Big thanks to the lovely Kath Allen for this inspiring post!
Since finishing full-time work four years ago to have children I’ve sent hundreds of letters and photos off to magazines. This all started when I bought the book ‘The Freelance Writer’s Handbook’ by Andrew Crofts which said that you can make a ‘modest income’ by writing reviews and sending letters off. I thought then that I’d have loads of time to write the novel I’d always wanted to as I wasn’t working, but when the babies arrived that particular idea ended!
The first thing I wrote was for ‘Playlist’ in the Family section of the Saturday Guardian where you write about a song which means something to your family. This paid £75 at that time so I was very excited and thought this was going to be a nice sideline to motherhood! I then looked at the reality mags such as Take A Break and Pick Me Up which has lots of opportunities for contributions such as pictures of babies, top tips and general funny or embarrassing stories!
Pick Me Up also has a website you can upload photos of your little darlings onto and if published will send you a cheque for £25. Take A Break magazine has a page at the front where photos and letters about babies, familes and pets are published which pays £100! I sent in a photo of my baby with a friend’s King Charles Spaniel! They also particularly like photos showing generations of families all together, ranging from newborn babies to great great grandmothers!
Some mags have a section dedicated to silly things your other half does, such as Daft Men in That’s Life magazine, and I have to admit to sending in a photo of my boyfriend without him knowing and a silly story about him asking me to get him a passport photo done for him while I was out!
The magazines are put together two months in advance so for seasonal issues you need to be prepared! One of my most organised projects was to plonk a Santa hat on my little one and photograph her in October for the Christmas issues! This also means that you don’t really know if your letter has been published until you get a cheque two months later so it’s easy to miss your moment of fame! I did contact Full House Magazine after I got cheques but missed the issues and they were kind enough to send me two back copies of the magazine with my baby photos in!
The magazines ensure they publish genuine readers by often putting your street and town under your name which I wasn’t sure about at first, and meant that when I wrote in asking for advice about chapped hands, I got two letters from grandmothers sympathising with me…with just my name, street and town on the envelope! Very sweet!
The downside to this is the element of publicity about it! I’m so proud of my kids and love seeing their photos published but know this isn’t for everyone, and sometimes mags have said my stuff wasn’t suitable but published it later anyway – luckily I was buying so many magazines that I saw them and pulled them up on it! There is rejection in all types of writing and they get so many photos and letters they have to turn some down unfortunately.
The bottom line is that if you do some research and look at what things are published you can tailor your letters to suit different magazines and hopefully make some money! I estimate I made over £1000 (usually in denominations of £25!) during the first year I was at home and it definitely boosted my confidence at a time when I was shocked to suddenly find no money coming into my account!
Here is my magazine list of shame!
– Sending in hideous photo of myself and skincare query to Beauty section of Take A Break
– Santa hat on baby in October!
– Rude jokes and silly stories to That’s Life and Full House, such as trying to Google baby toy ‘Dance with Me Tinky Winky’ and coming up with very strange websites when I wrote Tiny Winky by mistake!
– Rubbish top tips such as reusing old envelopes by putting a sticker over the address and putting fairy lights in the fireplace to create a warming glow!
– Writing a letter to Now mag saying how much I’d enjoyed a particular celebrity’s diet diary and was now religiously following it! Still got £20 though!
It’s a great way to flex your creative muscles and make use of those thousands of baby photos you’ve got stored on your computer…and make a few pounds of course!
Get writing and good luck!