Most people don’t go into journalism or the world of professional writing to make money.
Many of my friends and former students took jobs at small-market outlets right out of college, gaining experience while working for peanuts. Today, in the face of declining ad revenue and shrinking circulations, media outlets seem to be increasingly open to their journalists taking on freelance work, so long as it doesn’t conflict with their on-the-clock activities.
It isn’t just journalists who are looking to supplement their income these days. Public relations professionals, marketers, bloggers and hordes of other media industry folks are on the hunt for opportunities to secure supplemental income. Companies and site owners crave relevant, quality content, which means job opportunities for those who work with words. Here are a few thoughts on how writers can chip away at paying freelance gigs while retaining their full-time work:
- Trade publications
Journalists should look to non-compete media outlets in other cities. Some niche magazines will contract with working journalists, especially trade publications. Online hub tradepub.com has an exhaustive list of trade publications for all manner of industries. Consider your beat, your prior work experience or your passions and hobbies and then check out the submission guidelines for “Egg Insider” or “Truck Parts & Service” magazines.
- Online Marketplaces
Register for the 21st century version of a gigging bulletin board for media producers. Both Elance and Media Bistro are excellent resources with extensive freelance marketplaces. Writers can sift through or solicit writing proposals with a degree of certainty regarding the legitimacy of the outlet and the likelihood they’ll actually get paid.
- Content Mills
I’m not going to type out names, but there are scores of companies that churn out millions of words each month to hit keyword targets and flesh out blogs across the Interwebs. They do so by paying an ever-changing army of writers a handful of cents for each word. Much of it is mindless and derivative, but it’s definitely a path toward revenue creation. Just understand what you’re getting into and the broader implications involved with supporting content creation mechanisms such as these.
- Old-Fashioned Door Knocking
So to speak. Don’t be afraid to craft a query letter and send it to a major magazine. Or a regional publication or city magazine. Just make sure you’ve got a solid pitch and that you can commit to the time it will take to report and write the prospective piece. I know several writers who have written major magazine stories based on issues they had covered in their respective communities.
- Start a Blog
It’s not going to make money overnight, but developing a blog and a devout readership can create paper money down the road. If you’re a communications professional, just make sure your personal site doesn’t present any conflicts of interest with your employer. But a site that reflects your expertise, personal knowledge or lifetime passions can be a creative outlet that also stimulates the economy.
- Watch Your Watch
As you would with finances, budget your time available for freelance ventures every week or each month. If your East Coast workday ends at 6 p.m., that still gives you a couple of hours to conduct interviews with folks in Colorado or California. Make sure you can commit to projects and deadlines without reservation. It’s also a good idea to keep your editor or boss in the loop, too.
There are myriad opportunities and freelance avenues for writers beyond those discussed here (speeches, ghostwriting, etc.). Just remember that it’s an increasingly small and interconnected world, especially when it comes to media.