Wednesday, November 2, 2016

How to make a buck or two, or three, as a writer

I have some good news and bad news for writers out there.

Which shall I share first? How about the good news.

There are tons of opportunities to write and be published out there today, well beyond your blog, Kindle book, email accounts, text messages, and Facebook posts.

There’s a real need for writers out there with:
  • ·       solid writing skills and evidence thereof;  
  • ·       some knowledge/expertise on the subject matter, and some evidence thereof;
  • ·       keeping your word on the deadline and delivering what you said you would;
  • ·       competence in grabbing useable photos/images and getting them sized correctly;
  • ·       following guidelines in the headline, deck, captions, sidebars, AP style, etc.
  • ·       how to use WordPress.

There are so many ways to find these writing opportunities, starting with Craigslist. If you write catchy pitch emails that you send with strong writing samples to editors, you’ll eventually find a response you were looking for. And they will pay you someday.

Now, are you ready for the downside?

1.    Write a lot, make a little.
As mentioned, start by scanning over postings on Craigslist under the Jobs – Writing/Editing link. Start in your city and then expand outward. Then go look for some specialized newsletters, blogs, and websites with freelance writing opportunity sections. The go check out Guru, Elance, WriterAccess, and anything else that pops up. You’ll get a hit eventually, and in the meantime you’ll see that there is a vast demand for writers out there and very little in payments – many times it’s a $10 offer, or less. Not that many years ago, that same article might have earned the writer $100. Yes, I have seen offers to write for a buck or two, or three. You’ll also find that you’ll pitch quite a few potential clients, and you’ll hear back from hardly any of them. The trick is building a solid relationship with someone who will pay you decently and keep giving you the green light on your work.

2.    A handful of editors with a whole bunch of freelancers.
As I’ve experienced firsthand in recent years, media outlets are paring back on editorial staff and workers in other departments. Getting a job as an editor, or staff writer, is getting tough these days with much of the labor outsourced to freelance writers and contractors. Editors have a tough job to do, usually duties that one or two other people might have done in the past. They’re also told to tighten their budgets, and might have some real limitations on what they can pay freelancers; all this while learning how to use new content management systems and programs. They can get burned out, to say the least.  Sometimes they ask the freelance writer to do a lot for what they’re getting paid, but somebody’s got to get it done.

3.    Morphing of job titles and duties.
Writers and editors are taking on new roles these days. It’s typical that somebody becomes a copywriter who writes content used in websites, e-mail marketing materials, buyer’s guides, and advertorials. A content writer or content editor will do what they would have done in the past, and then some, as an editor. You might need to know how to work with YouTube and Vimeo video images and links, photo galleries, podcasts, forum discussion groups, and social media placements. As a writer, you might be called a blogger, author, staff writer, reporter, or content creator. You might even be called a writer; anything is possible, but you still have to write content that people want to read.

4.    A short list of writers making big bucks from whatever they write. I remember being advised years ago, by writers and instructors I admired, to let go of comparing myself to famous writers – or hinting that I would be one someday. I would need to love what I do, and not give up. It was suggested that I avoid using as role models Stephen King, or Tom Wolfe, or Lester Bangs (who tragically died at 34 without making much money, and boy, could he write), or Hunter S. Thompson (another sad, but wild, tale), or Lawrence Block, or Donald Westlake, or…….. As for lately, it’s probably a good idea to stop using J.K. Rowling as a role model. Whatever she writes now, way beyond the Harry Potter series, will be a huge success. While Rowling became the first billionaire novelist, I can come up with names of successful writers in every sub-category under the umbrellas of non-fiction books, genre novelists, and screenwriters, who have done pretty well in earnings and reaching avid readers.

In the end, a very small number of writers will make a lot of money and find avid readers. All the rest of us need to have day jobs and do other, hopefully legal, work to make a buck or two, or three.

For all the writers I’ve known and read over the years, rich and poor, and somewhere in between, we do have something in common. We stay on it like a dog on a bone. We don’t quit, even if the work is criticized, rejected, doesn’t sell very much, could be better, or whatever might apply.

So, are you willing to be like a dog on a bone?

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