to more specialties than you can imagine. You can also write for corporate publications aimed at employees or customers and for the bounty of e-zines (electronic magazines) that proliferate on the Internet. A terrific way to start is by writing about subjects in which you're already an expert. The advantages to this business are that you get to exercise your creative talents on a continuous basis, you can immerse yourself in whatever subjects interest you, dictate your own hours, and the job title carries a certain amount of glamour, especially if you're writing investigative material. As an added bonus, one of your articles may be picked up by syndicated services that will pay you a fee for every newspaper that carries your story. First and foremost, you'll need the creativity to pen interesting materials, but you'll also need the technical skills to put your ideas and information into the proper format, including top-notch spelling, punctuation and grammar talents. You'll also need an eye for the kinds of stories readers (and therefore editors) of your target publications will be interested in. You should also have a flair for marketing your products, presenting them professionally but with enough pizzazz to make them sparkle among the scads of other hopefuls that weary, overworked editors receive on a regular basis.
Your customers will be the editors of your target publications. The way to garner business is to send query letters that describe your story idea and explain your qualifications for writing the piece. If you've got writing credentials from your present or previous job, be sure to include them. If not, you might explain why you have an expertise in the area you're writing about. The query letter is the first test of your writing abilities, the one that will attract the editor's attention, so make sure it shines. Once you establish relationships with editors, you can often call them with story ideas, and they'll sometimes call you with requests. But until then, you'll need to send well-developed and enticing queries to a variety of publications--and keep sending them.
You'll need a computer, a laser printer, a fax machine, and the usual office software. In addition, you'll want plenty of reference books, including a dictionary, encyclopedia, thesaurus and style guides.