Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Supporting Your Writing Hobby: Why and How to Get Started in Freelancing

"If I had a million dollars..."

For those of us who aren't published, writing novels is not exactly a lucrative profession. (Let's face it, even for many who are multi-published).

writing clubs
coffee to keep us up during the long nights of writing when everyone else is in bed
Godiva chocolate to salve us after those rejections
pens that your dogs chew up and your children hide
reams of printer paper
and the list goes on....

While you dream about becoming the next Ted Dekker, bills have to be paid.

That's where another hobby can come in handy: freelancing.

Build your one-sheet up step-by-step. This is the advice one agent gave on an email loop and reiterated in a conversation with me at the conference last Fall.

Writing articles is a great way to do just that. You may even find, like me, that fiction isn't the only type of writing you love. I've discovered I also love writing devotionals, reviews, and articles to encourage.

So how do I get started?

First, look at your career and any degrees you might have. What areas do you have expertise in? What certifications or special skills do you have?

This is a quick and natural fit for writing articles. You already have the credentials necessary to market yourself. Maybe its an area you obtained a bachelors in, but don't use on a daily basis for your job. You still may have some expert knowledge that others may be interested in.

My degree is in Secondary Education with a Master's in Elementary Education. I didn't work in these areas, but instead worked as an assistant librarian for a small Christian college, a job that I enjoyed. For instance, my library position has helped me in the book reviewing realm, where I review for a publication primarily subscribed to by librarians.

Next look at any other proficiencies, especially related to your hobbies.

Aside from writing, what do you do in your spare time? Maybe you've taken all the cooking classes available from your local Wegmans culinary center. Do others drive from miles around to look at your garden each spring? What do your friends ask you about? Do you have a secret skill, perhaps even an unusual one?

What do you research in your spare time? What facebook pages do you "like"? Do you ever look at blogs (not writing related)? If so, what type? What sections do you gravitate to in your local library?

A look at your facebook pages, blog feeds and google search records may be good indicators of topics you can write on. Perhaps you have watched every Star Trek episode ever made. There's a market for that.

Now make a list of specific topics based on your general interests and talents.

For instance, I have a master's degree in elementary education and now use this as a homeschool mom and teacher to two elementary students. A natural area of interest for me is homeschooling.

So let's start here. As a former assistant librarian, I can combine the two areas for some ideas that might work for me:

Since my daughter is currently interested in horses, I could write about using literature to teach a unit study about horses for the elementary level.

Here are some other topics I could write about:

teaching students library research skills
using writing circles in the classroom
how to create rubrics for grading your students' writing
using the Dewey decimal system to organize your own library

Be general and then work your way down to the most specific skills. Think about what you do from day-to-day. If you are the mother of eight children, others may value your advice on toddler temper tantrums or where to find the best deals on cloth diapers. Do you coupon? Share your advice on where to find organic produce at the best prices in your city.

Location, location, location.

Where do you live? First of all there are unique markets to your area. Think of those magazines you see in the supermarket, your local newspapers, locally-based websites. What is unique about your area? What special attractions do you have in your state? If you are a hiker, what are the best places to hike in your area? Think specifically of your interests and how they relate to where you live. What is great about being a spelunker in Kansas?

What are some specific topics you can write about?

Now that you have your list, stay tuned for the next episode where I will share some sources for freelance markets.

Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also enjoys reading and reviewing books for Library Journal, The Title Trakk, and Christian Library Journal.


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I love these practical tips, Julia. And.... how did I not know that you studied education??! Me too. Your kids are so lucky to have a Masters-qualified teacher homeschooling them!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Thanks, Karen. I can tell you would be a fantastic teacher.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Julia...I didn't know that either! I'm sooo impressed. I wish I had half your smarts, girl! Great post. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

Sherrinda, Now that we've seen your blog we're starting to figure out how many hidden smarts you have. Artist, writer, pastor's wife, mom, crafty, cooking...:)

Angie Dicken said...

Great tips, Julia! I haven't tried to freelance before...it's hard to think of putting that on my plate right now...but maybe some day!

L. Eleana Johnson said...

Great tips! I finally think I'm serious about starting my freelance career... will see where it leads me.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Love love this post! So helpful!