OTRR LEVEL UP – MEGAN ARSZMAN – PROFESSIONAL WRITER
Learn about how Megan turned her dream of being a writer into a great business!
How did you first get interested in writing?
Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing numerous stories in and out of school—I wanted to be an author. In grade school, I helped launch our school’s newspaper, The Raider Reporter. In high school, I took journalism and photography, joined the newspaper and did an independent study on photojournalism and a photojournalism internship at the local paper my senior year. It was during this internship that I decided I did not want to work for a newspaper, but for magazines. I felt that I didn’t have it in me to be an investigative reporter, to dig into things that most people would squirm at. I wanted to do something to include my first love—horses. I chose to attend Murray State University because it was an accredited school for journalism, and I could minor in equine studies. It was the perfect marriage. While in school, I was just as active in the Ag school as the business school—president of the Society for Student Journalists, team captain of the Equestrian Team, photographer with the university yearbook.
What steps did you take to become an accomplished writer?
I joined the American Horse Publications as a senior in college because I was looking for internships. I knew getting an internship would help get my foot in the door with magazines. I had a counselor that actually told me, “You can’t just start at a magazine. You have to build your way up.” I took that as inspiration to prove her wrong.
One of my best friends in college competed in cutting and her parents owned a tack store. Her mom just happened to be friends with the editor of the Quarter Horse News. My senior year, my friend’s mom asked me to send her some writing samples and information. I spoke with Katie on the phone a couple of times and we discussed me possibly freelancing for her when I graduated.
After college, I took an internship at Hoosier Park, a racetrack 45 minutes from my parents’ farm in Indiana. I did media relations during the Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred Fall meet. I had grown up loving Thoroughbred racing, so it was an awesome gig.
That fall I started freelancing for the Quarter Horse News and flew out to Oklahoma City for the 2005 NRHA Futurity to cover the winners. It was an amazing, and inspiring experience. I was then offered an internship with the American Quarter Horse Association’s publications department. That was the single biggest thing to help launch my career. Moving to Amarillo and working with the world’s largest equine registry, learning the ropes under experienced editors and writers was amazing. I built lifelong friendships with the editors and count them as mentors and friends.
I think one of the biggest things I learned was that it wasn’t just what you know, but it’s who you know. One thing led to another when it came to how I built and grew my career. I graduated cum laude from Murray State and was working with magazines within six months…proving my counselor wrong.
When did you start freelance writing?
I guess I already answered that above…sorry!
I started freelancing towards the end of my senior year of college, thanks to a friend who knew the editor of one of the leading performance horse magazines. I remember covering a reining futurity and derby in which Big Chex To Cash won with Andrea Fappani on board. I fell in love with that stallion. I was asked to come to Oklahoma City to cover the 2005 NRHA Futurity in November with the editor and got to meet him in person and watch him slide to the Reserve Championship.
After my internship at AQHA, I moved to Oklahoma City to work for the NRHA’s magazine (NRHA Reiner). After a year there, I moved to Lexington to work as the Photo and E-Newsletter Editor for The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care. During this time, I took a break from freelancing. After a few years, I was asked by an old client if I would write an article for them. Because I wasn’t writing for my full-time employer, I had the itch…I missed writing. That reignited my career. I put more focus on growing my client base, getting back into the performance horse industry, and reaching out to different magazines. Within a couple of years, my business had grown.
How did you make a career out of freelance writing (What is your background)?
Again, sorry, I think I answered that above, haha! I put myself out there…a lot. While I had the connections from my internship at AQHA and my first publications, it took a while to get things going. Luckily, the growth in the niche publication industry has helped—the horse publication industry continues to grow while general publications dwindle. Horse people love to read!
How do publications know about you? Do you reach out to Publications? What is the process?
I’ve had a couple of publications reach out to me, but I’ve also reached out to some. As a member of the American Horse Publications, my profile helps my name grow. It’s all about networking. One freelancing friend actually suggested my name to one publication because she had a busy workload and they needed someone to write an article on a short deadline. I’m grateful for that because it was a big boost.
Other publications actually advertise that they need writers, so I’ve reached out to them, writing a letter introducing myself and telling them about my skills and for whom I’ve written in the past.
Stay tuned for more from Megan next week!
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