5 Tips On Breaking Into Freelance Writing


I am often asked by many of my peers, "Chasity, how did you start freelancing? What do I need to do in order to write for Publication XYZ?" And while I wish I had a specific formula to help get you a byline on your favorite website, I must say that breaking into freelannce journalism is different for everyone. Since I started freelancing in 2014, I've learned that media outlets only really want one thing from journalists: for us to demonstrate that we are thoughtful and intentional about the subject(s) we wish to write about. It's critical to set yourself apart from the rest as knowledgeable, creative and personable, but you also want to ensure that your writing is substantive and aligns with the mission and vision of the publication.

So without further delay, here are five tips that I have found helped me establish my career as a freelance journalist.

  1. Start your own sh*t. (Get to blogging, baby.) - When I started this blog back in September 2011, I had no goal in mind on how I wanted it to grow. All I knew was that I wanted to write about public relations, millennials and some of my life's musings. Fast forward five years later, and I'm grateful to have created this space that keeps track of my growth and experiences both professionally and personally. Granted, I haven't always been as consistent as I want to be (I'll get to this in a bit) but having a place where my voice lives and breathes online has been incredibly essential to building my thought leadership as a writer. When approaching some of your favorite publications, it's important to have a few receipts to show off your writing style, so that they can have an idea of how you can best provide value to their community of readers. If you've been considering starting a blog, be sure to ask yourself a few questions before jumping right in.

2. Put yourself on. (Pitching ain't easy, but it sure is fun.) Putting yourself out there in any form or fashion can be nerve-wracking, but trust me when I say it is also very rewarding. When pitching to your favorite publications, you do want your personality to shine through your writing, but it's important to keep in mind that there is specific information they want to impart on their readership. When I sent a cold email to the editor of Vinepair, a wine and spirits website, earlier this summer, I was slightly nervous because I had only written about wine on my blog. But once I put my fear aside and offered the editor a few ideas that I thought their audience would enjoy, I gained confidence. And surprisingly, I was able to bring forth two of my favorite things (Henny and red wine) and create sometime special for the Vinepair community. Moral of the story: give yourself space to be creative + shoot your shot. Also, you don't have to have a "connect" to a publication in order to pitch them. Head to their website or check out their Twitter page and LOOK for the information you need. 

3. Be consistent, yet patient. (The money will come, just wait on it.) Breaking news my friends: freelance writing isn't going to bring forth a super huge coin in the beginning. You will have to put in the work (read: literally secure the bag) in order to build credibility. With your personal blog, there are a number of ways you can become consistent. Create a content calendar to track your posts. Schedule your posts with tools like CoPromote, Buffer and Hootsuite ahead of time. Keep tabs of the news with Google alerts that are related to the content that you are producing.  While you're waiting to hear from an editor, continue to work and look for opportunities that will help to improve your craft. And once you do get that byline of your dreams...

4. Promote, promote, promote! (Again, put yourself on!) My first post for was one of the most exciting moments of my career thus far. I was standing in PG Plaza Mall and with my phone on one percent, I moved as quickly as I could to screenshot my byline and share it with the Interwebs. I text the link to both of my parents and shared it with the various Slack communities that I'm apart of. You've worked hard for this moment, so don't be afraid to tell everybody what you've accomplished. Pro-tip: be sure to keep a Google doc of all of your clips and social media content to promote them on hand. Here are also three more ways you can promote your blog posts.   

5. Tap into resources. (Help is everywhere, bro.) Now that you've dipped your toe into the freelance journalism pool, the next step is to connect with your peers who are hustling just like you. Below are a few resources and communities that I've grown to love as my freelance journalism career matriculates: 

MiM Connect


Create Daily



Freelancers Union

Writers of Color

Black Freelance 

...and many more. 

So, do you feel ready to start riding the freelance writing wave? Great! If you're still a little hesitant, send me a note and I'll be happy to answer any additional questions you may have.


3 Things I've Learned From Mentor-In-My-Head Danyel Smith

I'm super excited to spotlight the first "Mentor in My Head" for 2015! She's not only a well-renowned journalist that has written for publications such as of SPIN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, The Root and TIME; but she is also an iconic leader that has served as editor for Billboard Magazine, editor-in-chief of VIBE magazine, and continues to change the landscape of journalism as we know it. (She has also interviewed all of your favorites in the process.) She and her husband, the G.O.A.T. of hip-hop journalism Elliott Wilson, have founded HRDCVR, a book-shaped magazine that looks to serve the 'new everybody' -- a multi-culture demographic that is not currently being served by mainstream media. Her creativity, authenticity and fervor for change inspire me daily, and her iconic piece 1994 piece Dreaming America for SPIN Magazine empowers me 20+ years later. Meet Danyel Smith.


Danyel has a way with words that not only evokes emotion, but challenges you to evaluate your surroundings, and how you can change them for the better. In watching her presentation on HRDCVR as a part of the John S. Knight School Fellowships at Stanford University, I couldn't help but admire how sincere, honest and transparent she was about what she believes will 'change the soul of journalism.' She tactfully demands your attention, leads with intention, and is the epitome of a BOSS.

Here are  three lessons that Danyel has taught me:

1. Embrace the evolution of your careerNot only does she bring her experience as a seasoned journalist to life with HRDCVR, but she's sharing her expertise and creativity with future journalists as well. Danyel is currently a professor at Syracuse University (my beloved alma mater) in New York City, teaching a course on Race, Gender and the Media. One of my favorite classes while I was at 'Cuse, I'm positive that Danyel does an awesome job in bringing a modern flare to this course, and empowering her students to think differently about the way the media impacts our lives.

2. Failure is not an option.  From watching a number of her interviews and reading her extensive body of work, I can tell that without a doubt Danyel believes in herself,  her dreams, and the power of speaking her truth. Yes, there may be roadblocks, detours and bumps, but you can't give up on your dreams...EVER. I admire Danyel's strength, her willingness to persist until she succeeds, and her openness in sharing the journey to reaching her goals.

3. See the beauty in everything around you. If you follow Danyel and/or HRDCVR on Instagram, you'll often see amazing shots of murals, images and skylines from across the country with the hashtag #HoodsDeepWorldWide. To me, this not only shows that she's very in tune with the world around her, but that she appreciates the power of imagery -- no matter how intricate or simplistic it may be -- and the story that lies behind it. To me, this is a vital part of storytelling; igniting the imagination to work more purposefully and intuitively. I'm very excited to see the final product of HRDCVR.

Danyel, I want to thank you for being a constant inspiration to myself, and millions of other millennials that aspire to be change agents in the world of journalism. Your ingenuity, leadership and focus to incite change are the blueprint -- and I appreciate the awesome and necessary work that you do.

You can follow Danyel on Instagram and Twitter at @danamo, and of course learn more about HRDCVR by visiting their website. Don't forget to subscribe to the HRDLIST too!

Have a great weekend,