Working for Promotion or Barter
Ensuring that you have a steady stream of work from your favorite magazines sometimes goes beyond sending query letters and receiving story assignments. The editorial department is only one section within the magazine as a whole, and other departments — including marketing and advertising — often need content written for various uses.
In some cases, you can use this to your advantage by making deals that will cement your relationship with the magazine while at the same time giving you other benefits. You can offer to write content for other departments within the magazine in exchange for other things that you might need (instead of your regular paycheck).
At many magazines, writers are able to pick up extra work by writing advertorial and custom-publishing pieces in addition to editorial articles. If you offer to help out for free or for barter on one of these pieces and do a good job, then you may be first in line for similar paid assignments when they become available.
For example, let's say that you are currently receiving three story assignments each year from a magazine editor. The editor mentions that the in-house staff is overworked because the marketing department needs a dozen advertorial pieces (advertisements promoting the interests or opinions of corporate sponsors) written in the next two weeks. You offer to help write a few of the advertorials not for pay, but for something else that you need — say, some office supplies, an airline ticket booked through the magazine's travel service, or a free classified advertisement.
In some cases, the editor will not only take you up on your offer but will remember your generosity when it comes time to make actual story assignments later. You may lose a few dollars in the short run, but you'll have gained at least some form of compensation for your work and, more important, your editor's gratitude. Sometimes, you can even trade your onetime services for guaranteed future assignments — if you trust the magazine and believe the future work will actually materialize.
Should you work for free on a one-time deal in exchange for more assignments in the future?
Probably not at first. If you have a longstanding relationship with a magazine's editor, then perhaps this is a nice way of saying “thank you” for years of business. But in general, you cannot depend on future assignments as payment for past work.
These kinds of deals also may work for you after your magazine-writing career is more established, such as if you write a book. You can look to trade your writing services for a comparable “payment” in free advertising for your masterpiece, and you will have laid the groundwork for such a deal by having worked successfully with the magazine on a similar trade or barter in the past.
Trading Your Time
Another good way to use trade and barter to your advantage is by offering to trade a certain number of work hours each month for a monthly stipend. You can make yourself available not just to the editorial department, but to all departments at the magazine. In this way you become a “Johnny on the Spot” who, in exchange for twenty or thirty hours of monthly service as needed, will receive a monthly stipend that's commensurate with the magazine's pay rates.
This type of trade will guarantee you a certain income month after month, even if editorial story assignments suddenly dry up. Deals like this also will help you to network throughout the magazine and beyond — another key to cementing your base.