O Pioneers!

During slow times, be adventuresome: Explore new freelance opportunities, branch into niche publications and investigate different areas of expertise.
Publish date:

Writing is not brain surgery. And that's a good thing. By their training and given expertise, brain surgeons cannot stray far from their specialty. Writers, on the other hand, can stray. You can—and should—investigate new areas of writing, different styles and fresh opportunities. As a writer, you can pursue anything from business to health, from sports to lifestyle. A good journalist can take years of reading press releases, Web site or brochure copy, and turn that knowledge and experience into new possibilities.

Think outside your box

Boxes are confining. They limit your abilities and spirits. They keep you from becoming a pioneer and adventurer who might discover new opportunities. Put a fresh perspective on what you've always done, why you've done it and how. Then, brainstorm ways to possibly change your future path.

One benefit of freelancing is not being tied to any genre or medium. Everything you create can help sell the brand. Consider creating a Web site or writing a book on an area of expertise or special interest.

New trends in self-publishing, including the ability to produce a book in a word processing program and print single copies digitally, have removed much of the high costs once associated with publishing. Books can be used as marketing tools for your writing efforts, and can bring opportunities in consulting and public speaking.

When times are tough, I do more writing for newspapers and thinly-sliced niche and trade publications. This is work that may not pay as much as a consumer magazine—or it may pay nicely, but there's a learning curve because you're venturing into new territory— but it can grow to become consistent work. The better you get at it, the more efficient you become at delivering more content in less time. Target publications include community newspapers, city or regional magazines and trade publications.

Practice your pitch

Many writers never learned the art of sales. Marketing and self-promotion aren't taught in journalism or English courses, and once you're in a staff position, self-promotion often is the first muscle to atrophy.

Develop or hone your elevator speech—the 15-second commercial that you recite when someone asks what you do. Update that resume or clips list and be prepared to send it out on a moment's notice. Even post some links to your better work on your Web site or in your e-mail signature.

Remember one caveat

You cannot be all things to all people. Being a journalist, an author, a copywriter, a speech writer, a Web site developer and content editor, and radio advertising jingle poet may position you well for every opportunity that comes along, but it will perfect you for none of those opportunities. There's a reason business writers don't typically write lifestyle pieces or can't be found in the press box at a big game. Trying to serve every client who comes along can weaken your abilities.

It's fine line between branching out and spreading yourself thin. Only cast as many lines as you realistically can handle. Fishermen who drop too many hooks in the water can be overwhelmed when multiple strikes occur. So pace yourself. Send several query e-mails or phone calls, and work them until they've run their course.

They say that luck is the process of opportunity meeting preparation. Staying prepared in slow times helps the business stay ready to take advantage of prospects that arrive when things turn good again.

This article appears in the January 2003 issue of Writer's Digest.

Drawing the Line for Withholding Secrets in Young Adult and Middle-Grade Novels

Drawing the Line for Withholding Secrets in Young Adult and Middle Grade Novels

Middle-grade and young adult author Ren Koppel Torres shares the top tips for how you can keep secrets from your characters and readers.

Payal Doshi: On Letting Rejection Bring You Clarity

Payal Doshi: On Letting Rejection Bring You Clarity

Middle-grade author Payal Doshi discusses the sometimes-disheartening process of querying a novel and how she used rejection to fuel her passion for writing.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Writer’s Digest Conference Announcements and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce that our 2021 Annual Conference will be virtual, registration is open for our 2021 in-person Novel Conference, and more!

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

In this article, middle-grade author Rajani LaRocca discusses how the synopsis for her newest release, Much Ado About Baseball, guided her writing process.

From Script

Adding Your Personal Connection to Your Stories and Building Your Brand As a Writer (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, Script’s Editor Sadie Dean interviews Dickinson creator/showrunner/EP Alena Smith, learn how to divide and conquer as screenwriter in the business and creating fruitful relationships. Plus, a brand new Script Talk video interview with writer/director/actress Djaka Souaré about her journey as a mentor and mentee in the WOCUnite and #StartWith8Hollywood mentorship programs.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Penfyr: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn penfyr, a Welsh tercet form.

Editorial Road-Mapping: Start Your Self-Editing Process Here

Editorial Road-Mapping: Start Your Self-Editing Process Here

Editorial road-mapping begins with a challenge of willpower and ends with a battle-plan for transforming your manuscript into the book you dreamed it could be. Let editor Kris Spisak give you that map!

6 Tips for Writing a Summer Romance Novel

6 Tips for Writing a Summer Romance Novel

Summer. Three whole months of bright sunsets and glittering water and endless possibility. Here are 6 tips from romance writer Rachael Lippincott for capturing a tiny bit of that magic in the pages of your next summer romance novel.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Running Empty

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Running Empty

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, consider what happens when resources begin to run low or out.