There’s gold in them thar trade mags!

by Sandra Phinney


As freelance writers, we often overlook trade publications as potential markets—largely because they are not visible. Rarely sold at newsstands, the majority of trade magazines are mailed directly to private audiences—usually to members of a particular trade or profession—be it doctors, pilots, bankers, bakers, embalmers, and truckers.

In some cases, trade magazines are mailed to corporate stockholders, government departments, agencies, or educational institutions. Others are created as marketing tools by retail giants, and offered at checkouts or mailed to card-holding customers. My guess is there are as many trade publications as there are regular mainstream publications in Canada, so the market potential is vast. 

Where to start  

Remember the old adage, “Write what you know?” Add to that, “Write what you are interested in.” So, for example, if food strikes your fancy, visit cooking schools, food technology centres, processors and restaurants—and get copies of the trade publications they subscribe to.

Sure—writing for some trade journals can be a bit technical and dry. Penning a story about basement waterproofing for a construction magazine or the latest feeding technology for pigs for a farm publication may not appear to be very scintillating. Yet, weave in a little human interest and even dry topics can be a lot of fun. I once had an editor ask if I would write about funeral co-ops. Turned out to be fascinating.

Once you’ve read a handful of trade publications, you’ll notice that they frequently feature profiles. So, for example, if you know of a lawyer who has a penchant for flying kites, it could make for a great story in The Lawyer’s Weekly. Does your pharmacist collect exotic birds? Has your family doctor just come back from doing a stint for Doctors Without Borders? All worth pitching to related professional publications.

What do trade pubs pay?

Pay ranges from pittance to princely sums. Average is .30-.50 a word but not uncommon to find .80-$1 a word.


  1. Get on the mailing list for trade associations and attend conferences or trade shows in your area of interest. Soon, story ideas and information will flow to you. You don’t have to know a lot about your subject area, but you have to be able to find out who does—and who will talk to you when you need them.
  1. Ask all your friends, relatives and colleagues who work to give you a copy of the trade publications they (or their employers) subscribe to. I did that a few years ago and ended up with publications related to everything from nursing, teaching and music to race cars, firearms and finance.
  1. Snoop around. Keep your eyes open. Any time you are in a waiting room or check-out look for trade journals. Also, every time you interview someone find out what magazines they subscribe to. Don’t be shy about asking for a couple of back copies.
  1. Call editors of trade publications. Unlike editors of consumer magazines, trade mag editors will frequently send you copies of their publication and talk quite openly about their publication’s freelancing needs.
  1. Some corporations carry a series of magazines on related topics. For example, Rogers Health Care Group has five publications related to the pharmaceutical professions (three in English and two in French) This kind of thing can be a gold mine for freelancers as they are a bottomless pit for news items. They also tend to pay the same rates for website content and they often want updates on a regular basis.

Where to find trade publications

Sandra’s favourite sites :

Specific to Ontario (there may be other provinces with similar sites)

US trade publications:

As I’m writing this I just remembered hearing about a local fish plant that is in start-up mode to flash freeze fish. Hmmm. Trade publications related to fisheries, business and food popped into mind for starters. Bet y’all could come up with three more possibilities!


Sandra Phinney writes from her perch on the Tusket River in Yarmouth County, NS.

Posted on July 13, 2016 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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