Freelance Writing

For folks who want to write for a living, everything I’ve learned boils down to one piece of advice:

Write nonfiction.

The market is bigger. The pool of competition is smaller. The assignments are easier, since we all wrote a fair-sized heap of nonfiction while in school. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write fiction if that’s what calls you. But eating and staying dry takes money. Writing nonfiction lets you practice writing while you pay the bills, and you can still keep submitting your fiction projects until you write that breakout novel.

Another thing about writing nonfiction is that there’s an amazing array of kinds of nonfiction to write. You can specialize in one to build a top-shelf reputation, or you can diversify to keep from getting bored. Some of the better options today include…

  • SEO writing…discussed in another post, this is writing short articles with strategically placed words that draw hits from the search engines.
  • Article Writing…classic nonfiction pieces you sell to print and/or online publications.
  • Copy Writing…not to be confused with copyright, this is writing advertising copy for brochures, sales scripts, websites, audio, video, direct mail and others. It’s a huge market, and often short on qualified producers.
  • Ghost Writing…writing work somebody else will present as his own. Celebrities and experts are the two best clients here, but some folks hire out ghostwritten blogs because they don’t have the time to make it happen.
  • Content Writing…providing informational or opinion copy for websites. This ranges from working for the “content mills” through doing large articles for major URLs. This is another enormous market.
  • Business Writing…somebody has to produce the reams of business manuals, employee forms and marketing plans. It may as well be you.
  • Technical Writing…understanding, and helping others understand, how to use technical equipment and software. This includes business-to-business and consumer-oriented writing.
  • Academic Writing…textbooks need experts to write them, and tests need somebody to write the questions. There’s also a growing “grey market” for people to “edit” or fully ghostwrite academic term papers.
  • Travel Writing…visiting places and telling people about it. This is a surprisingly easy market to break in to, but it can be hard to make more than you spend on the trip. My upcoming book is an example of this kind of opportunity.

There are other opportunities, but these are what I see popping up in the job sites most frequently. When you consider that each type will have a dozen or more subjects attached to it, you’ll see that just about anybody has the expertise to write one kind of nonfiction or another.

Thanks for listening.

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