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Friday, July 30, 2010

Freelance Writing: FAQ

I have received multiple questions from students about LIVESTRONG.com and freelance writing. I don't have time to answer every single one, but here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

Is LIVESTRONG.com a for-profit site or a non-profit site?

It is a for-profit site, making donations to cancer research.

Is LIVESTRONG.com associated with LIVESTRONG.org?

Yes, but LIVESTRONG.org is a non-profit site

Is LIVESTRONG affiliated with Lance Armstrong?

Yes, LIVESTRONG is also known as "The Lance Armstrong Foundation." Armstrong remains closely connected with both sites. He started LIVESTRONG.org as a site in support of people with cancer.

Are the writers on LIVESTRONG professional writers?

Yes, they write for money. To write for LIVESTRONG.com Health or LIVESTRONG.com Nutrition you must have a medical degree or an M.S. in a medical field.

Are the articles on LIVESTRONG.com reviewed?

Yes, they are reviewed by editors who have at least five years experience editing for a print publication.

If I don't get into graduate school in philosophy, can I make a living as a freelance writer?

Yes, but I strongly recommend that you supplement your degree with an M.S. in a medical field. You will make more money.

How do you know what to write about?

You will get an assignment or a title to write to, or you can send a pitch letter to an editor.

Do I need a published article to be considered as a freelance writer for a popular magazine or ezine?

No, but you will need a well-written article, written in the style of the publication you want to write for.

How do you find your sources for health-related publications?

Articles published in top medical, nutrition or neuroscience journals are the best resources. You can then contact the media person at a university listed in the "affiliations" section of the article and ask if she has a news release that you might have overlooked. If she does, she will send it to you or provide a link. That's her job. If she doesn't, ask her if she can arrange a phone conversation with one of the authors of the paper.

Do you have to learn how to write for popular publications?

Yes, lots of know-how. The explicit rules are simple. Use an active but authoritative voice. Avoid passive tense. Avoid the dummy phrase "to be." Avoid empty phrases. Don't state unsupported facts or anything that is not common knowledge. Find a source to "blame" it on. Unless you article is strictly informative (e.g., How is a Frontal Lobe Meningioma Diagnosed?), use a surprising or strong, supported fact or a catchy anecdote as your first sentence. Actually, a strong beginning is recommendable even if your article is strictly informative. Never write "this article is about ..." But do convey why the reader should continue reading. Why is this important? Hint at how you are going to address the problem. Then practice practice practice.

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