I recently wrote to a friend who makes approx. $140,000 a year from writing, and she is not a novelist (not that novelists make that much; try $15-$30k instead). She has managed to build up her writing and editing business to the point where she now has a list of repeat clients, and she has fine-tuned her weekly process for getting new work. I asked her what her advice to me might be were I to recreate her footsteps in my town, and here is what she advised:
Scour craigslist for listings for writing/editing and also under the Art/Media/Design. Often there are freelance opportunities there that might fill the need.
Next contact local newspapers and magazines. Call and ask to speak to the managing editor. Don’t email as it is easy to ignore an email, less easy to ignore a call. At least if they say no, you can still ask to send a resume and now you have a contact person.
Also, contact local advertising agencies. Sometimes they are on the lookout for people who can write good marketing material. Even if that is not your forte, you can learn.
Look for employment elsewhere until you can get a foot in the door. Small local papers are often the way to go, because once you have a couple of articles published in a weekly or monthly paper, you have the beginnings of a portfolio and the ability to link from your site to the articles.
Day One of my quest for paid work began with verve.
Day Two could be stated as beginning with swerve, but I’ll save you the details for another day.
What I have done so far
I scoured Craigslist.
I found Demand Media. I liked what I saw, but was it true that they managed to pay their writers every week, and was it true that they didn’t expect free content for pennies? I did what I always do when I’m not sure—I typed a search into Google for Demand Media and added the word “review.” Here’s what I found. I decided to bite the proverbial bullet and apply as a writer.
$5-$15 an article might be pittance, but it’s still money, and if I don’t make some, I’ll have to look for a 9-5 job standing at a checkout desk for $7 an hour. I’d rather starve, slowly, in a basket of snakes.
Demand Media wanted a resume, so I dutifully did another search on how to write one that would be different from all the others that came their way, but one that wouldn’t be so artsy-fartsy that they’d throw it away. I found this site. I’ve written stellar resumes for clients that have gotten them fabulous jobs, but I wanted to be creative, not stuffy, with this one, and so I looked to outside inspiration. (On a side note, never feel as if you have to be a total original with the things you do—everything, including writing, is a mishmash of the things that have influenced people over time.) (On another side note, if you want to write resumes, I highly recommend this fabulous book, Resume Magic—it was my personal trainer.)
I wrote, or should I say created, my resume and applied.
The worst thing I could do now would be to do nothing until I hear back from Demand Media. The point of this quest is not to make a few dollars; it is to earn an income.