Freelance Food Writing as a Part-Time or Full-Time Job
Many freelance writers enjoy writing about food because they can share their personal experiences. Plus, writing about food offers plenty of opportunities to write about different topics. Food writing can involve more than writing just about food–it can also include writing about nutrition, health issues, new kitchen gadgets, new cooking techniques, and new diet trends. Of course, if you want to focus exclusively on just food, you can find publications and websites that will pay for such articles.
Sharing Your Experience with Readers
Writing about food goes beyond tasting and describing. You need to describe food in a way that appeals to the reader’s five senses (smell, sight, touch, sound, and taste) and write in a laid-back, conversational style, as if the reader is sitting across from you at the dinner table. An article that can engage readers will help you to convey your thoughts, feelings and experience.
Many food writers like to review restaurants as well as critique food dishes prepared by top chefs. They assimilate the full dining experience and reveal to readers about the restaurant’s atmosphere, the quality of the food, the taste of certain entrees and desserts, the quality of service, and how the chef prepared certain dishes.
Describing Food is Fun
You can have a lot of fun describing certain foods, how they taste, and how to prepare them. It lets you unleash your creativity to immerse readers in your experience. Some genres of freelance writing restrict you from using flowery, descriptive words. Food writing encourages a descriptive writing style. You can embrace more elaborate adjectives and metaphors. In a way, describing food and how it tastes in your mouth can sometimes sound poetic, like this: “The roquette and baby spinach salad, mixed with light bursts of Chinese parsley and cranberry extract, was nirvana to the taste buds.”
Opportunities for Food Writers
Opportunities to write about food are plentiful. Nearly every local and national newspaper, magazine, trade journal and website either has a food section or covers topics related to food. It is easier to sell a first food review or restaurant review to your local newspaper or local news website than to pitch articles to print magazines. When you accumulate more clips and experience, then you should approach higher-paying publications.
Occasionally you will see job ads seeking food writers in general but are really seeking restaurant reviewers. Educate yourself to do either one or both—the more you can diversify your writing skills, the more gigs you can land. Remember that a complete restaurant review is more extensive than writing just about the food. If reviewing a restaurant, observe everything that occurs from the second you enter the restaurant.
New diets that work (or claim to work) always stir up interest in the general public. As you might have guessed, editors have a high demand for articles covering new diets and different diet programs. A timely topic to pitch to an editor is to compare and contrast various diet programs approved by health gurus. For each diet, you can describe how each one works, why it works, what it requires to make it work, and what results one can expect.
Finding Food Writing Jobs
You can join one of the popular outsourcing marketplaces like Freelancer.com and Upwork.com and bid on individual gigs. Any one of these job sites will help you estimate the number of new food writing jobs that employers post each day, as well as show which type of topics are in demand and who your competition is.
You can also write a few food reviews and submit them to editors at food magazines as well as to the editor of your local newspaper’s food section. To pitch a feature article or a departmental article, submit a brief query letter pitching the topic you’d like to write, along with reasons why you are qualified to write on the topic and why it will interest readers.
Don’t neglect local opportunities. You can search for restaurants opening in your community and contact the owners in person, by phone or email. Inform the owner that you are a freelance writer who can help publicize his restaurant in the local newspaper or news site or help generate buzz with social media methods like blogging, Tweeting, and posting updates on the restaurant’s Facebook page. This will give you an amazing opportunity to write a review first and submit it to a local editor for publication.
Basic Skills of a Food Writer
The basic (and most obvious) skills you need are creativity, a flexible vocabulary of descriptive words, and a sharp eye to describe what you experience. Beneath all of these basic skills is a fiery passion for food. That may sound apparent, but you must remember that your level of passion can affect your enthusiasm to cover a topic and convey your passion to like-minded readers.
If you wrote, “My pizza was exceptional and so was the service,” readers cannot connect with your experience or your passion. You need to be creative and turn dullness into a “WOW!” factor. Instead, you need to say something like, “The cinder block kilns of Italy are renowned for their famed, square crust pizzas: fire-baked for crispy crust on the outside, hot and delicate on the inside. The pizza gloats edge-to-edge with plum tomatoes, real cheese, sea salt and olive oil, topped with pan seared pepperoni and spicy herbs.”
Besides a passion for food, you need to educate yourself on current trends. Your best chance at selling articles relies on your ability to stay current with what’s new, what’s in, and what’s dated. Read food magazines and trade journals, review the the food section of the newspaper or its website, eat out a lot, attend food festivals and shows, and know what new food events and trends are emerging in cities like New York and Los Angeles. The more you know, the better you’ll write. The more you write, the more you will be in sync with your readers’ interests.
Responding to a Job Ad
If you encounter a job ad for a food writer, such as at CraigsList.org, you’ll want to address what the job poster wants and how you can fulfill his needs. How would you reply to the following ad?
Wine & Spirits magazine is seeking articles about matching wines and foods. Articles with interviews preferred. Please submit a query letter with three topics that you’d like to write about. Include a short bio of yourself and relevant clips before January.
This publication wants articles with a food intent, which is still ideal if you lack solid knowledge about what wines taste best with appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Do some research to educate yourself on the subject and then come up with three to five article topics. Then contact the job poster.
Food writing is about immersing your readers into an experience that they cannot forget. Through your choice of words and understanding of foods, you can educate and entertain readers. When you know how to write for your readers, you will also understand what type of topics that editors buy and don’t buy.
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